There are both direct and subtle ways to “manage” your suppliers. Some companies have elaborate supplier programs with score cards, audits, cost reduction goals, targets, etc. It is great if you have the infrastructure to support this type of program, but not everyone can.
You may be surprised to find that there can be some key benefits to your supplier relationship and performance by simply responding to a survey that they send you!
A few years ago, I wrote a blog about the importance of filling out customer surveys. I noted some of the trends that are common. Most people only respond to a survey if they are extremely happy or upset. Many times, if the service was what you expected you don’t take time to fill the survey out.
We recently received a customer survey response with high scores. We met or exceeded the customer’s expectations in all categories. But, in the comments section we ask if we are a preferred supplier for that customer. They gave a response essentially saying that while we were preferred for a number of reasons, we need to make sure that we are cost-competitive going forward.
When I read the customer feedback, this comment jumped out at me. I immediately shared it with our management and the project managers that work with this client. I interpreted this as a subtle hint that future projects could be in jeopardy. We are circling back to the customer and asking for more feedback. This comment has sparked a conversation with the customer that could help us to maintain our relationship with them and ensure that all their needs are being met.
Or from the customer’s perspective, they have “successfully gotten our attention” and are managing their expectations of us.
Certainly, direct feedback is the best method if there is an issue or concern, but take advantage of every opportunity to provide feedback when asked. When a supplier sends a survey, it needs to be short and concise, but still yields the feedback that they are looking for. It is the customer’s responsibility to provide meaningful feedback to the supplier, especially by providing comments. Don’t be afraid to include details or mention issues, even if you think they are minor. They could grow to become bigger issues and it is best to address them early.
The feedback loop is vital to service providers. If you are satisfied with the product or service that you received, let them know. If you were not satisfied, you should let them know that too. If someone went out of their way or provided outstanding service note that!
In the end, it all boils down to communication! If you are not happy and you do not say anything, how is the supplier supposed to know that they are not meeting expectations?
They may continue doing what they have been doing for you and other customers, thinking that everything is fine, and then suddenly, the customer stops buying products or services from you. Or the customer may accept what they are getting and then make their own modifications to what they received, only to find out that if they had said something to the supplier, the supplier could have made a change that might have been better for both the customer and the supplier.
You will never know unless you say something.