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What are the best ways to deal with difficult suppliers?

7th August 2012

We all know that poor communication in our personal and professional lives can cause problems. When your dealing with difficult suppliers however communication needs to be regular, open and honest to ensure the supply chain does not get disrupted.

There are many areas of life that could be improved with better communication both personally and professionally. Keeping good relationships with suppliers through regular open and honest communication must therefore be a key area to ensuring there are no issues with difficult suppliers and supply chain disruptions are kept to a minimum.

We all must be guilty of stewing on issues with our nearest and dearest which in itself can be damaging, but not talking about performance concerns with your suppliers could have negative implications on your business. Difficult suppliers need to be given the chance to understand what they are doing wrong and correct it. Tactful communication at the right time in the right way should ensure the issue is put to bed fairly quickly. It may also be worth looking at what you are asking for and how. Can the supplier actually deliver in the way you want?

Difficult suppliers might also benefit from understanding why early or late deliveries are bad for your business. The latter is more obviously detrimental but they might think early deliveries are advantageous to you whereas it could just be a headache if you didn’t have enough warehousing space to accommodate it.

Becoming frustrated with difficult suppliers can sometimes lead us to test them with new deadlines and expectations. It would probably be better however to communicate first before opting for this tactic as more pressure on top of existing misunderstandings might just make things worse and increase late or non deliveries.

Once all frustrations are aired and everyone knows where they stand, expectations can be agreed upon and put in writing.

Lastly, a frank and open discussion on whether they are actually concerned about having your business or not. They may consider you to be one of their lower value customers and they gain more commercially by investing resource into higher value customers. Not exactly a textbook way of running a business but in the real world it can happen.

If all else fails and your difficult supplier remains difficult, your supply chain is becoming disrupted and warehousing space not efficiently used, then it may be time to move on to pastures new. The question is then how do you ensure your new supplier will not let you down in the same way?

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