The Problem Identified
Ok, so badgering may not be the best way to get better service from suppliers, but you’re working hard to make deadlines and you need your suppliers to provide you with outstanding service so you can in turn produce WOW! level service to your customers. Right? But, I realized I was spending a lot of my valuable time on the phone fixing problems, motivating, and checking up on orders.
What You Get From this Article
If you are experiencing this same challenge I’m going to give you seven communication techniques that will help you get better service from your suppliers and seven proven ways to build great supplier support.
The Problem Experienced
Here’s just a few examples of situations I encountered in just one month. It may be too painful for you to read, but this is only the half of it.
- My mechanic didn’t call me to let me know when my truck was repaired
- My music store didn’t call me to tell me my parts were in
- An auto dealership rescheduled a repair, not once but three times
- A loan officer at my bank I had never met, who I didn’t know I had, who knew nothing of me or my business, said my business didn’t couldn’t qualify for an online service
- My lawn mower broke and the repair shop said the warranty wouldn’t pay when it was still in effect
- My printer didn’t call me to let me know my printing was ready to be picked up
- The steel company didn’t call me to let me know my order was in
- My sign company didn’t let me know my graphics were ready and then the order was wrong
- One supplier said the item they quoted me was the wrong one and my cost would be thirty percent higher
Finally I had had it. I started being confrontational and it often wasn’t pretty. I got everything from blank stares to defensive arguments, from a litany of excuses to apologies. However, I recognized I was getting angry too quick and I also recognized how much energy the confrontational approach was taking out of me. So, I decided to move toward a controlled reaction that better matched the right amount of push against the right amount of problem. I identified the following seven levels of communication designed to get me better results.
Solving The Problem
Here’s my seven levels of pushback leading up to DEFCON 1.
7 – First, be sweet, smile and make a request, “Will you . . . ?”
6 – Next, be nice, ask polite, but set clear expectations: “Can you . . . by this time . . . ?”
5 – Calm, but serous, no smile: “I need thus by this time. Can you do it?
4 – The edgy push with my I mean business voice. “I asked for this. What problem can I help you solve? I need this done! Can you do it?
3 – The confrontational voice: “I asked for this, but I got this. I talked with so and so on this date at this time and they confirmed. Why is this not done? This is not according to my order? You did not follow through. I need to talk with your supervisor.
2 – The Mister Mean level. I raise my voice a little, make a little scene, throw a slight emotional tantrum. “I made it quite clear. Why did you not do what you said you would do? Why did you not think? Owner, please. (oh, oh. Careful, not too far)
DEFCON 1 – Sever the relationship. “I am really disappointed in you. You will no longer be getting my business.” Then forgive AND forget and move on.
Be Part of the Solution – Not Part of the Problem
Now let’s turn the tables and talk about seven ways you can help your suppliers.
- First of all, don’t move down the confrontation levels too quickly, you could end up with egg on your face if you discover you didn’t ask for the right thing.
- Be less instant oriented. Think further in the future and leave yourself more time, relax. Use the I-need-it-now approach sparingly, only when desperately needed and you’ll get better service.
- Start a project much earlier than you think you need to. If you slow down, you think deeper, catch problems quicker, and you will be more thorough with suppliers about what you need.
- Keep copious notes. In this day and age you just have to do this. I know, you shouldn’t have to, but you need to keep detailed notes of who, when, and what. I found suppliers trying to get off the hook by asking, “Who did you talk to?” I get better service when my suppliers realize I keep names, dates, times and hold people accountable.
- Follow up with a quick email. Written orders and instructions are a must.
- Get to know your suppliers on a more personal level. Take the time to smile, chit chat and make a personal connection. They will do better receiving your correction in the future, if they know you and feel you are a valued customer.
- Know both the frontline people and the owners. Know those who have the authority to “bend the rules” and treat people more softly who are the frontline employees who have to keep their boss’s rules to keep their jobs.
You can build a great business by being a great communicator with suppliers. Now go succeed with your small business, big time!
Samuel Lee Bowman is an author, blogger, speaker, business man, a home based business expert, and a leading provider of family entertainment for special events. Sam is all about helping home based business leaders achieve the life they dream of with wisdom and practical strategies at http://www.runningfortheprize.org