The Future: Supplier Service in Supplier Management

Total supplier service

Top leadership must therefore have the commitment to suppliers and supplier focused procedures will need to be in place. What is important to accept is that the supplier is:

  • a part of the business;
  • an important person to have contact with;
  • one we depend on;
  • a human being with feelings and emotions;
  • not one to win arguments with but is someone who can help us to build our business and give us a competitive advantage.


Supplier Perception

One of the obvious difficulties in meeting supplier’s expectations is that “Perception is Reality.” Therefore, we are entering into human variability and subjectivity. Everything that is done for suppliers, will be the suppliers perception, and how they perceive this, is real to them.

A buyer’s reality should therefore be the supplier’s perception of the buyer’s performance.

Many people however are uncomfortable with this “reality check” and see it as an unsolvable dichotomy in whatever “normal” buying is supposed to be.

However, one very clear reality (and often not recognized), is that attitudes and feelings will definitely affect the way any service delivery is perceived. Accepting this view will now require some flexibility from management, such as giving discretion to staff to deal with suppliers and not just relying on standard and fixed structural procedural manuals and guidelines and processes.

After all, suppliers are individuals and organizational procedures must support this. Service is all about delivering, not only what it is like doing business with your organisation but also with you personally. Feelings and attitudes are an important aspect as “feelings are facts”.

As our attitudes, are underpinned by our beliefs and values, they will work through into how we behave, (defined here as what we say or do). We will therefore tend to judge from our perspective alone and will not always consider the other parties fully enough.

Good supplier focused people will therefore have a deep belief that supplier service is important, they will value this and will then lead by example, so that this belief, will then work through into their attitudes and be shown and reflected by what they say and what they do.

Good supplier focused people will therefore:

  • pull more than push;
  • be two way communicators;
  • makes concessions, “I think this, but what do you think”;
  • problem solve and explore interests;
  • hold views and reasons that “working together works” and is the best approach.

Of course the opposite is also true and often when buyers report problems with suppliers; this can be because they do not have a belief that suppliers are important. As has been said by Henry Ford; “If you think you can or think you cannot, you are right”

Simple perhaps, but profound in its application and to changing what is done with suppliers. When beliefs are impacted and changed then other changes will automatically result.

The Supplier Service focused organisation

To move towards being be a supplier service focused organisation, then it is necessary to know:

  • Who your suppliers are;
  • What they expect and need from you;
  • How well you are meeting their expectations;
  • How to provide supplier care and follow up;
  • What needs to be done to make improvements;
  • What are the barriers to making these improvements;
  • How you can remove these barriers.


Benefits of good supplier service

As has been seen, the road to improving supplier service may not be easy; however the benefits can be huge and immense. The following benefits will all make contributions to the survival, well being and the profitability of any organisation:

  • Reliable service with a marketable product with a price difference;
  • Market changes, can be better handled and managed;
  • Continuous improvement becomes a part of the culture, with innovative and responsive staff;
  • A positive view of your organisation from shareholders, the community and potential employees, with competitors who “fear” your organisation;
  • Suppliers who now see the organisation as; collaborative and sharing- “good people to deal with”.
Previous articleLanguage barriers hinder supply chain
Next articleEvolving AP: Becoming a Collaborative Partner
Stuart Emmett is a freelance independent trainer and consultant who trades under the name of Learn and Change. Stuart believes that in times of change, it is only those who consciously learn, that will inherit, a successful future. Stuart has operational and strategic experience in varied commercial service industries - gained in the UK and Nigeria – and is particularly interested in the “people issues” of management processes, as well as logistics and supply-chain management. He has worked on 6 continents, in over 30 countries and delivered to over 50 nationalities. Stuart has written 30 books on supply chain and leadership/management topics.