Why it's time to adopt a supplier-centric approach

posted by Anthony Payne
15 November 2021

64% of respondents in the recent Supplier Experience Survey by HICX cite communications as a top three area for improvement when it comes to doing business with suppliers.

This emphasises a persistent pain point; an imbalance between suppliers and enterprises that needs to change.

With the pandemic highlighting the need for robust supply chains, we’re seeing that enterprises that focus solely on cost savings at the expense of all else are left horribly exposed to risk. There’s no doubt that organisations need to rethink the way they work with suppliers, but as with all unchartered waters the prospect can seem daunting.

So where can enterprise leaders begin? The answer is to adopt a more supplier-centric approach, which we refer to as Supplier Experience Management (SXM). And at the heart of this is addressing fundamental obstacles like communication.

Managing friction points for a better supplier experience

The end-to-end experience is the journey suppliers have interacting across all touchpoints with their customers. To get the measure of how healthy these encounters are, enterprise leaders need to step into their suppliers’ shoes. Is the supplier experience effective? Is it simple and intuitive enough?

To get an SXM strategy off the ground, organisations must identify and actively improve friction points in the supplier journey. It’s about creating the best mutual partnerships possible and then working to continually improve the experience that suppliers have.

Better communications and more streamlined processes

Communications is one of the two interlinked pain points in the survey that enterprises believe suppliers would find most problematic. The other is the time it takes enterprises to resolve enquiries, according to 67% of respondents.

A major issue for enterprises is that their traditional technology prevents them from doing better. Almost half the respondents acknowledged that suppliers would want more streamlined business processes to make working together easier.

Practical changes for a healthier experience

There’s no doubt that more responsive and considerate handling of supplier enquiries can go a long way. What might seem relatively inconsequential to the enterprise – a late invoice or failure to share forecast information in good time – can have a much greater impact on the supplier.

Improving the dialogue between departments within an organisation also presents an opportunity for improvement. In many companies it’s normal for suppliers to work with multiple stakeholders – especially when it comes to deadlines and quality control. But cross-functional communications can leave open a question around ‘Who owns the end-to-end experience for suppliers?’

For supplier-centricity to be effective, there should be a dedicated communications point for all enquiries. If, for example, the enterprise needs to do a last-minute risk analysis questionnaire it’s no use expecting suppliers to pivot quickly and provide immediate responses if they don’t know which of the dozen supplier systems they have to log into.

Embracing persistent improvement

Consistency is crucial in SXM. To truly achieve mutual success, enterprises must prioritise improving the supplier experience on an ongoing basis. Leaders shouldn’t be surprised, for example, if sellers that they’ve spent years beating down on price are not so willing to go the extra mile to fulfil unplanned PPE order requirements when their order book is already overflowing.

Encouragingly, we’re already seeing some of the largest and most forward-thinking manufacturers embrace these SXM principles as they plan their technology strategies for the next 10 years.

When it comes to ensuring you have the strongest, healthiest supply chain possible, Supplier Experience Management is a winning strategy. And for those looking to implement this approach, tackling communication issues with suppliers, is a good place to start.

☛  Anthony Payne is chief marketing officer at HICX.

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