Creating Partnerships to Boost Customer Service
There are many common characteristics that comprise a great convenience store chain. They are retail leaders, innovative marketers, committed to employees and completely driven by a service- first mantra to satisfy their customers. But equally important to all of this is a great relationship with their supplier partners. Vendors and supplies provide a critical service for any business. This service allows your business to focus on building products or services that add value to your customers.
Vendor and supplier relationships are a delicate balancing act between your business’s best interests and the sometimes competing interests of your suppliers. One thing is clear: all parties need to receive mutual benefits from the relationship.
Before you begin evaluating these partnerships, you must first be clear on what your objective is, and that is to provide your customers with a wonderful shopping experience. Customers have shown—with their wallets and in focus groups—that price is relatively low on the list of reasons why they shop a convenience store. For this reason, choosing suppliers with the cheapest prices isn’t always the best answer. It’s often the easiest answer, but not necessarily the best option for your chain.
Convenience store customers have enormous buying power these days and they are not afraid to use it against you. They want a friendly smile when they walk in the door, a clean store and a genuine sense that you appreciate their business. In other words, they want to feel respected.
After all, would you continue to shop at a store that didn’t show you the respect you deserve? Regardless of a great price or a convenient location, you know deep down you wouldn’t. Why would you expect your customers to act any differently? For these reasons, when picking a supplier or vendor partner, look for one that shares your values. The foundation for these relationships often includes the following:
• Respect: Relationships are built on mutual respect. If you don’t respect a vendor or supplier than the relationship will be doomed to fail.
• Trust: Building trust provides the cornerstone of your vendor or supplier relationship. Trust is a two way street that must be cultivated at all times.
• Mutual Benefit: Without a mutually beneficial partnership there is little incentive for either side to stick around when times get tough. The best partners are always there when you need them the most.
• Fairness and Honesty: Fair and honest partners will always win out in the long run. Any short term gain realized by lying, cheating or taking advantage of a partner will tarnish the long-term relationship and destroy trust.
Without these components, a vendor or supplier relationship will be challenging to maintain and will certainly descend into a bad situation over time.
Building a strong partnership should be your goal when selecting vendors and suppliers. These partnerships will only strengthen your business and allow you to focus on your core competencies. Good vendors and suppliers also want to build strong partnerships because that builds a strong business for them. The selection, cultivation and building of your vendor and supplier relationships should be a continuous process that strives to balance your business needs with the needs for your partners. When those needs align, your partnership will be successful. When they don’t, you will need to either work hard at aligning them or choose a new partner.
On the pages ahead are some of the industry’s key supplier companies that are going the extra mile to connect with c-store operators. When considering a trusted partner in the future, please take a moment to read about their services and how they can help your business. They have taken the first step toward earning your business and, hopefully, some connections will be made that can lead to years of increased sales for everyone.