Clarity is key

7 August 2012
I manage group purchasing at Nightfreight, which is a customer of (and therefore external stakeholder to) Office Depot. I worked with its procurement team, which helped us put a labelling solution in place for our print and packaging. At times, businesses require a holistic approach to a particular challenge, which is where a strong relationship with a supplier’s procurement team can pay dividends. I understood the value a relationship with Office Depot could bring, but as with any supplier, it is important to be approached in the right manner. I don’t like to be pressured into meetings or discussing opportunities with suppliers – patience is key. The hard sell doesn’t work. There must be an understanding that there are plenty of obstacles to overcome, such as internal processes that have to be managed, as well as other suppliers, all before we can start negotiating the best product, service and price combination. Our organisation has now worked with Office Depot for a number of years, but a recent development triggered a more direct way of working with its procurement team. The requirement to not only change label providers, but address our entire approach to this stage of the delivery process activated a more involved working relationship. This involved examining the entire offering, covering the processes in place to supply depots as well as an element of re-educating our customers. Up until this point, our labels had developed organically and there was a lack of cohesion in terms of what we were trying to achieve across the business. We’d never really questioned whether the labelling system could work in a way that improves business performance. The fact that we were seeking a supplier that could provide consultancy as well as products required Office Depot to demonstrate they could meet our needs. This was achieved through regular meetings and site visits. Clarity in communication is key, so I can disseminate like-for-like information to director/board level executives and reproduce detail easily. Underlining this is the expectation that if a supplier understands my requirements, they will work closely with me and be adaptable to how I work and my requirements. In this case, as well as procurement, print, customer support and implementation teams were involved. As a result of the collaboration, we have seen a 25 per cent reduction in labels coming detached from parcels or freight. Subsequently, the increase in freight getting to the correct destination directly has been significant. Both our depots and customers have greater confidence in the new system. We have been able to use the labels as a selling point to customers by providing reassurance that the label will be fit for purpose for the duration of a delivery. This shows how a good relationship can pay dividends. ☛ Kate Hill is group purchasing manager at Nightfreight Top tips 1. Make sure you are clear about what you want. 2. Ensure you work with someone who understands your requirements. 3. Remember that a strong relationship can have an impact on the deal secured and the duration of a contract. 4. Don’t accept complacency from your supplier. Long-term relationships require consistent investment in finding ways to improve or enhance a relationship. 5. Don’t hesitate in collaborating directly if you require a more far-reaching solution to a specific issue. ☛ Got good relations with your internal customers? We want to hear from you  Email rebecca.ellinor@supplymanagement.com
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