Keep your suppliers on their toes – review them!

Recently I’ve helped migrate out several firms with service contracts supplied by some very large, well known, local providers.  To say they’re unhappy with the quality of service was a bit of an understatement. I was further surprised when my arrival was so anticipated on site.

Had things really become that awful?

People focus so hard on the daily grind and in getting the “important” work done there’s little time for introspection. Perhaps more importantly casting an eye at the broader business.

I recently heard about a firm that was severely underperforming and struggling. After an enforced change they took a look at their processes. They were simply ordering too much “stuff”.  They adopted a standard process to take a good look at how internal processes were running and make adjustments that didn’t restrict operation but saved costs.

Bingo! Turnaround.

This kind of review tends to be a staple of a new senior post. And I don’t think I know many professionals who’d enter into a new management job without having a good examination of what’s going on currently and looking to make their own mark.

 

Do you do this to your suppliers? Regularly? At all? Ever?

This is one of the main reasons, I feel, suppliers can appear to become complacent.  They are supplying you the amount of service you’ve agreed initially and once a year or so you’ll be offered upgrades or renewals and that’s kind of it. We become detached from the service itself.

Wearing the IT Manager hat I made it a point, annually, to review every supplier. Make sure value and a good service is being received and if not, adjust accordingly.  It did take time but it was, in many cases, well worth the investment.

If, as a business, you have never done this with your own suppliers there will almost certainly be improvements to be had. And, as I’ve been told recently, some suppliers seem to be more concerned in accumulating customers and less about how well they’re doing for the current ones.

I really believe that challenging the norm, done in the right way, is a good thing – and make it into part of what the service from Aurumtech offers.

In some situations this is not appreciated – it’s very much a stick to what you’re here for feeling.

And this is one of the reasons I started the business, to specifically seek out clients who want to be helped in this way.

So with that in mind I’ll urge anyone who regularly receives goods or services to take a look, at least annually, at what you’re getting. Is it good value or is the value in something else; quick delivery, easy returns, do you just like speaking to the contact on the phone?!

Take a look at how valuable the good/service and consider how the process of acquiring it makes you feel and you can pretty easily work out if it’s right for you or not.

The next logical step after discovering you might need a change is to find a better supplier and here’s where the tolerances kick in.  Is it a mass-produced item? In which case you can probably just find it cheaper online.  Or is it a unique or bespoke service?

Do you only put local ingredients into your product that might narrow the window of opportunity? Does your manufacturing process require a major overhaul to apply a change? Part of the process is about establishing how easy a change might be so you can work out the value of doing it.

 

By way of an example;

We resell Virus Software which, like many technology goods, on its own is pretty dumb.  If you set it up incorrectly or tell it to ignore things and then you get infected then the price is irrelevant. So I sell, install and keep it up to date for clients.

The software I use is good, it’s reasonably priced, works pretty well, I don’t have a problem with it.  But, unfortunately, I did have a problem with the communication from the supplier which ended up costing me time and money to sort out.

So it was time to move somewhere else.

For the clients, as long as the price does not shoot up and it’s not too much of a pain to change they really won’t mind.  I’ll make sure I explain why this is changing and ensure disruption is minimised for them, as painless as possible.

My key driver in virus software however remain; that it stops clients getting viruses or malware.

 

Other more deeply engrained /longer lived suppliers will obviously require more thought but as a rule that’s all there is to changing anything, you need to have the desire to want to do it.

Over time it’s very possible that the reasons for continuing a relationship with a supplier becomes totally valueless – in larger organisations where end-users are usually several steps removed from the process of supplier engagement staff simply become apathetic and the suppliers name will become an entirely negative thing.

This was my experience recently; warmly welcomed to bring about some radical improvement from what was the norm and in all honesty I don’t think the previous supplier meant for things to go that bad but they clearly didn’t understand the difference between the guys on the ground and the ones that sign contracts.

As well as the business Aurumtech services also focus on individuals, where possible. Keeping mindful of customer services and trying hard to manage expectations. Also knowing sometimes the answer to a certain problem comes from just getting to know the locals.

That said it’s a big difference between buying ingredients for your Pasty production, or plastic o-rings for your widget and a service contract that potentially covers 100s of people, but conceptually the client – supplier relationship still exists and communication and understanding within it are usually things that can make it better.

The important point here is that you allow yourself the time to have a look at how things work and consider if you really have “relationships” with your suppliers or if it’s just a transaction and, at the end of the day, if that’s all it needs to be fine, but if you feel you could get more out of the situation you have to look at it and ask for more, or be prepared to jump ship!

It might fill you full of dread but supplier relationships are one of my most favourite things, and I’m only admitting that to you ok? Don’t tell anyone else!  Just as inversely I’m a terrible sales type I absolutely love to “negotiate” existing deals, but we all have our quirks!

You might be thinking “What’s he on about? I don’t have time for this!”

I’d challenge that, I’m sure if you really think about it you can pass a bit of your work along to someone else, and give it some attention, just once a year you never know what might happen.

Of course if it’s really too much you could just employ someone who enjoys the process!