In this fast-paced and often confusing world, it is becoming more and more challenging to quickly find suppliers or partners that are the right fit for your needs and/or operations. Picking the wrong supplier can cost in more ways than one, the least of which could be the wasted time to have done the research in the first place. If your outcome, or product or service depends on the input of someone else, then you want to get it right the first time, or the very least to reduce the disruption to your supply chain.
Although not an exhaustive list, below are several characteristics that should at least cross your mind as you do your research.
As we all know, companies are created and fail all the time. According to Forbes Magazine, 80 percent of new businesses fail within 18 months (Five Reasons 8 Out of 10 Businesses Fail). It is particularly noteworthy of those companies that stand the test of time, navigate the wilderness of their particular business sector, and continue to both serve their clients and keep their staff employed. They must be doing something right.
While in some sectors, having the ability to ‘fire and forget’ may be advantageous, in the business world, that is a difficult path to follow if you wish to protect/encourage customer loyalty. Customers today not only want you to answer the phone when they call, but that you will attend to their question/issue as soon as possible, and the best ones do their darnedest to get you the right solution, or at least a good workaround to keep your workflow going.
Examples of customer satisfaction: These 13 Stories of Remarkable Customer Service Will Put a Smile On Your Face
How many times have you asked someone for a ’tissue’ vs asking for a ‘Kleenex’? My bet is the latter has monopolized your lexicon for this particular need. Or, no matter what browser you may be using, in your mind, when searching for things on the web, you are ‘Googling it’, not ‘Binging’, or ‘Yahooing’, or whatever. Clients/partners appreciate working with suppliers who have garnered a significant portion of the market share for their particular area of specialty. Some call this an ability to establish a ‘moat’ around their intellectual property, or their service/product in general such that it is difficult for prospective customers to think of anyone else when that particular need arises.
Remember I said ‘fast-paced’ and ‘confusing’? The business world is incredibly complex, and worse, technology is changing faster than many companies can change/adapt their business models to keep up. Companies not only need to be attuned to what their current clients need, but also keep a close eye on relevant processes and technologies coming down the line that could significantly affect how their product/service will be positioned.
One good indicator of a company that is committed to relevance is its investment in ongoing research and development (R&D). Companies with stated R&D investments of 20% or higher are indicating their focus on achieving sustainable business over the long term – and this is the kind of partner/suppler risk that many desire to mitigate.
Let’s face it – you can be around forever, have the best products/service, and be on the top of your game, but if you have developed a reputation of being untrustworthy, ruthless and just overall a difficult supplier/partner to work with, you have a hill to climb for getting new business. It is a proven fact that most of us never proffer positive feedback, but if we are wronged just once, we are more than motivated to ‘spread the news’ as widely as possible. First impressions are certainly crucial in the business world, and it is incredibly difficult to repair a bad one.
So, not an exhaustive list, but perhaps some pointers to reduce the amount of exhaustion you may feel in your search for the perfect partner/supplier. Good companies understand that there are a variety of factors that bring customers in and keep them engaged, and that their success is dependent on their ability to be on top of those that keep the phone ringing.