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5 top tips for managing suppliers who let you down

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1. Dont get even get compensation

In most cases, the situation will be a one-off. After all, suppliers can’t afford to lose clients and on investigation youll probably find that your usually trustworthy supplier has been dealt an unavoidable blow that has had a knock on effect on you. So no matter how frustrated you are, dont automatically show them the door.

Instead, escalate the issue immediately to their sales director. If they are good which you will have ensured they are when setting up the account they will understand the impact the issue had on your business. Which means you can ask for compensation.

You will need them to accept liability but once you have this in writing analyse what the problem has cost your business and ask them to cover the financial impact. In most instances they will be happy to pay just to keep your business.

2. Put contracts in place

If you have service level agreements in place you can activate fines if jobs aren’t delivered as contracted. That said we dont currently practice what we preach! Firstly, because instances of being let down are infrequent; and secondly because weve always felt contracts protect the supplier rather than the buyer. So if you do go down the contract route, get your solicitor to create a template built to your specifications.

3. Penalise regular offenders

We have previously put in place penalties for suppliers who continue to affect the smooth running of our business. For instance, theres a company that delivers stock to us faultlessly then causes chaos for account department because they continue to invoice incorrectly. Which means days are lost chasing the correct details. So we add an extra ten per cent onto the price at which we retail their product to offset the admin costs incurred. We are very transparent and have explained this to their account manager and he knows, once they have resolved their accounting problems, their product will be marketed at a more appealing price.

4. Damage limitation

This is a short and sweet tip but before making a big commitment with a new provider, trial them with a smaller order.

Furthermore build a network of back-ups who can slot into place when something goes wrong. Most will be happy to be a Plan B as it provides them with a shot at securing your regular business. So dont feel bad about calling them last minute.

5. Call time on a relationship

When all else fails, you need to call time but in an amicable way. It can be tempting to vent your continued frustration but this is not the best route for your business. After all you never know when you might need them again.

Call to explain, using the facts and figures to rationally explain your decision. Follow the conversation with an email to put all the details in writing. Thirdly keep a cool head and a professional demeanor, treating the recipient of your call as you would like to be treated. No matter how let down you feel, the loss of your business might have huge repercussions and so you should approach with compassion.

Sean Blanks is Marketing Director of

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