A story of becoming a seller on amazon.de.
When you dared to create a product, one of the dreams you might have is to become a part of the Amazon experience. At least it was the case for me: a designer from Poland who has worked up the courage to create my own workshop tool helping companies to create better Customer Experience. Being from Poland makes it hard to reach an international audience and Amazon is an ideal place to achieve that. And I must say I was really excited.
There are quite some articles about selling on Amazon on Polish sites and what should have raised my attention was that most of them suggest to have a professional service selling on Amazon for you. But I had just one small product, and being Amazon customer for years, I figured it cannot be that hard to do it on my own. I was slightly worried that I had to advertise on amazon.de as this is an amazon site operating in my region. Ok, — I thought — I will start here and then try to expand to other sites. I opened an account and entered the world of Sellers Central on amazon.de.
I must admit the first impression was overwhelming. Having zero experience in selling anything I felt totally lost as where to begin. I might be a slow learner but it took me over half a day to post the product. Finally, I managed and saw it advertised on amazon.de.
Fulfillment by Amazon
My first idea was to immediately join the Fulfillment by Amazon program. It makes it so much easier for the customers to have things sent from the Amazon warehouse, and as my product was about CX I wanted to deliver it in the most convenient way. I selected the delivery company, printed out the labels and started waiting for someone to pick the boxes up. No one did. I wrote asking what to do next. I was informed that I needed to activate a feature allowing me to also sell in other European regions. As it was my plan in the first place, I didn’t hesitate: activated the feature, went through the selection of the delivery company, printed the labels again. And I am still waiting…
The Babel Tower
Soon after I began to receive emails. I guess they were offering me information and hints about how to become a better seller. Unfortunately, they were all in German (I selected English as my language option). I translated two or three of them and gave up.
Then, to my astonishment, I have received an invoice. What for? And explanation was in German again. Apparently, while clicking on some of the options I managed to activate a paid account. I found a way to downgrade it. But I was getting more and more frustrated, especially by the fact that whenever I got in touch with the helpdesk I was not able to reply to the person who was handling your case. So, each time I was getting a generative email with tips and hints, and never getting a chance to resolve an with the same person.
What went wrong?
I told this story to my friends working in the field of CX. We began to wonder could such a thing happen at a company that is in business of building the best customer service in the world. Two possible explanations were concurred:
- Amazon sees customer service as directed only towards people who purchase products on their site. Not those who sell them.
- The concept of two-pizza team has reached its limits.
I cannot really agree with the first explanation — I can see the guys at Amazon trying to help me and being proactive is resolving all the issues I generated by half-blindly navigating the Seller Central site (once I manage to get hold of a live person whom I can communicate with:) It would also sadden me deeply to realize that sellers may not be seen as equal customers.
Let’s unpack two-pizza team challenge
The concept of two-pizza team is a powerful idea that takes advantage of decentralization of actions within one company. Basically, it works as follows: no team should be so big that two pizzas wouldn’t feed it. So, now imagine: there is a two-pizza team responsible for the Sellers Central in UK (or US) and there is another responsible for amazon.de. They work towards an identical goal: making the site work for the sellers. So far so good. English site is in English, German site is in German. Nothing gets lost in translation.
Then other markers (like Polish) are connected to the original site with people who do not necessarily speak the original language. The easiest thing in the world would be to copy and paste the site (and the correspondence) from another one (like from the UK site). But I am guessing that these two-pizza teams are not in sync. So, here the trouble begins. Suddenly, something that generally should work fine, ceases to perform and leads to confusion and frustration. And to disappointment on the customer side, which if, I am guessing, the last thing amazon would want.
Is there a solution? I am sure that people smarter than me with respect to team collaboration would have a number of ideas. But from the lame-person perspective I imagine two directions:
- Finding a way to synchronize the work of the teams that work on the same elements in different languages. Yes, that might endanger the flatness of the amazon structure but perhaps it is a new challenge how to do it without building new layers of management.
- Create a flying-ninja team that is responsible for finding such issues and reusing the work of one team for the benefit of another.
It would be awesome to see Amazon solving such issues leading the path for other organizations that struggle with the similar challenge of addressing the needs (linguistic, legislative, etc.) of the different regions in the world. As a strong agilista I would love to see it redefined in a way that doesn’t endanger the flatness of the organizational structure (which might be the easiest and therefore the most tempting approach). And as an amazon seller I dream to using the benefits to build a better sales structure for my product.