By Carol Weidner, CEO, eZCom Software.
Most vendors do not love compliance programs. In fact, they usually rate them somewhere between getting stranded in an airport, and active jury duty. But EDI is here to stay, and compliance rules are a retail reality. My advice? Accept the things we cannot change.
After all, compliance can offer opportunity. Vendors can turn enhanced compliance into a competitive edge. Here’s how:
Avoidance of chargebacks is the first and most obvious advantage. Those hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year currently covering ASN errors, incorrectly placed labels or packing mistakes can go instead towards developing that new product, hiring an additional employee or just bumping up your bottom line.
When you boost your compliance ratings, you will also enjoy improved relationships with your retail partners. Retailers trust vendors with excellent compliance records and perceive them as true collaborative partners. This leads to a wide array of trading advantages, including:
- Fast tracking at the distribution center. Once you establish a strong compliance record, your retail partners will likely move your shipments through receiving at their DC without opening and inspecting the merchandise. This gets your products onto store floors 2-3 weeks faster than the goods of vendors who score poorly and require inspections and frequent audits.
- Larger and more frequent orders. Reliably compliant vendors bring significant time and cost savings to retailers. If you continually deliver the correct merchandise on time with error-free ASNs, you go to the top of the list—and will receive preferred treatment in terms of size and recurrence of orders.
- Quicker, more efficient sales cycles. Get the right goods on time to your retail partners in a manner they can process quickly, and you are poised for maximum sell-through.
- Quicker payment. Since compliant vendors’ goods move through the receiving process faster, they see their invoices paid more quickly.
- Bargaining power. The better your compliance record, the more valuable you become to your retail partners—which gives you an opportunity to negotiate more favorable trading terms. An historically strong scorecard additionally helps you attain a reversal if a chargeback does occur.
- Improved reputation. Word spreads fast in the retail community. If trading partners perceive you as an easy-to-work-with and reliable vendor, your business will grow.
- Heightened visibility. Ideally, retailer-generated scorecards will give you a bird’s eye view of the strengths and weaknesses in your supply chain, so you can streamline and preserve internal resources as well as achieve a higher rate of compliance. In addition, retailer partners usually establish a partner portal with their compliance programs, so you can view an accurate picture of where all documents, shipments, and payments are in the trading process at any given time.
Here are a few tips to get the stellar compliance record that will open opportunity’s door:
Communicate. If you don’t understand something, ask your retail partners. If you think systems could be improved, give your constructive feedback. Try to cultivate a collaborative relationship, and assume best intentions unless proven otherwise. You and your retail partners are in this business (and this challenging economy) together. If you work together, you both come out on top.
Take advantage of educational opportunities. If not automatically provided, ask to see your scorecard on a regular basis. Attend your partners’ webinars and other educational events. Keep on top of their business plans as well as their EDI changes.
In addition, make sure you pick an EDI provider that supports enhanced compliance. Pick one that:
- Archives records for at least three years. This way, if a retail partner misplaces a record or incorrectly levies a chargeback, you have the documentation you need to correct their error.
- Has excellent customer service and educational support. Your EDI provider should have thorough understanding of all your retail partners’ compliance specifications, expert understanding of EDI in general, respond to you when you need them, and offer complimentary unlimited support.
- Automates the EDI process to reduce errors from manual entry and rekeying of data. For instance, at eZCom, our EDI solution Lingo™ accomplishes this through several unique features:
- Double Validation™ – Each retailer’s specific trading rules are built into the Lingo software to ensure compliance throughout the order management process. Lingo pre-validates outgoing documents prior to sending to ensure all retailer requirements are met, catching potential errors and preventing documents from being sent until corrected.
- Accelerated Document System™ (ADS) – Lingo’s ADS further reduces chances for error by dramatically decreasing the manual entry of data. It enables users to create hundreds or even thousands of invoices, ASNs, and other EDI documents at one time. ADS also allows Lingo users the ability to pack multiple ASNs with one command, and make other necessary updates and adjustments to their EDI documents through a minimal number of steps.
Compliance programs are here to stay. But the good news is, savvy vendors can work them to their advantage.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
Carol Weidner, CEO of eZCom Software, is living proof of the adage: ‘If you want something done right, ask a busy person.’ Soon after graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in Mathematics, she opened her own successful business—wholesaling home wares and accessories in the New York/New Jersey area. Carol continued in her entrepreneurial endeavors while she returned to Rutgers full time and completed a second degree in Biology. Following her (second) graduation, Carol learned computer programming and focused on EDI—working for companies serving the retail industry, and consulting for major retailers like Toys R Us. When an opportunity arose to take over a small many-to-many retail portal in 2000, Carol grabbed the reins. She directed the finance and sales side of the burgeoning company, while working together with a team of colleagues who redesigned one of its key products to serve as a web-based EDI application. The result was the B2B supply chain software provider eZCom Software—and the cloud-based EDI solution, Lingo.