Earlier this year, Clareity surveyed MLS executives about areas where they would appreciate some new articles/blogs from us. One of the most asked-for areas was “IDX & VOW compliance audits”. I’ve spoken on this subject in some depth several times in recent years at Clareity’s MLS Executive Workshop, which left me pondering what new angle I could take in a blog. Then, at the recent Council of MLS conference, there was a great session where Jeff Lasky (MRED) and Brad Bjelke (CRMLS) were talking about MLS compliance (listing and otherwise), and Brad mentioned how such calls are the “hardest customer service calls”. That got me thinking.
I’d first like to deal with one particular area of MLS compliance: IDX & VOW compliance reviews. I’ve got some basic rules that I’ve validated over the past 4–5 years reviewing sites on behalf of my MLS clients:
Don’t call them “audits”. No one likes to be “audited.” An “audit” makes people think of an IRS audit, which is a scary thing. Call them “rule compliance reviews.” It’s a little thing, but language matters.
Be systematic about choosing sites for compliance review. Ideally, perform a full review ASAP on all new sites, to avoid the “But we’ve been doing it like this for years, and our users are used to it this way” issue. Repeat site reviews on a consistent, regular basis, and let your subscribers know the anticipated schedule. It’s okay to review a site for a specific issue based on a subscriber’s complaint, but if that’s all you do, it will likely result in the site owner claiming they are being “picked on” and finding examples of similar issues on other sites to throw back in your face. They might find such issues anyway —issues do crop up between reviews—but you can say to a complainer that you would have caught that in a month when that other site was due for review and their very welcome complaint has just moved the review for the other site up a bit.
There are many, many more details when it comes to IDX & VOW compliance reviews – this is just a starting point.
But there is some broader advice that applies to compliance calls generally and not just website reviews. The most important thing is to be prepared to position the compliance review as an important MLS service. Your compliance staff needs to have absolute confidence in this. Ensuring that everyone is playing by the same rules is central to the MLS maintaining broker cooperation and avoiding conflict. And, if your MLS has a mostly automated process for finding listing issues, let the rule violator know this so that they don’t think a person made the decision to start “picking on them.” When it comes to data compliance, sometimes rule violators also need to be reminded that compliance checking is what maintains the great data that creates professional value, compared with the free-for-all that happens on sites where sellers post their own ads.
Obviously, MLS subscribers sometimes make mistakes. And, when it comes to their websites, they may be working with a vendor that didn’t understand the rules or your interpretation of them. Being friendly and respectful to all subscribers and their vendors and being merciful to the very occasional and obviously accidental violators is important. Sometimes the difficult phone call with the regular rule violator can’t be avoided. Sometimes it has to be “kicked upstairs” to the executive level or even to a committee that is ready to support the staff with regard to MLS rule violations and not put up with any guff from the violator. But, if you set up your compliance efforts so that there is an understanding that your process is fair and that your staff really is there to help the subscribers maintain a wonderful, cooperative MLS environment, hopefully the bad cases will be few and far between.
I leave you with a few quotes from brokers and software vendors. Follow my advice and you can start collecting these too!
“Thanks for all your help with this. You made this very easy to implement and helped us find some things with our site we did not know about.” – Broker
“I wanted to thank you for the awakening call you’ve given us.” – VOW Provider
“Thanks for all your patience!” – VOW Provider
“Many thanks for all of your assistance.” – Broker
“Thank you for your patience and willingness to work with us under such pressure.” – VOW Provider
“Thank you for your time today. Your work is very much appreciated.” – VOW Provider
“I can relax on my vacation thanks to you!” – VOW Provider
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