Suppliers can make or break a B2B company’s efforts to achieve organic growth. Gallup recently worked with a manufacturing company that was receiving a lot of negative feedback from its customers about late deliveries. At first, the manufacturer didn’t understand why the anger was pointed in its direction. It believed that once the product left its plant, delivery was out of its hands. Eventually, the company realised that its suppliers’ actions (in this case, freight operators and trucking companies) affected its customers’ engagement, even if the company was not directly involved.
Not all suppliers directly affect customer engagement, but some do. Suppliers matter not simply because they provide a product or service, but because their actions have consequences — positive or negative — on the customer experience.
For the sake of their customers and their own business, companies need to rethink how they engage and interact with their suppliers. Organisations tend to look at their suppliers as their opponent when they can be a competitive advantage. Suppliers often have creative ideas or solutions to offer their clients, but those clients have to be willing to listen.
1. Relationship Quality
I’m referring to the relationship that businesses in long-term interactions have with each other regarding their cooperation and collaboration. Researchers have typically conceptualised relationship quality as a higher-order construct that is composed of trust, commitment, and satisfaction. A common definition of trust is perceived credibility and benevolence of the partner. Trust in a partner’s credibility refers to the belief that the partner stands by their word, fulfils promised role obligations, and is sincere.
Communication is defined as the formal and informal sharing of credible and meaningful information between exchange partners. Highly interactive firms share managerial and financial resources to maintain and develop communication networks. These communication linkages are key and beneficial to establish strong relationships and to firm performance. Therefore, effective communication is essential for successful collaboration.
A commitment exists when one party believes a relationship is important and warrants maximum effort to maintain or enhance it. This is an exchange that businesses should commit to in order to maintain a valued relationship with each other. Strong business relationships show they are willing to invest in transaction-specific assets, demonstrating that they can be relied upon to perform essential functions in the future.
2. Dealer Satisfaction
Satisfaction has been defined as a positive, affective state, resulting from the evaluation of all aspects of the relationship between one company and another. In this context, satisfaction results from a cognitive state that indicates whether adaptation exists among the prior expectations and the rewards received. Satisfaction can also affect morale and the intention to take part in collaborative relationships. It plays an important role in relationships and has been found to be instrumental in increasing cooperation between channel partners, which leads to fewer terminations of relationships.
3. Becoming a “Customer of Choice”
Ultimately, companies should aim to become a true “customer of choice” with select suppliers. Achieving customer-of-choice status differentiates a company from its competitors and gives it a decisive competitive advantage. This status is especially valuable in crises when the company needs flexible and non-bureaucratic support from its suppliers. Suppliers devote their full attention to a customer of choice and ensure that the best employees are working on these customers’ projects. A customer of choice is likely to get access to innovative processes and technologies from suppliers, which can help the company, develop new products and bring advances to the marketplace faster. Finally, a customer of choice gets more favourable terms than a competitor without this status.
The three factors are essential to becoming a customer of choice:
- Engage your suppliers. Seek feedback, and listen.
- Clearly communicate with suppliers. Willingly share information relevant to what the supplier company is trying to accomplish.
- Be easy to do business with. Strive for clarity, simplicity and consistency.
4. Classifying Suppliers and Their Importance
Companies often work with well-known or established brands to supply them with products, and those brands can and do have an impact on customers’ perceptions and engagement. Companies must think about their supplier relationships to determine how those relationships come to life for their customers. Of course, not every supplier relationship has the same value for a company or is equally necessary for the business’ survival. Many companies benefit from evaluating and nurturing the full range of supplier relationships. For others, however, not all supplier relationships are equally valuable or equally consequential to the enterprise’s health. In these cases, a clear supplier segmentation strategy is essential to differentiate suppliers that are “mission critical” from those that are not.
5. Making Products that Sell Themselves
All suppliers say they want to bring value to their customers, but no customer will compensate more for a product that matches obtainable value, only for one that goes beyond it. What you really need to do is bring value beyond the customer’s next best option. That means making sure you quantitatively recognise that next best option. If you do not, then how can you devise and price your product and know if it is worth pursuing in the first place or not. You simply will be guessing, hoping for the best, and burning scarce, costly resources in the process
Even though properly in place, these procedures won’t constantly be possible alternatives. For instance, customers might be “maxed out” specifically according to the product classes or at ease keeping their existing dealer relationships and if a B2B business enterprise is already a number one supplier, the consumer is probably hesitant to offer the organization a fair large proportion of its business, preferring to maintain a multivendor approach.
Possibilities for an increase, therefore, is probably observed in new product classes or territories, such as areas wherein the company does not presently have a presence or areas that require third-birthday party partnerships or alliances. B2B organisations also can locate new possibilities via enhancing their services or products. This method can provide massive advantages by increasing the probabilities of building long-time period relationships with their key money owed.
A company that actively works to incorporate these principles into its business practices is on its way to becoming a customer of choice.