Vendors are individuals and companies selling goods and services. They operate in every market and industry in myriad ways, from providing payroll services to parts for manufactured products. Good vendors, despite the size of the company, follow basic rules that help them build and maintain strong working relationships with customers. Maintaining positive customer relationships can productively affect a vendor's industry and market reputation.
Fulfill the agreement. Vendors that contract with a customer, then leave the obligation unfulfilled are likely overlooked during future purchases and develop a reputation for subpar work. When a contract is unfulfilled due to lack of cooperation or breach of contract by the customer, vendors should seek legal counsel. Creating a contract checklist can help vendors pinpoint agreed delivery dates, quantities, obligations and points of contact to make it easier to fulfill the contract.
Deliver on time. A threat to timely delivery is shortages of products, parts or materials. Planning ahead can reduce the number of shortages and in some cases, circumvent them to help vendors deliver products on time. For example, overstocking key items based on the past needs of a client can avail time to reorder and restock when other parts or materials delay.
Service vendors can deliver on time by closely monitoring delivery schedules and project milestones, then identifying possible obstacles to a delivery date and develop alternatives to overcome delays. For instance, creating a backup team that fills service needs when appointments delay due to illness or vacation can keep delivery times on target, maintaining customer satisfaction.
Communicate with the customer on a regular basis. Communication can avert problems and keep the vendor aware of customer needs or changes in expectation. A weekly phone call, a monthly request for evaluation or a reminder to contact the vendor in case of a problem with delivery lets the customer know they will be heard. Develop a point of contact and a system to receive complaints or suggestions to monitor the customer-vendor relationship. For example, account managers are effective tools to maintain open communication with a personalized touch.
Price goods and services fairly. Keep consistent pricing rather than setting arbitrary purchase amounts. Charging one customer more than another is inconsistent and unethical. In addition to setting a fair price, include price breaks where appropriate by evaluating the cost of producing the product or service and adding a moderate profit margin. Remain aware of market fluctuations, trends and competitor prices before setting or adjusting your pricing.
Behave professionally. Respond to customers in a professional manner and avoid arguments, verbal outbursts and accusations. Train all employees and management in effective communication to insure everyone is operating with the same set of essential skills. Good vendors know to look at the broader picture, thereby working with the varied personalities of the customer base despite individual challenges while still providing timely and quality products or services.
- Forbes: Service – The Overlooked Customer Engagement Opportunity; Jim Bush; 2010
- Introduction to Business; Jeff Madura; 2006
- Advancing a Successful Business: Managing Your Organization Well; Rich Brott; 2009