Businesses put a lot of time and effort into attracting and maintaining customers. This is an important process and requires research, best practice and customer support. Some of the core principles that make for great customer relations also apply to dealing with suppliers, yet businesses rarely share their public relations expertise with their supply chain staff. This article looks at some of the key components of supplier relations and compares them to the basic principles of customer service.
At the heart of all good business relations is effective communicating. Businesses need to consider any changes to scale and product, and having professional and productive dialogue with suppliers. Clear channels of communication and a consistent message with suppliers are as important to businesses as explaining their services and products to the consumer.
Punctual and Reliable Payments
Being reliable with money is the cornerstone of building trust with both customers and suppliers. This is reliant upon technological factors as much as organization. Businesses need to be sure that their computing and payment systems are efficient and up to date.
This is the factor that really separates supply relations from customer service. Nowadays, most consumer prices are determined by market research and set by the business. The art of negotiation is still alive in relations between business and supplier. Here are some of the key things to remember when negotiating with a supplier that you hope to develop a healthy, long-term negotiation;
- It is vital to be aware of who has the power. Some suppliers will need to adjust their offers and compete for business, while others, especially if they have a premium product or service, will require the business to make the pitch.
- Get over your dislike of negotiating. It’s not something many of us are used to, but in many cultures, lively, spirited negotiations take place every second. You don’t need to be dramatic or emotional, but get used to the negotiation process. There is no sense in getting offended, even if the offer felt insulting, and don’t feel embarrassed when you make an outlandish offer, it’s all part of the process.
- Know what you want to spend before you meet, this means doing research and having a clear idea of what you want to pay from the get-go, rather than letting the negotiation window be dictated by the supplier.
- If it doesn’t work, leave on good terms. You may have to come back to the supplier at a later date. If you do then your position will already be weakened, don’t make it worse by bringing in ill will.
- Use positive and confident body language.
Businesses win loyalty by providing quality products or service for good value, but they know that the majority of their customers will at least pay attention to their competitors. Businesses should have the same relationship with their suppliers, giving preference and rewarding loyalty but always staying aware of the other potential options.
To get better rates, businesses can use their networks and reach out to similar companies to try and get more business for their supplier. They can also invite them to private and industry events. This is informal and flexible, so be creative with ways to develop trust and favor with your supplier. That will help your rates.
Finally, no matter how good your relationship with the supplier seems, keep up to date with paperwork and sign a contract or a service level agreement (SLA). Just as you’d record all transactions with the customer, it’s important to make sure everyone is fully aware of their responsibilities and to keep track of the details in case of disagreement.
The skills a business needs to offer great customer service are also needed in supplier relations, and vice versa. Sharing knowledge and applying techniques to different situations is vital for business, and learning lessons from consumer/supplier relationships is a prime example.
About the Author
Lucy Hunt works on behalf of Hill Interiors – wholesale gift suppliers based in the UK.Â She blogs regularly on a wide range of business and technology subjects, with a keen focus on improving customer relations.