5 Steps to Keep A Healthy Vendor Relationship

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5 Steps to Keep A Healthy Vendor Relationship

QUESTION

Submitted by B.E.

” What is a great way to speak with a vendor after an event if they didn’t perform up to your standards/expectations if you would still like to work with them and continue a healthy relationship?”

ANSWER

Review

First, make a list of what you believe went wrong or was not up to your standards. Write it out and be detailed in what you expected and what was delivered.

Are your standards in writing as a policy and part of your internal company handbook? Having the standards in writing ensures you are consistent with your expectations.

Assess

Second, review all your previous communication with the vendor. Communication may include direct messages, emails, call notes, meeting notes, etc.  If you have a copy of the contract, review the details of the contract and what was specifically detailed in the scope of work and description of services/products.

Many times it is in this step where we realize either we were not clear in our communication and expectations or the vendor overlooked a detail(s).

*TIP: I am a big believer in CYA. It comes from years of working in real estate contracts and insurance claims. Thus I take notes during all phone calls and meetings. I send a summary of my notes to the other party afterward to ensure we are on the same page. Not only does it help your records, but it is an extra step towards strengthening the quality of your relationship and reputation.

Communicate

Once you have thoroughly and objectively reviewed the situation schedule an in-person meeting with the vendor. You can meet with them in person, over the phone, or via video conference. DO NOT EMAIL! The following is a sample script for the conversation.

  1. “I enjoyed working with you during this event. I noticed xxxx happened. Will you tell me from your point of view what happened and what you believe was expected from you during the event?” (Listen and take notes during this time. Don’t interject or interrupt.)
  2. “I appreciate hearing your side. This is what my expectations were for the event, xxxxx.”
  3. “What can we do together to make sure those expectations are met next time?” (Listen and take notes during this time. Don’t interject or interrupt.)
  4. Acknowledge their response and discuss what works and doesn’t work for both parties to come to an agreement.
  5. “If those expectations aren’t met, what do you suggest happens?” (Listen and take notes during this time. Don’t interject or interrupt.)
  6. Acknowledge their response and discuss what works and doesn’t work for both parties to come to an agreement.
  7. “I appreciate you taking the time to discuss this event. I value our relationship and want to make sure we are on the same team to serve our client well. I look forward to working with you again.”

You may edit the language as you see fit for your personality, but that is the foundation for the conversation. It allows the vendor to share their story and for you both to come to an agreement without false accusations and becoming defensive. Many problems stem from miscommunication.

Follow-Up

Send them an email summary of what was discussed and agreed upon. Separately, send them a thank you note for working as a team during the event.

Review any existing in-house processes and policies for your business. Update as needed to make it easier to communicate your standards to future vendors. This may include updated policies, processes, templates, checklists, etc.

Prior to the next event make sure you thoroughly communicate your expectations and standards both verbally and in writing.

Keep in mind, no one likes to be told what to do and even more so when working with a vendor or contractor and you are not signing their check. Be gracious in working together and helping them achieve their desired outcome too.

Celebrate

Finally, after a successful event send a handwritten note to thank them for their excellent work. If appropriate, leave a review on their preferred platform.

We all work really hard and having peers who not only challenge us to be better but also celebrate us make the entrepreneurial journey sweeter!


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