Supplier Relationships - How Can I Remain Customer of Choice?

CIPS 22 April 2020

Just as adhering to inflexible contract terms or taking legal action can irreparably damage supplier relationships, so proactive engagement and collaborative working can position you as customer of choice. For this, there are three core principles: prioritisation, communication and organisation. Firstly, using your procurement strategy, prioritise your supply chain to identify areas that you can and cannot control. For those you cannot control or where you are unable to negotiate terms, relay this to the company at the earliest opportunity. All organisations are experiencing issues in the current climate, and you will stand a greater chance of reconnecting and repairing the relationship if the business felt the situation was handled with respect and honesty.

From here, focus on supplier relationships you can control and establish regular and honest communications. Communication will help to maintain and protect relationships, to increase your business’s chance of staying or even becoming customer of choice when markets stabilise. These channels will enable you to manage changing situations such as stock, logistics, payments, workforce etc. and to set up realistic solutions that work for both parties.

Finally, organisation. Firms still operating are likely to be experiencing high levels of pressure and reduced workforces, which could lead to poor or zero communications and a lack of organisation that could impact relationships. However challenging, it is recommended that companies allocate time and resources for speaking with customers and suppliers to ensure they are acknowledged and to scout for problems. This is especially important if a business is overwhelmed, so you can work together to find solutions.

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Knowledge on supplier relationships (CIPS) 

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