And that is the point of this column. The best way to get great customer service from your vendor partner is to be open to it, and actually want to receive it. Your job as the customer is to encourage it. And the best way to do that is to have a good working partnership with your vendors.
Here are a few simple rules to make sure that you always get the best customer service possible:
- Be very clear about what you need. Tell your vendors what you expect from them. In plain English let them know in detail what it takes for them to be one of your special suppliers, one of your preferred vendor/partners. Be very specific. Lay it out for them. Leave nothing to chance. The better you lay out what you expect for them, the easier you make their job and the better service you will get.
- Help them when they don’t get it quite right. This means not shouting, yelling, or denigrating. Instead, explain what they did wrong and help them to understand how to improve. Actually, great long-term relationships are often forged in adversity. Take advantage of a problem, treat it as an opportunity, a learning moment, and a time to grow together with your vendor and future vendor/partner.
- Be encouraging. This is critical and the real key to a successful vendor/ customer relationship. Don’t be stingy with your praise when your vendor does something good. First, tell them that you recognize and appreciate what they did and then encourage them to do it again. It is truly amazing how effective praise is. That praise will resonate in that supplier’s mind for years to come. He will actually hear your voice each time he works on your product. He will want to do an excellent job for you. Praise from a customer can work as a kind of business motivational aphrodisiac when it comes to getting your supplier to go the extra mile for you.
- Reward them when they go the extra mile for you. If your supplier does something really spectacular for your company give them a gift. Send them donuts, or other snacks for the entire team. If it’s not too big a company send them T-shirts with a thank you message on it. And, by the way, it sure does not hurt to have 30 or 40 people walking around wearing shirts with your company’s name and logo on them. Talk about a living reminder of the special relationship you have with that supplier.
- Evangelize about your vendor. The best way to reward great customer service from a great supplier/partner is to tell other people about them. An even better way to do this is in writing. There is nothing more valuable to a company than to have their happy customer write testimonials for them to use for their own marketing and new customer acquisition. Giving your customers a testimonial, or better yet a success story, is the absolute best gift you can give them.
- Help them grow their business. Treat them as a real partner. Look out for their well-being. Help them grow their own business. After all, if they are a great partner and supplier, you want them to stay in business, and the best way to do that is to help them grow. Besides testimonials and success stories, send some of your friends to them as well. Urge your friends to use them as well. That will go miles toward making your supplier healthy and assure that they will be around for years to come providing you with those great services and products that you love.
- But the most important thing of all, as it is in all good relationships, is to stay in touch and stay in constant communications with them. Work with them on your current projects and tell them about your upcoming projects so that they can prepare for what you are going to need them for in the future. By telling them about your upcoming projects and requirements you are letting them in on your future and in the end that will only serve to help you in the long run. The better prepared your vendor/partner is to handle all your needs, even far into the future, the better she will be able to continue to give you the super customer service that you love.
I know that most of this is very basic, logical, and easy to do. But in the end, the rewards of having a solid vendor-partner relationship are so great that it is the best thing you can do, not only for your vendor, but for your company as well.