Are you meeting your suppliers' and vendors' expectations?

Published in the August 2018 issue of Fleet Affiliation

As a fleet manager, you may feel that because you spend money, you are in the position to hold all expectations for performance. The saying, “The customer is always right,” was likely originated by a customer, and vendors will often go beyond expectation to achieve customer satisfaction. However, there is always a breaking point. As time and resources become tight, it may be beneficial to understand if you’re meeting vendor and supplier expectations – many of which may be identical to those you yourself demand.

You have preferred vendors, right? Being in a position of meeting or exceeding your suppliers’ and vendors’ expectations can put you into the category of preferred customer.

Becoming a preferred customer
In speaking with fleet managers, there are many commonalities in describing preferred suppliers. Common characteristics include excellent communication skills, valuing their customers’ business, identifying and addressing problems, meeting delivery commitments, and following up after the sale. This formulates into the best value for the dollars (and time) spent.

It is likely important to you that your vendors be available when you need them – that they answer the phone or promptly return an email. Well, it’s also important to your suppliers and vendors that you be available as well. With complex work trucks, even the best written specifications can leave questions or afterthoughts. Your vendor’s or supplier’s job is to support their customer base, and the customer to vendor ratio is often not in their favor. Time can be money to them, and being available ultimately bridges the gap for a simple question.

Another expectation 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, communicating and demonstrating helps educate sales representatives with little effort on your end. 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. As discussed, vocational trucks become very complex in a short period of time. Timely communication on more complex projects is crucial, and – although it may be redundant – followup is often beneficial. Although quick and easy, verbal communication has its downfalls, namely, it can lead to confusion. For example, verbal relays of complex information can lend itself to miscommunication. For complex conversations, followup is important -  preferably in writing. This allows clarity for all involved.

Another major expectation you may have for vendors is timeliness - that units are delivered on time and on spec. As a preferred customer, submit proper POs and order authorizations on time. This allows your vendors and suppliers to begin building. Secondly pay invoices when promised. The cost of money is not free to your vendors and suppliers. Delayed payments ultimately have an effect on their bottom line and will often get passed down in future transactions.

If you would like to discuss this, or any other fleet issue with the NTEA contact Chris Lyon, NTEA Director of Fleet Relations, at