How may times have you dealt with vendors who made you feel that if you had a problem, you had to deal with it on your own — “I'm sorry, we're short staffed”, “you didn't place your order in time”, “the delivery truck has a flat tire”, “the dog ate your paperwork” or any one of a million excuses for their inability to provide you with the product or service that you need when and where you need it.
Murphy's Law applies to business as much or more than it applies to everyday life. Let's face it, things can and will go wrong - invariably at the exact time when you can least afford it. What separates a truly service-oriented company from all of the others is how they respond when things do go wrong. Many people get caught up in the “blame game” but that doesn't resolve anything. The companies that “own” your problem and make it their problem are the ones that should earn the right to be your service provider.
Picture This Scenario
It's Friday afternoon at 4:30. You've been promised delivery of a part that you need to keep your production running over the weekend and it's still not there. You call the trucking company only to be informed that the shipment didn't get onto the delivery truck but will be there bright and early Monday morning — they hope. Faced with being down for the weekend and the potential loss of tens of thousands of dollars, you plead your case to the carrier. What response do you get? “Sorry, you should have shipped it sooner” or “Hey, it's not our fault. It got hung up at the border”. Both of these responses are usually accompanied by an insincere apology that does nothing to soothe your pain and gets you no closer to solving your problem.
How about this? Someone on the other end of the line that actually listens to what your problem is and finds a creative way to resolve it. “Hey, I don't live that far from your plant. Maybe I can fit that part in the trunk of my car and deliver it on my way home.” Or “All of our trucks have left for the day but if you want to come down and pick it up, I can leave it with our night watchman”.
The example given above is pretty simplistic as are the many ways that it could be resolved, but it does serve to illustrate that where there's a problem, there's a solution. It just takes the right mindset, corporate culture and will to look far enough to find it. The fact of the matter is that the people that form the links in your supply chain have to care every bit as much about your business as you do. You need someone that answers the phone when you call them and that can find creative and innovative ways to deal with problems as they occur.
Just a few weeks back, I got involved in a shipment that really didn't have much at all to do with me or my company, but when I heard what the problem was, I felt I had to get involved. The company who should have been helping this poor importer wouldn't answer their phone, and was either unwilling or unable to help him when he showed up at their door. As a result, I ended up back at the office and missed a very large portion of a very good playoff game. The good news is that the problem was resolved, the importer got their cargo, the crisis was averted and hopefully, we've made a friend for life.
We see both sides of this coin every day in our business — people that go the extra mile to own your problem, and people who make sure that you know that your problem is all your own. Who would you rather partner with?