By Marcia Layton Turner
Supplier scorecards have become commonplace in many industries, giving procurement professionals a chance to grade their suppliers' performance and offer useful feedback. But the process can also work in reverse — to the benefit of both parties.
Having your suppliers grade you as a customer can be really illuminating for you, and might offer some surprising suggestions. Here's a rundown of reverse scorecards and what they entail:
Benefits of Reverse Supplier Scorecards
This process helps you identify what you can do on the procurement side to help suppliers improve the quality, cost or timeliness of deliveries. By working as partners, you can more efficiently find solutions to problems.
Opening up conversations with your suppliers can help you see your business's systems and habits with fresh eyes. It allows you to better understand how other clients interact with that vendor, and get a glimpse of your own blind spots or other issues that may be hampering the vendor's ability to do the best job possible.
Equally important? By asking for vendors' feedback, you're sending an important message that you value their expertise and want to understand their viewpoints. That can greatly strengthen your relationship.
What a Scorecard Covers
So, what areas might be discussed on a reverse scorecard? Here are some questions you could include on the scorecard you provide your vendors:
- Process: From procurement to contract issuance to directions to delivery, what part of the process could we improve? What internal changes would make it possible for you, as our vendor, to provide better service?
- Expectations: Are our organization's requirements or expectations reasonable? What areas have proved difficult?
- Communication: Do we provide regular communication and updates? Have there been times when we could have been clearer or quicker in our communications? Feel free to include examples and suggestions for ways we could improve.
- Payment: How timely are payments? How reasonable are our payment terms? Are there early payment discounts we might take advantage of?
- Ethics: Are we fair in our dealings with your company? How are disagreements handled?
- Responsiveness: What is the standard response time for questions or clarifications? Is it easy for you to get an answer from us regarding time-sensitive decisions?
- Feedback: Do we provide frequent and detailed feedback regarding your performance? Or does that feedback come too late? Do we give you the opportunity to correct errors when they occur?
After receiving the vendors' answers, hold follow-up meetings to discuss whichever areas that you think will be the most productive. Your vendors' feedback is important, but remember that you aren't promising to carry out all their suggestions — you will seriously consider these ideas, but they may be unfeasible in the end. Make sure your vendor knows that you respect their feedback and are eager to maintain a good working relationship.
As long as you clearly state up front what your goals are in requesting feedback, reverse supplier scorecards can yield valuable insights into your department that only outside observers can provide. Armed with these insights, your procurement team can improve internal operating processes in ways that are well worth the effort.