Take action to improve your customer rating
When your customers rank you on their supplier scorecard, do you know how you are rated and what data is used?
In my experience, many printers don’t know the answer — nor do they use any kind of customer feedback to make improvements. For that reason, printers can be in jeopardy of losing their preferred vendor status if they do not pay attention to how customers rate them.
Don’t wait until you receive a Supplier Performance Report to ask questions or position yourself properly.
Here are 7 categories of questions and considerations to help you rank higher on your customer’s vendor scorecard:
1. Ask your key contact for access to data about your company.
Are we being assessed?
Are we being compared to other vendors?
Can we see our current and past scores?
Can we see a list of our competitors, either masked or actual?
Is there a dashboard where we can view our performance in real time?
2. Ask what’s being measured and how it is weighted.
What categories are we being judged on?
What are the Key Performance Indicators?
Are there benchmarks or thresholds?
Will low scores affect our vendor standing?
How are variables adjusted to be fair to all the suppliers?
For example, should we as the printer provide our delivery data to the customer as “on time” (positive attribute) or “late” (negative attribute)? Should it be provided as a percentage versus a standalone number? Find out if you can provide data in a format that is favorable to you. After all, one late delivery in a hundred (1% late) is a very different percentage than one late delivery in one total job (100% late). In this scenario, you would want the customer to know you have 99% on-time delivery.
3. Ask if you can meet the entire supply chain assessment team.
Which people in the customer’s company will be assessing us?
If the person inputting vendor data is not our key customer (such as a purchasing agent, operations manager, or accounting clerk), can we have a meeting with that person and discuss how we can be a better provider?
If our key contact is not providing the subjective information for our review, who is providing that and what are they saying about us?
4. Ask about terminology.
Is there a list of terms and definitions we can review?
Are there any areas of confusion that have been issues with other vendors in the past?
Are there aspects of the rating that may unintentionally cause a lower score?
For example, I had a client who scored zero on “collaboration.” It turned out this was a function of how many times he logged into his customer’s dashboard. He never logged in because he personally reviewed his Supplier Performance Report with the client every month at the client’s site. This was not reflected in his score, however, so we had to be sure he logged in every month and downloaded his report to keep the category score at 100%. It pays to find out the rules of the game if you’re serious about playing.
5. Ask if you can address issues right away.
If we score lower than your preferred threshold, can we get together within the week to discuss it?
Is there anyone else in the client’s company or our company who should attend?
Are we in jeopardy of losing our preferred status if we take some time to research the issue?
In addition, if you see there are data errors or data was interpreted negatively, be sure to assemble your own data and proof before calling your key contact. Don’t go over your key contact’s head or try to influence others who are responsible for scoring you. Be professional. Keep a communication record that shows you responded to their issues promptly. Keep copies of all revised scorecards, and timestamp them with the dates they were downloaded. (I have had clients who lost their revised scores when the customer’s computer system did its backup. Argh! Keep good records on your end!)
Once you are on track for a higher score, you can try these additional strategies to refine your results:
6. Score your own suppliers. It’s enlightening to go through the vendor reporting process for your own company. It will teach you about data integrity, reporting procedures, and measuring progress. You will see why it’s important to communicate promptly and seek productive solutions to chronic issues.
7. Assess your own company culture and workplace environment. You may be losing points with customers because your own employees need more training or better customer service skills. Think about bringing in an expert to do an assessment.
In the next few years, more print buying companies will use cloud-based, real-time dashboards to gather, analyze and report vendor data and scores. Learn about this trend and start using client-provided dashboards now.
You can see why it’s important to know how customers rate you and how you can improve your score. Ask questions and be proactive when your score is not what you expect.
By communicating with your customer often and focusing on results, you can command the top of their leaderboard and be their print provider of choice!
Sandy Hubbard is a Marketing Strategist who helps printers take their businesses to the next level. She builds customized business growth programs that can be sustained over the long haul, with affordable tools and your own people…without stress! Find @sandyhubbard on Twitter every Wednesday at 4 PM ET, assisting #PrintChat host Deborah Corn @PrintMediaCentr with a lively online discussion for printers and those who love print.