National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Clark: Six easy steps to become your customers’ go-to supplier

Originally appeared in Fleet Owner

The supplier-customer relationship is the most important relationship a business has, whether that business is B2C or B2B. What are you doing to make it the best it can be?

When it comes to servicing customers, the most crucial factor is ensuring you deliver the product or service agreed upon at the right price and time. However, being a supplier that businesses look forward to working with depends on more than reliable delivery. It’s also important to focus on communications between you and your customer. This is true whether you’re looking at B2C or B2B, as technology has blurred the line between the two types of customers as far as certain expectations are concerned, specifically in the areas of ease of purchase and speed of fulfillment.

However, one of the significant differences between B2C and B2B is the basis of the relationship. B2C situations are transactional and short-term in nature. B2B success relies on person-to-person relationships with the long-term in mind. B2C purchases may be impulsive, and gratification is based on receiving the item on time and the seller’s customer service efficiency when needed. B2B transactions are based upon business needs, not impulses. However, suppliers that have built long-term relationships with their customers often become the go-to resource for a specific product or service.

How to become the go-to resource

E-commerce has made the need for human relationships in B2B more critical rather than less. In the past, procurement professionals considered price and terms as their primary focal points. Today, in a global economy, these professionals know that issues like reliability, regulatory and corporate compliance, and flexibility are as important as price and terms. Also, since so much of the communication may be electronic and digital, those times when the human element steps in are invaluable.

Whether you are trying to maintain a relationship with an existing customer or create a new one, there are certain things suppliers should do to attract and keep customers.

  1. Understand their business: It’s vital to do your due diligence and ongoing research, not only when pitching new business but also once a customer is on board and throughout the relationship. Identify the customer’s pain points related to the supply chain and show how your organization can help mitigate those concerns.
  2. Anticipate their needs: A best-in-class supplier is proactive rather than reactive. Be aware of any potential customer-related or general issues that may impact the business (consider the shortages caused by COVID-19) and plan action. Or perhaps your customer has long lead times for placing orders. Make sure you are equipped to fulfill the order when it arrives.
  3. Take responsibility: Whether you are providing a product or a service, you should be accountable for the quality of what you provide. Consistently check on your quality control team and be willing to own up to any issues. Assuming, of course, that problems are rare, this accountability will engender great trust.
  4. Deliver on delivery: This is obvious but well worth restating. Reliability is essential in today’s competitive environment, so make sure you can make your delivery dates. If there are weather issues, have a plan in place and communicate that to your customer.
  5. Make communications easy: Different people want to be communicated with in different ways. Contact your customer using their preferred method, whether by email, text, or phone. Also, customers should not be forced to go through multiple prompts in an automated phone system. Help the customer get to the right person as quickly as possible. Finally, if you promise to get back to the customer at a specific time, ensure you do so.
  6. Keep improving: Ultimately, customers want to know that their suppliers are keeping up with advances and changes in technology that will contribute to improving their products and services. Communicate these advances to your customers, showing how these improvements will help them in the long run.

There are so many ways that suppliers can become the resources that companies want to work with. The steps listed above are a good start and cost-effective. Maintaining a good relationship with your customers means treating them more like partners. When you do better, your customers will benefit as well… and vice versa.