As with everything else in the world of work, the pandemic transformed vendor-client relationships. There was a virtual overnight need for personal protective equipment and other Covid-19-safe products. So businesses turned to trusted partners for such resources. Now that we’ve breached a year of living with Covid-19, we’re going to discuss exactly how the pandemic has impacted vendor-client relationships, why they’re now more important than ever, and how you can keep growing healthy vendor-client relationships long into the future.
Covid-19 & Client Relations
To obtain necessary resources in a timely manner, businesses had to either turn to trusted vendors for their new needs or build relationships with new vendors. And because everyone required these new products ASAP, there was almost no choice but to trust other businesses for such needs.
Overall, it’s safe to say that those businesses with open, omnichannel communication and strong, trusting relationships with other vendors and clients fared better than their counterparts in the early months of the pandemic. Having “a guy” to turn to meant that businesses had quicker access to PPE, mitigated some supply chain issues, and ultimately had to absorb fewer Covid-19-related costs. The rise of video conferencing made connecting with vendors, albeit different from before, still highly accessible.
We can clearly see the results of such relationships, but exactly why were they more successful? In short, vendors were more likely to prioritize those businesses they had positive relationships with to provide critical resources. And within those relationships existed a strong work structure that companies could fall back on—a reliance and trust that both ends would do their part to ensure the safety and best interests of everyone involved.
The Importance of Healthy Vendor-Client Relations
Even though the pandemic threw vendor-client relationships under an even brighter spotlight, they’ve always been a part of good business.
Vendors are a critical piece of the functioning of any business. So, pandemic aside, let’s discuss the three main reasons why a healthy vendor-client relationship is essential:
- It ensures your company’s needs are met. At its most basic level, a vendor-client relationship exists to fulfill some need of the client. That could be anything from basic office supplies to facility cleaning services to providing and maintaining signage—like what we do here at NAS—and everything in between.
- You get the product or service at a reasonable/market price. When you have a trusting relationship with your vendor, you know that you can usually rely on their integrity to sell you a product or service at a fair price.
- If there are gray areas in your contract, a healthy relationship means that the vendor will likely fill that gray space to your benefit. Sometimes, contracts don’t (or can’t) cover all the bases of a working relationship. Here again, you, as the client, can rely on your vendor’s integrity to follow through with your best interests in mind. On the other hand, vendors will have the satisfaction of going the extra mile for the client and paying the goodwill forward.
Of course, relationships are never one-sided. While we’ve focused primarily on the benefits to clients of a healthy relationship with vendors, there are certainly positives for both sides:
- Continued cash flow for both companies. One of the most obvious—and most important—benefits for both companies is that working together helps keep everyone in business.
- You can fall back on an established work structure and open communication lines in tumultuous times. As seen in the pandemic, those with clearly defined working relationships and protocols had a much easier time navigating tight timeframes and unique requests. This led to less stress for everyone while still generating the cash flow that keeps everyone in business. Plus, persevering through challenging times builds trust and ensures the longevity of the relationship.
- Bringing humanity back into business develops mutual empathy. We all need to be reminded that businesses are not only made up of the products and services they provide but by the people behind the business. The pandemic unleashed new levels of stress and uncertainty on every part of life. But it was a unique opportunity to bring a people-focused energy back to the business world. Showing empathy builds trust between both the personal representatives and the companies as a whole.
How to Maintain Healthy Vendor-Client Relationships
Having healthy-vendor client relationships is essential to the overall growth potential of your business. Each relationship is different depending on the timeline, scope of work, budget, longevity of the relationship, etc. And even though there are many variables to factor in with each relationship, we’ve outlined some best practices—for both vendors and clients—to ensure your business continues to grow long into the future.
- Establish clear expectations from the beginning. It is critical that you outline your expectations for the relationship both contractually and verbally. Discussing your goals and expectations in conversation is necessary. But it’s even more crucial that the written agreement outlines all the specifics of the relationship, as well as repercussions for failure to comply.
- Check in regularly with each other. Especially if your vendor-client relationship requires that you often work closely together, it is best to have a standard check-in time with each other. This keeps communication lines open, gives the representatives ample time to build their personal relationship, and establishes trust.
- You vendor can’t read your mind! Do not assume that your vendor knows your business the same way you do. While it is a delight when your vendor can predict some of your needs, this will not always be the case. Clearly communicating your business’s needs, especially early in the relationship, allows your vendor to get to know your business. Hopefully, this will empower them to predict some of your needs in the future!
- Establish an evaluation process. Once you have a working structure in place, you have to evaluate its effectiveness. Determine if your goals are being met and if your current methods are working. Then, put a plan in place for future change based on the results of your evaluation.
And the most important thing to remember? Everyone is on the same team!
A Healthy Vendor-Client Relationship in Real Life
Overall, healthy relationships are long-lasting and create value over time for both the client and the vendor. It’s rarely a good idea to switch from vendor to vendor to find the quickest and cheapest solution to your problem. Instead you should establish lasting relationships with your vendors so that you and your business are known. Your needs will be prioritized and met well into the future.
You’ve seen the word “trust” used many times in this article. Businesses can establish trust through consistent and transparent communication. And it’s that single idea that is the name of the game when it comes to healthy vendor-client relations.