Keeping the spark alive

Binder UKs managing director, David Phillips, considers the relationship between connector manufacturer and customer.
The relationship between a connector manufacturer and buyer can be likened to a marriage: built on trust, communication and understanding. Once past the honeymoon, most relationships require a little maintenance to keep the spark alive. I once read there were seven tips for a good marriage which are equally applicable to buyer/supplier relationships.
Lack of good, accurate communication is a breeding ground for mistrust. It is vital for the customer and supplier to communicate effectively and fully understand what is happening in each others business. It is important the buyer communicates what they needed, when and why. Similarly the supplier needs to go beyond simply providing the price, lead-time and MOQ. Each party needs to know how the other works and what drives their business. This can only come with effective communication.

Spend time together
During a recent international meeting a colleague praised the benefits of ecommerce and how it had all but replaced face-to-face contact. While such impersonal tools have their role to play, it is difficult to get the full picture and understand real needs and driving forces without personal contact. In Europe, particularly the UK, it is still true to say people buy from people.

Show respect
Buyers and suppliers should never take each other for granted. The difficult economic climate means purchasers have de-stocked to reduce inventories but it is not realistic or sustainable in the long term to expect one party to bear responsibility for product availability: the ideal solution must be in the middle ground.

Adapt to change
Change happens and buyers and suppliers must be prepared to adapt. It is essential the right logistic package is in place, be that buffering, scheduling, KanBan or ship-to-line. Deliveries and prices may change due to circumstances beyond the control of either party and both must operate a framework that is flexible enough to cope with change.

Stay in touch
It is all too easy with todays business tools such as EDI, web-portals and emails to forget the personal side of business.

Resolve disagreements
Disagreements can happen in the happiest relationships and it is important to discuss difficult issues openly. Even though the starting points may be diametrically opposed, healthy, robust debate will take the emotion out of an issue, clear the air and prevent resentment no matter how complex the issue.
Dont bear grudges
Any relationship can experience difficulties. It will not always easy to see things from the others viewpoint. Emotion must be replaced with facts. Does the supplier always fail to perform? Does the buyer always make unreasonable demands? Probably not.
With many connector manufacturers moving manufacturing and even customer services out of the UK and Europe, what ought to be a simple task of getting in-touch with someone who not only knows your account but understands your business is becoming ever more difficult.
At Binder we think it is imperative that the connector supplier be locally based to support logistics. It is the desire to build long-term relationships that has driven Binder to invest in new European subsidiaries such as Binder UK and continue to manufacture in Europe at a time when competitors are moving out. We want to stay in touch.
All manufacturers claim to love their customers but only those that communicate, resolve their differences, do not bear grudges, spend time together, show respect, adapt to change and stay close will benefit from a long, happy commercial union with a profitable ending.