#UKvUSA: Do Your Suppliers Suck?

Two continents: US and UK. Two different buying backgrounds: procurement and agency. Two alternative ways of looking at things. I’m delighted to have teamed up with Deborah Corn from PrintMediaCentr to bring two extremely different views to some important print questions. So welcom e to Print Buying: #UKvUSA where Deborah and I share information about our experiences from both sides of the pond

At the end of this post I have linked to Deborah’s answer to the same question. We wrote our answers (each limited to 500 words) without any idea of what the other was writing. As Deborah says: “Maybe we will agree, maybe we won’t, maybe we don’t even see the question in the same way – who knows… that’s the fun part!”

Please do leave comments, thoughts and support at the bottom of this post and on Deborah’s post.   It would be great if also posted your thoughts on Twitter, using the hashtag #UKvUSA Remember to watch out for our answers to another question next month.

#UKvUSA: Do Your Suppliers Suck?

Only 11% of customers think they receive above average customer service

I’m sure there would be similar results if questions were asked about quality, on time delivery, reporting and communication. Customers expect more and more from their suppliers.

It also looks as if suppliers may not be responding to the challenge. The same survey (The ‘Mind The Gap’ Research, 2014) noted that 80% of companies believed that they were providing above average customer service.

Your suppliers could almost certainly be doing better – so what are you doing about it?

The response of most buyers is to do very little. I hear plenty of people grumbling about their suppliers. But I see very little proper supplier management these days.

Let’s be clear about one thing. Ensuring good supplier performance is the responsibility of the buyer.

Here are three things you can do to encourage your suppliers to do better.

Talk to them

Make sure you review your print suppliers

Make sure you review your print suppliers

Let your suppliers know what you expect. If they aren’t doing well enough, tell them. But make sure you set some clear delivery targets. It’s important that they know where they stand.

Remember, it’s ok to raise standards. You can ask you suppliers to do more as your relationship continues. However, you should make sure that what you are asking of them is reasonable. They should agree to the targets you set. And you should make sure that you deliver your part of the agreement.

Equally, ask your suppliers what more they can do for you. They often have good ideas on how you may be able to work better together. But it often needs you start this conversation.

Hold supplier reviews

It’s great to set supplier targets. But they only work if you measure how your suppliers are performing and if you talk to them about their performance. This means having a regular supplier review.

Reviews aren’t just about supplier performance. They are also an excellent way to assess what could have gone better. Then you can work out how to avoid these problems next time round.

They are also an opportunity to look at working together on specific projects. For instance can you work together on reducing stock holdings or improving data?

Nevertheless, sometimes these reviews will show that suppliers aren’t coming up to scratch. Then it’s time for the third strategy.

Encourage competition

It’s always good to speak to other suppliers and find out what they can do. Are they offering alternative and better services that your current suppliers aren’t?

If you do feel that you can find better opportunities elsewhere, it is right to speak to your current supplier first. They may be able to offer these services as well. However, never be afraid to change a supplier. You suppliers need to be able to meet the standards you set them. They need to be able to offer best in class solutions.

After all, you want to make sure that you are one of the 11% who know they have above average suppliers.

How did Deborah tackle this question? See here. Look out for the next #UKvUSA battle next month: Is triple bidding a waste of time?

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