Supplier Services In Need of Improvement

Dealers and designers give suppliers passing grades when it comes to delivering the products and services most important to them, although there are apparently improvements still needed within the product-supply chain.

For kitchen and bath product suppliers, there’s seemingly both good and bad news as companies continue to find their legs in a market that’s clearly recovering but, nevertheless, remains challenging.

The good news is that dealers and designers give suppliers generally passing grades when it comes to delivering the products and services most important to them. The bad news is that there are clearly improvements needed within the industry’s supply chain, with a significant percentage of dealers and designers reporting that supplier services are actually worse now than they were three years ago — and an even higher percentage reporting that services are no better.

In fact, suppliers garner the highest ratings for providing services that are less important than other services that dealers and designers want more.

That’s not only ironic -it’s downright discouraging. And it should be addressed.

And how did these dealer/designer sentiments about supplier services come to light? They were the focus of a revealing new survey conducted for Kitchen & Bath Design News by the Research Institute of Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), the Charlotte, NC firm with whom KBDN and its parent company, Cygnus Business Media, recently entered into an exclusive research partnership (see related stories, pages 10 and 13).

According to survey respondents, “excellent” or “very good” service levels are provided by 70% of the suppliers who serve them. However, 28% of the dealers and designers polled report that the service they receive from suppliers is worse now than it was three years ago, while only 23% say it’s better and the balance (49%) say it’s no better than the same.

Moreover, for the four highest-rated qualities a supplier can possess — prompt, reliable and complete delivery; inquiries that are answered quickly; consistent and competitive pricing, and products that are consistently available — dealers and designers rate their suppliers’ performance the lowest. In contrast, suppliers receive their highest ratings for pro-viding services like supplier rep knowledge/helpfulness and product warranties -although those services are not as important as others to dealers and designers.

It seems reasonable to conclude, from this apparent disconnect, that while suppliers are striving to meet the needs of their customers — and are generally doing an acceptable job — improvements can be made.

And this starts with better communication by all parties concerned.

The “ideal” supplier, according to surveyed dealers and designers, is one that goes above and beyond the norm — who exceeds expectations and truly has a stake in their customers’ businesses. Keeping promises is also seemingly even more important than ever.

That’s a burden, however, that both sides in the supply chain share.

Dealers and designers need to let their suppliers know, in no uncertain terms, exactly what services they most need, which are being delivered acceptably, and which need shoring up. And suppliers need to listen to that information, and then deliver on both their own promises and their customers’ needs.

There’s little margin for disconnects or lapses in service in a market struggling to recover. There’s plenty of room, however, for working relationships based on open, honest dialogue and a genuine concern for one another’s needs.

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