Last time, we touched on the quality aspect in our “Evaluating Vendors” series. This week, we’ll talk about how to evaluate the customer service you are receiving from your suppliers.
Customer service should be a priority for any business looking for longevity, but unfortunately, it is an offering all too often taken for granted until too late. Many suppliers have an incomplete view of what it means to provide consistently great customer service. It shouldn’t just be lip service. Here are some areas you should consider when assessing your current vendor’s customer service scorecard.
This entails listening to your issues, asking questions, and gaining a true understanding of what you are saying before jumping in with a half-hearted resolution. Effective communication requires knowing when to speak and when to listen. If your vendor is worthy of your business and cares about keeping it, they will value all feedback, positive and negative. You are giving them a chance to earn and keep your business. And they will give honest answers in return, not just well-intentioned ones.
It’s a busy world out there and no one knows that better than you. However, if you find yourself trying to hunt down your service rep or a competent point person with whom to discuss your project, you have a responsiveness problem with your vendor. Your contact should get back to you promptly, or better yet, understand when and how often you need to be updated on your project. Regular status updates are great, but a capable and available staff handling your calls or inquiries means that your vendor can adapt without a hiccup and handle your concerns.
This means keeping promises and closing the loop. How often have you had a breakthrough discussion with a vendor and then wondered if it really had any effect? Communication and responsiveness are terrific, but there should also be an effort to do what they say they will do, leaving no doubt in your mind that you have been heard. You should never be in a position of wondering if you need to bring up the topic at hand again. You should be informed and reassured that action has been taken and told what the end result was.
Customer service can make or break business relationships and the parameters of what you expect should be addressed at the onset. It has to matter to your vendor as much as it matters to you. In a lasting partnership, your supplier will take responsibility for earning your continued business with unquestionably great customer service.