It's crucial that you don’t overlook the quality of relationships with your suppliers as part of your ongoing ‘reputation management’.
 

 
 

Reputation matters

You may have the most highly polished branding and communications campaign imaginable, and great customer service feedback, but what do your suppliers, employees and other industry associates think of you? Your reputation with all stakeholders matters.
 
Suppliers as referrers and customers
 
We’re all suppliers and customers at different points in the day.
 
When we’re the customer, we probably all want something similar from our suppliers. A good product or service, provided by good people when you need it at a competitive price.  However, in pursuit of this it is crucial that you don’t overlook the quality of relationships with your suppliers as part of your ongoing ‘reputation management’.
 
For example, if you drive your supplier really hard on price and lead times, they will get to a point where they supply to you almost grudgingly. A recent example from the BBC’s Hugh’s War on Waste programme encapsulates this perfectly. A parsnip grower in Norfolk eventually took the decision to close the business rather than continue working under the tough terms and conditions imposed by its customer, one of the big four supermarkets. To the outside world, it was undoubtedly an eye opener to see the kind of business practices going on behind closed doors in the retail market – not good in this case for the reputation of the retailer concerned.
 
But even without the TV exposure, it would be surprising if the farmer concerned has anything positive to say about the supermarket that he blamed for putting him out of business. Doubtful the family will ever do their weekly grocery shopping there! But it will go way beyond the immediate family – will their extended family members and friends choose a different supermarket too?
 
This kind of thing could happen to any business. If you ask a supplier to bend over backwards to help you grow sales or win a new contract, it’s vital that you give them the recognition they deserve – and that doesn’t mean paying over the odds. Even if you don’t give them the business, at least thank them for their efforts!  Your suppliers could be talking to your next prospect – think about how you would like them to introduce your business.
 
Employees
 
With social media allowing instant opinion sharing amongst friends and review sites like Glassdoor, businesses cannot afford to treat their personnel in any way other than with courtesy and professionalism. It may be easier said than done, but it is so easy for comments about what it’s like to work for an organisation to get into the broad public domain that you ignore internal comms at your peril!
 
We won’t go into detail here, but needless to say there is plenty of good advice available on this topic, including in this blog about how managers should have the right conversations with their staff as the cornerstone to better employee communications and engagement.
 
Service please!
 
How well are you serving your customers? Do your customers put up with your service because the product is so good, but actually they would go elsewhere if someone else supplied it? If your service is bad, it’s obvious that you could be losing customers who gradually move away. But what about all the customers you never get on board in the first place because the industry is already talking about your poor service? (“Don’t buy from them, they’re a nightmare to deal with…”).
 
As with internal communications, it’s a big, multi-dimensional topic which requires a strategy in itself. The upshot is that it is crucial long term.
 
Summing up…
 
Whoever you and your personnel come into contact with during the working day, you cannot afford to treat them without courtesy or professionalism. It may not be as exciting as talking about funky new branding designs or quirky PR events, but it is fundamental to ‘reputation management’.
 
If you would like to explore these ideas further please get in touch.
 
    
 
The Partners Group

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