Handling difficult suppliers is often, in itself, quite a difficult thing to do. However it needs to be done and you need to ensure that you sort out any problems before they result in the supply chain being disrupted.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate! If you simply seethe behind closed doors and do not communicate your supplier performance issues with the supplier then you will not have the chance to resolve the issue. So the main thing is to keep all lines of communication open.
2. Be mindful of how you communicate. If you simply pick up the telephone and shout or send off threatening emails then you will not sort out the problem.
3. Instead you need to find out why the supplier is being ‘difficult’. Is it because there is a problem that can be sorted out? Has there been a breakdown in communication somewhere? What can be done to resolve it?
4. The issue of what can be done to resolve the issue may require you to take a good hard look at what your requirements and needs are. Is there anything that you can do to resolve the problem? Don’t simply assume that the supplier is being ‘difficult’ there may be some problem that has arisen because of the way that you want items delivered or the way in which you do business. So don’t apportion blame before you have exhausted all the reasons why problems have occurred. Sometimes this can shed new light on the issues and ensure that things are done differently in the future so that the difficulty is simply a ‘one off’ and will not reoccur.
5. Be sure to communicate the impact of early delivery/late delivery/no delivery. For example if the delivery was early and you had no warehouse space to accommodate the goods, then ensure that you communicate this to the supplier. They may think an early delivery is helpful; to you it can be a major headache and you need to tell then why it was a headache.
6. Try not to place new deadlines in place or issue ultimatums. These will simply place the supplier under more pressure and they are more likely to fail to meet the targets set. So keep calm, stick to the original deadlines and focus on trying to resolve whatever the problem is.
7. Stay positive. This is often much easier to say than to do, but if you try to treat the ‘issue’ with the supplier as something that is a temporary glitch and can soon be ironed out, then you will have the mindset that will be conducive to ensuring that it is simply a minor aberration and can be resolved.
8. See what capacity you have to receive goods after the deadline or to receive goods in a different way. For example, you may have ordered 10,000 bolts for delivery on Thursday, but the supplier is now telling you that they cannot provide this. Instead of throwing out the order think positively; can they deliver 5,000 on Thursday and then 5,000 on Friday?
9. Try to ascertain if they really want your business. Although we all think that especially since the economic downturn suppliers would be falling over themselves to secure any contracts they can get, they may in fact have got new, more lucrative contracts and not be too bothered about your business. This is not a good way to run a business from the supplier’s perspective; but it happens in practice, so if you are finding that they simply don’t seem bother, grasp the bull by the horns and check out if they really want your business or not.
10. Having urged a conciliatory approach, remember that you should not be at the mercy of suppliers. So if they consistently let you down or are unreliable, then it is time to cut the cord and find a new supplier as quickly as possible. But it can be worth trying to learn lessons from what happened previously, so that you don’t end up with difficult suppliers, but instead suppliers who will move heaven and earth to assist you.