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ASCM Insights

Discovering the Keys to Successful Supplier Partnerships

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When the economy is tight, business leaders seek to cut costs. However, taking a more holistic approach to business-to-business (B2B) supplier relationships could add value and save more money in the end. Recently, Gallup explored the top three characteristics of successful B2B supplier relationships.

First, customers want suppliers to furnish company-specific knowledge, insights and perspectives. “Gallup finds that customers increasingly expect suppliers to possess the deepest and timeliest information on their most important business issues,” write Jeff Durr and David Leonard. “These include the economics of customers’ businesses, emerging challenges within customers’ industries and trends within a supplier’s customer portfolio.”

Although that’s what customers want, Gallup finds that only 31 percent of customers believe their suppliers understand this need. Further, only 54 percent of customers strongly agree that their suppliers are “trusted advisors.” “The key to being seen as a trusted adviser is accumulating valuable, relevant and cutting-edge insights,” Durr and Leonard write.

The next top characteristic of successful suppliers is the segmentation of account relationship and support systems. Separating these functions enables customers to get more value, insights and service than with a product-specific structure.

In an example outlined in the Gallup article, a bank originally assigned account managers by geographic location. The bank worked with Gallup to examine its data and identify account managers based on industry and performance trends as well as geographic location. This shift resulted in a 10 percent increase in new business revenue and a 20 percent increase in customer satisfaction.

Lastly, customers want their suppliers to provide omnichannel and digital commerce. “Because B2B customers already enjoy high-quality omnichannel relationships in the [business-to-consumer] realm, they now expect the same from their B2B suppliers,” Durr and Leonard write. “Gallup research shows that B2B customers want seamless, intuitive online experiences that integrate flawlessly across all channels.” 

The Gallup article suggests that, to meet customers’ omnichannel demands, companies can separate complex and simple customer interactions. For example, a company might put its simpler transactions on a digital platform to make the interaction easier for both the customer and the supplier. 

“By using consumer analytics to identify digital-ready customers and encouraging them to explore online and mobile options, leaders can satisfy customers’ desires while reducing service costs.”

Integration and interaction

The three characteristics of successful supplier-customer relationships outlined by Gallup underscore the fundamental idea that driving value goes beyond delivering the cheapest price. Consider the definition of supply chain integration as it appears in the APICS Dictionary, “When supply chain partners interact at all levels to maximize mutual benefit.”

If you are struggling with how to implement these ideas into your company’s supply chain, it’s time to explore the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) designation for you or your team members. Earning your CSCP enables you to understand how to increase customer satisfaction by maximizing technology investments and, ultimately, driving value for your customers. Learn more about CSCP at apics.org/cscp

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer at ASCM, the largest nonprofit association for supply chain and the global leader in supply chain organizational transformation and innovation. Prior to this, he was the managing director for the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. His leadership roles have included project management, business process redesign, and individual and organizational alignment. Eshkenazi may be contacted through editorial@ascm.org.

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