How can you increase and improve support to your suppliers with the same resource?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked by supplier-facing professionals. They are constantly being challenged to increase the amount of support and improve the results being delivered without increasing the size of the team responsible; just one symptom of current trading conditions.
Fortunately, there is a solution – Supplier Self-Help.
What is supplier self-help?
In short, Supplier Self-Help is about giving suppliers access to easy-to-digest information when and where they need it to grow their understanding of a subject. This in turn reduces the amount of low-value queries that your team receives, allowing them to focus on higher-value activities.
The principles of customer or user self-help are well proven. And we leverage them using the Supply Pilot Platform to deliver the associated benefits in a supplier management context. Over the years, supplier self-help has become simply indispensable to any supplier-related project that we support. And here’s why:
Save £100k a year by helping suppliers to help themselves
The foundation of any Supplier Self-Help initiative is a supplier portal or knowledgebase. Without a portal suppliers have no option but to try and contact you directly. It is often unclear who or which department to contact. Queries often, therefore, go unanswered, or even questions left unasked.
We calculated that in the first year alone we saved one business team £95,760* by using the Supply Pilot Platform to divert queries away from employees for their 600 Private Labels Suppliers
*Industry cost benchmark for comparable technical support is £28 per call or email. On average 950 answers where viewed on the Supply Pilot platform per month. Assume (conservatively) that 30% of answers viewed answered the supplier’s question.
For another client with a larger and more established supplier base, 3,500 answers were viewed by suppliers every month.
Deliver consistent Supplier Management
Most retailers and brands have dozens of touch-points with suppliers. With all of these touch-points fielding questions, you can imagine how easy it is for inconsistency to grow. Particularly when working in silos is not uncommon.
A supplier self-help portal like the Supply Pilot Platform provides one version of the truth which can be referenced by the whole supply base, and your Associates too. This means your policies and processes are more likely to be applied consistently across your supply chain, regardless of category or team.
Deliver scalable Supplier Development
Delivering effective support and training for suppliers of varying sizes and competencies is logistically challenging and therefore can be expensive.
A perfect example of this is the changes to regulation. Businesses have to make sure that all suppliers have understood the regulation and update any affected product information and packaging accordingly – or the products will be removed from their shelves. Often regulation changes cover a hugely diverse range of products, making supporting suppliers through the transition challenging.
Supplier Self-Help really shines in this kind of scenario by providing tailored learning paths (for example: "read this, watch this, then do this…") potentially accompanied by online eLearning material. This approach is a flexible, scalable and affordable option to develop your supply base.
Even at early interactions with your organisation, Supplier Self-Help typically increases the speed and accuracy of supplier responses and reduces the resource needed from you to facilitate them. Self-Help portals can lead someone through how first to become a supplier and support the process of joining your supply base when they begin supplying your organisation (on-boarding). As part of this on-boarding process, Self-Help can aid their understanding of product or category-specific policies and procedures and support your team in collecting key documentation.
4) Reduce risk by identifying knowledge gaps early
One problem with multiple individuals in your organisation fielding questions is that there is no overall visibility of what suppliers are asking. Quite often, the same questions are being asked over and over again. At best this is inefficient. At worst, you could be missing a serious knowledge gap in your supply base, with potential risks such as legal compliance or food safety.
Using a supplier Self-Help tool like Supply Pilot Platform gives you visibility of what suppliers are searching for, and who is reading what content and provides the option for suppliers to ask questions in a controlled manner if the information isn’t there. This not only allows you to identify common themes but empowers you to create knowledge and fill those gaps before they become a problem.
5) Enhance your supplier’s experience and become their partner of choice
Above all else, Supplier Self-Help makes supplier relationship management easier.
I strongly believe that an easier working relationship is a key factor for suppliers when they decide which partner they wish to share innovations with and direct their best staff to. Even at the most basic level, supplier self-help encourages “I will do it for this customer first because I know it is easier…”
By making it easy to do things day-to-day, supplier-facing professionals are able to apply more time and energy to the interactions that do matter. This results in a more productive and collaborative relationship which could give your business an edge.