For retailers, a well-constructed compliance manual acts as the foundation upon which a supply chain scorecard and compliance program is built. By providing merchandise suppliers with all the information and direction they'll need to comply with the retailer's expectations, a compliance manual charts the course for successful execution. This set of "how to do business with us" requirements typically lives on the retailer's website or a separate web portal.
Ideally, all retailer compliance manuals would have a similar structure. Ideally, the suppliers would know exactly where to go on the retailer's website to access the compliance manual. Ideally, the compliance manual would be as easy to read and navigate as the table of contents in a book. Ideally, any changes to the compliance manual would be communicated to the supplier and clearly explained, allowing the supplier sufficient time to make changes, if necessary, to satisfy new or revised requirements.
That's the ideal scenario, but it's not the current reality. RVCF pours through retailer compliance manuals on a daily basis for the Compliance Clearinghouse, so we have the process down to a tee. For suppliers dealing with multiple retailers, it can be a nightmare. Finding a compliance manual, finding specific information within the compliance manual, and learning about changes to requirements within the compliance manual are often painstakingly complex.
To bring more uniformity to compliance manuals and website presentation, reduce confusion, and reduce shipping errors, RVCF recently published The Recommended Structure for Compliance Manuals and Websites. This reference tool should not be considered a standard, protocol, or guideline, but a basic framework used by best-in-class retailers to organize and present compliance requirements and notify suppliers of changes.
Ultimately, it's up to each individual retailer to determine what information to include in a compliance manual. RVCF is simply providing a common structure for laying out requirements in an orderly manner and making them easy for suppliers to access and navigate.
The Recommended Structure for Compliance Manuals and Websites is divided into three sections: structure for compliance manuals, compliance website presentation, and communicating changes and updates to requirements.
Structure for Compliance Manuals
The basic structure should include chapters, which reflect the high-level steps in the purchase order-to-cash process, provide instructions, and direct the reader to supporting appendices. Appendices are supporting documents and materials, which are more likely to evolve over time than chapters. Recommendations for structuring chapters, sub-sections, and appendices are also included.
Compliance Website Presentation
Overall, the goal is to make the website presentation as clear, concise, and easy to navigate as possible. To avoid having compliance information lumped in with other content and functionality, retailers should have a dedicated compliance section on their main website or a completely separate web portal where the compliance manual can be accessed. This section recommends formats for compliance information and which information should be clearly marked for readers.
Communicating Changes and Updates to Requirements
The last thing you want to hear from a supplier is that they were never alerted to or couldn't find requirement changes. This can help to justify requests for chargeback reversals and exemptions. The Recommended Structure for Compliance Manuals and Websites offers suggestions for alerting suppliers to changes to the compliance manual and/or website and making those changes easy to find.
How to Ensure Your Compliance Manual and Website Are Ready for Prime Time
- Gather feedback internally, walk through every requirement, and confirm alignment and agreement. Compliance requirements should include exactly what you need – nothing more, nothing less.
Validate each requirement and the completeness and clarity of your compliance manual and website presentation externally with several trusted, respected supplier partners. Look to these suppliers to provide valuable input that you can act upon before "going live" to save you and your suppliers from confusion and frustration.
Use supplier questions and issues caused by confusion and complexity to create a frequently asked questions (FAQ) amendment to your compliance manual. This will be a valuable resource, especially for newer and smaller suppliers.
Keep in mind that your compliance manual is a living document, and your website or portal can be a living platform as well. Always look for ways to make these resources better, clearer, and easier to follow, and continue to solicit feedback from suppliers. Download your free copy of The Recommended Structure for Compliance Manuals and Websites here.
CLICK HERE to return to the DECEMBER 2017 RVCF LINK