Standard of Excellence: Being a Great Customer

It seems that just about everything we read these days is about being a great supplier, being a great vendor, and doing whatever you can to keep your customers happy. While this is certainly all true and vitally important to running a good and successful business, we must remember that a true vendor/customer relationship is, in the end, a true partnership and this means that, like all partnerships, both sides have to cooperate equally.

If you want to have a truly successful partnership with your vendor, you have to get rid of the golden rule…no, not that one, but that old, worn out phrase, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” You can believe that if you want, but if you do, you can forget about having a true supplier partnership with your vendors.

Here is a story I read recently:

In San Francisco a few months ago, a man hired an Uber to take him from the St. Regis Hotel to the San Francisco Airport. As you know, Uber is a very interactive company that is always communicating with their customers about their experiences. They also give the user a profile of the driver and the car he or she will be driving, as well as their customer rating. In this particular case, when the man read his driver’s profile, he noticed that there was a special message letting him know that his driver was deaf. The profile also indicated that the driver had excellent ratings.

The man noticed that the car was spotless, there were fresh bottles of water and three newspapers on the seat. The man was very impressed, and he wondered what special thing he could do for the driver, something that would indicate to the driver that he appreciated his hard work and dedication. So, the man googled how to say, “thank you” and “goodbye” in American Sign Language. When they arrived at his airport terminal, the driver got out of the car to take the man’s bags out of the trunk and the man stunned him by signing “thank you” and “goodbye.” The driver was stunned and there were tears of appreciation in his eyes as he shook his customer’s hand.

I love that story. But what really made me think was that Uber is a business that has introduced a concept of rating the customers, which I think is a unique way of conducting business.

Just think for a minute of what it would be like if our vendors rated us. How would we react to that? We certainly have all created vendor report cards, where we measure our vendor’s performance—not only their delivery performance but their quality performance, sometimes all the way to parts per million.

This is all perfectly acceptable and part of our normal vendor/customer relationship. But what about the other way? How would we act if we knew that as part of our partnership we were going to be rated as well? What if we were going to get a monthly customer report card?

Perhaps it would measure our performance when it came to:

  • The accuracy of our data packages
  • Our level of clear and accurate communications
  • The way we share information with our vendor
  • The way we forecast our delivery times and quantity needs
  • The way we project our technology needs in the future
  • The way we pay our invoices. Do we pay them on time?

And then, consider what it would be like if this report card were shared with all our suppliers as well. How would we feel about that? Would we be comfortable with that? Would we start acting differently, paying much more attention to how we perform as a customer?

In my opinion, we would definitely pay more attention. We would act differently and, most probably, better. We would not want to be deemed a poor customer by our vendors, would we?

Well, we can relax. I strongly suspect that there will be no such thing as a customer report card in our future and that things will continue as they have always been.

But it does make you think, doesn’t it? Now that I’ve given you something to think about for a few minutes, maybe it would be a good idea to create your own personal customer profile. Consider the kind of partner you are to your vendors and rate yourself.

Ask yourself how you would rate when it came to these measurements:

  • The accuracy of our data packages
  • Our level of clear and accurate communications
  • The way we share information with our vendor
  • The way we forecast our delivery times and quantity needs
  • The way we project our technology needs in the future
  • The way we pay our invoices. Do we pay them on time?

How did you do?

Think back over the past year. If you were judged by the way you treated your suppliers this past year, what kind of rating would you get?

Interesting exercise, isn’t it? Something to think about.


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