Five Reasons Your Business Should Adopt Supplier Self-Help

How can I increase and improve support to my Suppliers with the same resource?

This is one of the most common questions I get asked by supplier-facing retail professionals. They are constantly being challenged to increase the amount of support and improve the results being delivered without increasing the size of the team responsible; just one symptom of current retail trading conditions.

Fortunately, there is a solution – Supplier Self-Help.

In short, Supplier Self-Help is about giving Suppliers access to easy-to-digest information when and where they need it to grow their motivation and understanding of a subject– the foundation to successful Supplier Engagement.

The principles of Self-Help are well proven. And we leverage them using the best-in-class Oracle CX Services Cloud within our ENGAGETM solution to deliver the associated benefits in a Retailer-Supplier context. Over the years, Supplier Self-Help has become simply indispensable to any Supplier-related project that we support. And here’s why:

Reason 1: Save £100,000 a year by helping Suppliers to help themselves

The foundation of any Supplier Self-Help initiative is a supplier portal or knowledgebase. Next week I’ll share how you can optimize your own knowledgebase. But for now, let’s focus on the benefits you could see if you have one which fulfils its potential.

Without a portal Suppliers have no option but to try and contact the Retailer direct.  And it is often unclear who or which department, or challenging to contact that person.  Queries often therefore go unanswered, or even questions left unasked. We calculated that in the first year alone we saved one supermarket own-brand team £95,760* by optimizing ENGAGE™ to divert queries away from employees for their 600 Private Labels Suppliers

*Industry cost benchmark for comparable technical support is £28 per call or email. On average 950 answers where viewed on the S4RB online supplier portal a month. Assume (conservatively) that 30% of answers viewed answered the Supplier’s question.

For another Retail client with a larger and more established supplier base, 3,500 answers were viewed by Suppliers every month.

Reason 2: Deliver consistent Supplier Management

Most retailers and brand owners have dozens of touch-points with Suppliers. And with all of these touch-points fielding questions, you can imagine how easy it is for inconsistency to grow. Particularly when working in silos is not uncommon.

A Self-Help portal provides one version of the truth which can be referenced by the whole supply base, and your Associates too. This means your policies and processes are more likely to be applied consistently across your supply chain, regardless of category or team.

Reason 3: Deliver scalable Supplier Development

Delivering effective support and training for Suppliers of varying sizes and competencies is logistically challenging and therefore can be expensive.

A perfect example of this is the changes to the food information labelling regulations (FIR).  Retailers have to make sure that all Suppliers have understood the regulation and update their product information and packaging accordingly – or the products will be removed from their shelves. The labelling regulations cover a hugely diverse range of products, making supporting Suppliers through the transition challenging.

Supplier Self-Help really shines in these kind of scenarios by providing tailored learning paths (read this, watch this, then do this…) potentially accompanied by online eLearning material. This approach is a flexible, scalable and affordable option to develop your supply-base.

Even at early interactions with your organisation, Supplier Self-Help typically increases the speed and accuracy of Supplier responses and reduces the resource needed from you to facilitate them. Self-Help portals can lead someone through how first to become a Supplier and support the process of joining your supply-base when they begin supplying your organisation (on-boarding). As part of this on-boarding process Self-Help can aid their understanding of product or category specific policies and procedures and support your team in collecting key documentation.

Reason 4: Reduce risk by identifying knowledge gaps early

One problem with multiple individuals in your organisation fielding questions is that there is no overall visibility of what Suppliers are asking. Quite often, the same questions are being asked over and over again.  At best this is inefficient.  At worst, you could be missing a serious knowledge gap in your supply base, with potential risks such as legal compliance or food safety.

Using a supplier Self-Help tool like ENGAGE™ gives you visibility of what Suppliers are searching for, who is reading what and provides the option for Suppliers to ask questions in a controlled manner if the information isn’t there.  This not only allows you to identify common themes, but empowers you to create knowledge and fill those gaps before they become a problem.

Reason 5: Enhance your supplier’s experience and become their partner of choice

Above all else, Supplier Self-Help makes the Supplier-Retailer relationship easier. Accurate information, on-demand 24/7.

I strongly believe that an easier working relationship is a key factor for Suppliers when they decide which partner they wish to share innovations with and direct their best staff to.  Even at the most basic level, supplier Self-Help encourages “I will do it for this Customer first because I know it is simple…”

By making it easy to do things day-to-day, Retail professionals are able to apply more time and energy to the interactions that do matter. This results in a more productive and collaborative relationship which could give your business an edge.

Want to realise these benefits in your organisation? Next time I cover seven tips to optimize your knowledgebase to reap the benefits of Supplier Self-Help.

Tags: Supplier development, Supplier engagement

David Taylor

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