Let’s talk about the topic of the dreaded customer complaints today. We know... everyone’s favorite part of the work.
Even if you think you’ve got a relatively tight grip on your MAP policy, complaints are inevitable. You’re not perfect and you can’t please everyone! Yes, we’re talking about the sellers who (honestly, rightfully) complain that others are violating the MAP policy and are frustrated that nothing is being done about it.
It’s okay to have complaints because unfortunately, that’s just one of the less delightful facts of business life. But let’s make sure we’re handling them effectively and keeping them at a manageable level. Otherwise, if complaints become an increasing daily occurrence, it can easily get out of control. This is why many brands turn to software to help monitor and enforce their MAP policy (shameless plug, and don’t worry this is the only one: we can help you with that!).
We will cover some common steps to effectively deal with MAP violators in today's post, regardless of whether it is handled through software or not. Many brands will miss a crucial last step that you won't need to worry about after reading this post!
Let's go through this from the beginning, starting with receiving a seller complaint and how to handle the violation.
THE SELLER COMPLAINT
In our post about Two Key Indicators of a Struggling MAP Policy, we explained why it’s important to track the number of customer complaints in order to measure the effectiveness of your MAP monitoring process. It doesn’t make you look good when dealers start complaining that other sellers are pricing items below MAP. Frankly, it’s embarrassing!
It can be overwhelming to have daily comments stream in about the lack of control on a policy, especially when a lot of time and effort is being put into doing just that. We already talked about the two types of complainers - sellers that help and seller that just cause trouble - and the impact on your brand. We talked about how this translates into more time spent, decreasing brand equity, and deteriorating trust in seller relationships.
So, what should you do about it? Let’s walk through a common course of action.
DEALING WITH VIOLATORS
When a brand receives a customer complaint that so-and-so is violating the pricing policy, the first and foremost response is to check the product in question, and reach out to the seller. Here are our five steps for handling these sellers and moving them to compliance.
Step 1: Send a warning to the seller - Make sure the initial notification is short, friendly, and gives the dealer everything that they need to make the changes to their pricing. Helpful information to include: the violation date, a screenshot of the source, the advertised price, your MAP policy price, and a copy of your MAP policy as reminder.
A good starting template could read something like this:
This is [introduce yourself] from [Brand]. In an effort to proactively monitor our MAP Policy across the web, we noticed that you are selling a few of our products below our policy guidelines. We understand that, more often than not, pricing issues are not intentional. Consider this e-mail a notice that your pricing doesn't appear to be complying with our MAP Policy. Please refer to the attached for a copy of our MAP Policy.
If this is the first you’re hearing about this, not to worry, please go ahead and update pricing right away for all [Brand] items on your website and any other channels, if applicable. We’ll follow-up if necessary.
Short and to the point.
Step 2: Re-check the seller’s price - Within a week, check the seller’s product listing to ensure they’ve changed their pricing. Most times, sellers won’t address the issue right away and/or if they do, there may be a delay for the change to show up.
Step 3: Follow-up with sellers that are still not complying - One of the driving factors of a successful MAP policy is the follow-up. If you catch sellers still violating after a first notification, it’s important that you notify them again with another reminder. Be firm but still keep it friendly. No need to be nasty!
Step 4: If necessary, remove the seller from your network - Now comes the time when you may need to put your foot down. If time after time, the seller remains in violation and there are no signs that they will change their pricing, ask them to remove your product and/or get your distributors to stop selling your products to those dealers. These sellers are contributing to the erosion of your brand equity, so do not enable them!
Step 5: Thank sellers who do change their prices - This is an overlooked step, especially since there are so many notifications and conversations to keep track of. Don't underestimate a small gesture that speaks volumes about your attention to detail and your company culture. Sending your sellers a quick thank-you note for changing their prices can go a long way in preventing them from doing it again. So take an extra second to be nice. ;)
Okay, so now you’ve dealt with the sellers in violation. Your MAP policy is back under control. Phew! Work is done, right? Not so fast! There is still one more thing you should do that you may not even be thinking about.
UPDATING COMPLIANT SELLERS
Now that your violators are under control, it’s time to check in again with the complainers. It’s extremely important to update the customers who complained, but even more so, the rest of your sellers who have remained in compliance with your MAP policy. They are your faithful sidekicks who are helping in the fight of protecting your brand and maintaining profit margins.
You’re probably thinking, "Ahhh! Why would I do that?!"
This transparency helps build trust with your sellers and demonstrates the integrity behind your MAP policy. By showing them that you’re doing everything you can to enforce your policy, you are saying that you have your sellers’ best interest in mind and that you’re there to support them 100%. You’re taking steps to keep competition fair between sellers by allowing each of them to maximize the profit your products have to offer.
Like any complaining customer, sellers want to know that something’s being done about their frustrations and issues. Letting sellers know that they are being heard and that their feedback is being taken into consideration is the first step in demonstrating responsibility and ideally, showing that you care.
If you’ve never updated compliant sellers about violations, we’d like to share a few tips with you:
Provide an update on how violations are being handled - The purpose of this notice is to present the issues that you’re facing with monitoring MAP compliance, the actions you’re taking to handle these sellers, and the consequences. It’s also a great opportunity to reinforce why you’ve implemented a MAP policy, remind them about your terms, and emphasize the fact that you mean what you say (in your policy).
Send a follow-up - After three to four weeks, send a short update informing sellers about the results of your efforts. Keeping them in the loop and letting them know that you have your policy under control will help compliant sellers feel more at ease.
Enforcement is the second part to MAP policy success. If you haven’t done so, review your contact/notification plan, not only for violators, but for sellers in compliance as well. Is it effective? Is it getting the job done? Communication is key to ensuring everyone is on the same page about your policy and what you’re doing to get it under control.
Many brands focus on 'punishing' those in violation, but it’s just as important to praise those in compliance - whether it be a simple thank-you or update. Keeping good seller relations is crucial in gaining their trust in order to mutually support each other.