Published in May 2023 Fleet Affiliation.
As money spenders, we may feel we hold all the cards in the deck and have the highest expectations of our suppliers. There is a saying that “the customer is always right.”
From a vendor’s point of view, this is rarely the case, but it’s good business for them to go over and above to satisfy their customers. However, this always comes at a cost and there is always a breaking point.
Time and resources are becoming tighter along the entire supply chain, and it may be beneficial to understand if you’re meeting your vendors’ and suppliers’ expectations. Many of these expectations are identical to what we demand from them. If you meet or exceed your vendors’ and suppliers’ expectations, you just might find yourself in the category of preferred customer. We all have our preferred vendors that we enjoy working with, and this is a two-way street.
Defining a preferred supplier
Feedback from several fleets indicates many commonalities in defining preferred suppliers. Often these preferred suppliers have excellent communication, value their customers’ business, identify and address problems, meet delivery commitments, and follow up after the sale. All of this formulates the best value for the dollars (and time) spent.
From a customer’s point of view, vendors should be available on demand. This can be as simple as answering the phone or promptly returning an email. It is important for you as a customer to be available as well. With complex work trucks, even the best-written specifications can leave questions or afterthoughts that were not immediately identified. Your vendor’s and supplier’s job is to support their customer base, and the customer-to-vendor ratio is often not in their favor. Time can mean money to them, and being available ultimately bridges the gap.
Another expectation you may have is for your suppliers and vendors to completely understand your business and how you use their equipment. While is it prudent for your vendors to understand, a little effort on your end can go a long way in educating sales representatives. This is a huge lift and time saver for your vendors and suppliers.
Communication can be one of the most important aspects of any business transaction. It lays the framework for the end product for which you will take delivery. We have discussed in previous articles that commercial vehicle design continues to become more complex and challenging. Timely communication on more complex projects is crucial; although it may be redundant, follow-ups on communication is often beneficial.
Verbal communication, although very common, has its downfalls. Although quick and easy, it can create an environment of confusion. Verbal communication relies on both parties to comprehend and understand the communication, and there can be an area of miscommunication. For complex conversations is it important to follow up in writing to ensure both parties have a complete understanding. This can be as simple as an email, and the few extra minutes can save hours later.
While we are still reeling from supply chain issues, timeliness is important. We expect units to be delivered when promised and built correctly to specification. There are a couple of things you can do to be a preferred customer. First, submit proper purchase orders and order authorizations on time. This allows your vendors and suppliers to begin building. Secondly, pay invoices when promised. The cost of money is a tight commodity for your vendors and suppliers. Delayed payments ultimately affect their bottom line and can get passed on to you as a customer in the future.