The stiff competition between suppliers creates a highly stressful environment for them till such a time as they make it on a customer’s preferred list of key suppliers. Offering low rates is one sure way of getting onto that list. But, it makes no business sense to bend over backwards till there is a real risk of tipping over. While customers realize the value of having suppliers who offer low prices, the truly smart ones do not get swayed by them when certain other factors are absent. These factors are considered important, because they add value to the overall business strategy of the customer which no amount of low prices can supplement in an adequate manner.
Let us look at some pet peeves that customers have about suppliers, before we move on to the coveted aspects of their performance:
Innovation and Improvement:
Foremost among what a customer ranks high in a supplier is innovation. Change being the only permanent thing in life, suppliers must pay attention to their work processes and improve upon them constantly. Since there is close contact and commonality of operations, the supplier could impact the client’s side of operations too. These could impact process steps involving their joint efforts and may bring in cost reductions also providing a more positive image to the supplier. A word of caution though, would require the supplier to establish the kind of rapport and relationship with the customer which would encourage such involvement and suggestions, so they would not be taken amiss. The same initiative may be considered highly valuable by one manager; while another may deem it to be infernally interfering.
Prices are important to customers and negotiating prices down reflects positively on anyone in procurement, so it has been found that anyone who nails up a notice saying ‘Fixed Prices’ is not going to earn any brownie points on their attitude. It is necessary to have a system of ‘give and take’ which provides for an all round comfort and creates a win-win platform of negotiation. How the relationship moves along ensuring that they factor in the periodic enhancements and benefits is a challenge that requires efficient management.
Suppliers, who stay ahead of the game through employing the best business practices, have a large clientele (with some big names); execute their tasks in a professional and flawless manner, have highly motivated and energetic employees are considered valuable by customers. In fact, customers will not hesitate to sign up with them at higher prices than what they would agree to pay another who does not present such an impressive appearance.
Customers also value the suppliers who scaled up their efforts to match their clients’ requirements; even if they were urgent and put real pressure on them to execute in time; by empathizing with the clients’ business needs and priorities. Such suppliers can establish a really long term relationship through supporting the ambitious expansion plans of the clients without stinting. Such an approach is tough, but it could go a long way towards establishing a cohesive relationship where the customer-supplier relationship gets unified, and they move from an ‘us-them’ mindset to a ‘we’ mindset and work together in harmony and look at any problem as a joint problem and work to solve it together, instead of trying to find someone to blame or make a scapegoat of. To remain healthy and thriving further, the relationship requires both parties to not slack off or change focus at a later date but nurture it on a regular basis to keep it going much like a potted plant which could wither if deprived of its daily dose of water.
It happens all too often that customers shift allegiance and move on to a different supplier without keeping their promise of increased volumes to a supplier who was at the top of their preferred list. So, each supplier needs to put in that much more focus on keeping their relationship with the really important customers healthy and highly collaborative on all fronts.
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