August 19, 2009, 5:46 PM — The key to earning trust is to be trustworthy. There isn't some kind of marketing gimmick that will pull the wool over our eyes and bedazzle us into trusting someone without good cause. How can someone demonstrate that they're trustworthy? Transparency, simplicity, reliability, speed and a willingness to fix what is wrong.
Transparency is a big buzz word in supply chain these days, but what does it mean, really? When you are purchasing parts from a broker, don’t you hate it when you have to call for pricing or when they have to “check with their overseas warehouse”? What do they have to hide? If a company is truly dedicated to earning your trust, they won’t play games with you. They will push as much useful information at you as they can and will be totally forthright if there is something they don't know.
Simplicity. Getting parts from one place to another shouldn’t be too hard. Why do so many brokers and independent distributors make it that way? Everything is a hassle. Haggling over price is torture. Your assembly line is about to go down, but the more desperate you sound, the higher the price will be. When you place an order, it practically takes an act of Congress to get updates. Why is expediting so difficult? What are they hiding? If someone is really looking out for you, wouldn’t they make things easy? Not easier, but truly easy. Do suppliers give you a great price up front? Do they give you tools to see all your options at your pace? Do they push updates to you when your precious order is being processed?
Reliability. Like clockwork. Sure as the sun rises. If a supplier performs at a high level each time, every time, you will feel more comfortable calling them in an emergency. Before you let down your guard, ask a simple question: is the company dependable or is it the salesperson? If the answer is the salesperson, don’t be too eager to jump. You may have a good relationship with the person on the phone, but there are countless decisions being made by employees all over that salesperson’s company that will affect your delivery. Is your contact the one looking out for you, or is the whole company aligned with getting you your order. What if your contact is sick or moves to a new firm? Ask around — maybe smaller companies get unreliable treatment from your supplier but the big guys are fine. That's not a good sign — when will you get the bad deal?
Speed. Haste makes waste, but when your job is on the line, you need the right parts as fast as possible. Think a second about how speed happens — it isn’t an accident. Haste is a knee-jerk reaction, and the results can be sloppy. Speed is the result of a lot of preparation and work to get things ready for your shortage. How fast is the search? Does it take a conversation to find out what parts are in-stock, what their date codes are and what the price is? Do the items get drop-shipped to you, or do they have to stop off at the middleman? Speed takes a lot of work, and you should keep a mental clock ticking every time you go searching for parts.
Humility. A willingness to fix what’s wrong — no one is perfect, and you can learn a lot from someone by how they make up for an error. Do they launch into the blame game, or do they look out for you and try to understand how the process broke down? Are they actually interested in how a mistake was made, and do they actually do anything about it? Apologies from the salesperson are nice, but a willingness to fix the process is that rarest of traits: humility.
Finding a trustworthy supplier in the shortage market is a difficult task indeed. Deciding whether a supplier is trustworthy is much simpler: if they are willing to be open and transparent in all their dealings, then they might pass the test. How should a buyer assess the trustworthiness of their supplier? Look for transparency, simplicity, reliability, speed and humility. These traits are notoriously hard to fake, and when found together in one place, they represent something special. Every transaction presents golden opportunities for buyers to observe their supplier’s true character, and the smart buyer will look for those telltale signs.
More tips and best practices to come addressing the Seven Challenges for Electronic Component Shortage Buyers.