By Jan Schramke
Compliance Administrator, EMEA Region
Sometimes the basics are all we need to us help predict outcomes in advance. Perhaps that is why the basics are always a relevant topic. I would love to hear your opinion and learn from you. Perhaps you made different observations or have valuable insights you would like to share. Please do keep in mind that this is an opinion piece.
My career started in the IT service industry and has since then moved to compliance, which is really not any different. Whether compliance is making sure that programs are implemented and business colleagues are made aware of bribery issues, antitrust and third party risks or guidelines, or if an IT platform is being customized, properly implemented and their users trained is not all that different. Yet, there seem to be so many growing pains when it comes to achieving the same goals, except it is in compliance.
Having worked in compliance for several years now, I feel as though I am seeing the same challenges resulting from the same reasons. To take a step back, what is our purpose as compliance professionals? Are we here to protect the company or board from any harm? Certainly. Are we here to interpret laws and regulations, train our business colleagues, and ensure that employees are informed and making better choices in their business activities? Yes, of course. In the grand scheme of things, compliance departments provide a customer service, but what is good customer service anyway?
Simply put, without overcomplicating things too much, it is the understanding of what the customer needs, providing them with a solution in a short amount of time and in a pleasant manner. Why do we need good customer service? It builds trust. In our simple example, there are four things to consider: understanding the client, the solution, the time needed to provide that solution and the manner in which it is presented.
When it comes to the understanding the client, we need to spend more time with our business colleagues. If we hope to create a fitting solution to their challenges, we cannot do that from afar with half the information that was compiled via email exchanges or phone calls. We need to know what makes the business tick; where compliance plays a significant role in the business.
The solution should enable our colleagues to engage in their day-to-day activities. If this does not happen, it can come to incidences where our colleagues end up not knowing what to do with the solution and there are additional questions about what something might mean. Answers could be hidden in technical or legal lingo. Follow-ups like, “So is this a definite ‘no’”, or “Is there some other way I can do this?” should not be surprising. Sometimes the solution is not actually a solution. Rather than giving guidance, we provided an assessment. Here too, it can be too technical and/or too long winded and thus, ultimately useless. Clear answers and clear communication is a must.
The time it takes to respond to a business need can be longer than it should be because of flaws in workflows or customizations or getting stuck in needless details. Sometimes, when a task takes longer than expected, setting the right expectations often avoids damage to the way the compliance department is being perceived.
Lastly, the manner in which to communicate solutions to the business can be a challenge. The role of the enforcer is negatively perceived, especially in compliance, so is the investigator or the nay-sayer. The enforcer is a role that needs to be played when necessary. Yes, we need to enforce the rules and regulations, but ideally, we should be reinforcing the rules and regulations. By learning through genuine interest and gaining intimate knowledge of our business colleagues’ pain points and processes we build a relationship and enter into a dialog of understanding. It is much easier to tailor a solution that will be applied if it is seen as a necessary part of doing business. This means a time investment in the business.
The consequence of having a history of good customer service is that a “No” is accepted much easier. Good customer service builds trust. It ensures loyalty and it ensures compliance. Trust is the building block of a compliance program. What about the compliance department trusting the business? I will share my take on that in part two.