CHICAGO — The relationships a laundry has with its suppliers are vital.
And with the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, these relationships are more important than ever.
That’s what respondents to the most recent American Laundry News Your Views survey indicate.
“Strong relationships foster honesty, reliability and follow-through,” one respondent writes. “Having suppliers that can be counted on make all of us better.”
When asked, “How important would you rate the relationships your laundry has with its suppliers?,” more than three-quarters responded “very important.” Almost 22% say these relationships are “important,” and only 2.4% were neutral on the topic.
No one indicated laundry-supplier relationships aren’t important.
So, the natural question with world events today is if laundries are taking steps to strengthen their supplier relationships. Nearly 55% of respondents say yes, 33% say no, and about 12% don’t know if their operation is doing anything to strengthen supplier ties.
Some of the way operators are working on those relationships at this time include:
- Helping anticipate future orders.
- Always trying to improve, every day, in all relationships.
- Constant development of a disaster plan.
- We are keeping everyone intact the rest of the year, as it was before COVID-19.
- Prompt, on-time payments.
- Better communication, weekly updates on products and availability.
- Trying to stay in touch and sharing information.
- Keeping open lines of communication.
- Adjusted services; adjusted cash flow.
- Referred business to my supplier.
- Prompt payment; politeness in every exchange with anyone in the company. Understanding they might have supply disruptions and planning ahead to avoid emergencies.
- I’ve recommended my suppliers to other agencies. I’ve even given advice how to talk with certain people in those agencies to get their attention in a positive way. My suppliers have reciprocated. I’ve been given discounts above and beyond what I’ve expected.
- Again, by checking in and offering our assistance where relevant and needed.
When asked, “Do your supply-chain relationships go beyond the sales transaction?,” more than 76% of respondents say “yes,” 21% say “no,” and the remaining 2.4% aren’t sure.
How do these relationships go deeper than the sale? Responses from survey takers include:
- Friendship and beyond; they care about us and keep us informed, and they help us out any time we need them.
- Assistance with customer, stock control, availability to current stock and alternative solutions.
- Use them as laundry consultants and industry consultants to get an idea of how our peers are doing thought the country.
- Long-term buying. Payments on schedule.
- We work to together to manage ETA times and expedite orders.
- Our suppliers are subject-matter experts in their fields. They are resources for training, marketing materials and market intel.
- We know how important our relationships are with our suppliers, so we focus on honesty, accountability and loyalty with our suppliers.
- Personal friendships. Observations and advice.
- Exchange of ideas.
- Friends outside of business.
- We are open to new ways of doing business; new products that benefit the department either by making staff jobs safer/easier or better products for our end users.
- Visits. Networking at events/conferences. Sharing meals.
- They bring us innovative ideas and are invested in our success.
- Most of my suppliers have contacted personally and asked questions on how they can meet my company’s needs. It hasn’t just happened during this pandemic. They’ve reached out during floods and other disasters that hit my particular area. I’ve called my suppliers many times to ask about potential disruptions for a variety of reasons: trade wars, pandemics, areas of employee strikes. They’ve always responded. Sometimes those responses are, “We don’t know.” If they can admit they don’t know on some instances, I feel I can trust their “We don’t see a problem” responses.
- Often help each other through learning opportunities.
- Regular non-sales related check-ins to talk about trends and overall industry.
More than 80% of managers who took the survey say they have seen instances when strong supplier relationships have impacted the laundry. Some of these include:
- Better priority benefits in time of need.
- Customer referrals.
- The supplier went above and beyond help us locate products from other regions.
- I’ve leaned on suppliers to help answer customer questions and to provide them with product
- Quality assurances.
- Consolidating multiple inventory purchases quarterly.
- Pointed out leaks. Suggested revised action.
- Offered a better product at a better price
- Able to source products in an urgent manner.
- Leniency on payments when money was tight; quicker delivery times when needed.
The supplier personnel respondents consider most important to have a stronger relationship with? Ninety percent say sales representatives. Next is delivery personnel at 52%, closely followed by office personnel at 50%. Just over 26% of survey takers say strong C-suite relationships are most important.
Interestingly, when asked if suppliers are trying to connect with laundry operations these days, almost 60% say no, while 29% say suppliers are. More than 11% don’t know.
Of those operators who say suppliers are connecting, ways they are include:
- Most suppliers are calling or e-mailing just to check in or offer a new product.
- Tons of webinars and e-mails. Re-evaluation of processes and sources.
- We get regular updates from our suppliers on availability of stock.
- Willing to help.
- E-mails with product availability.
“I feel if I can trust the supplier is straight with me, I can give my supervisors true and accurate information,” a respondent writes. “I can then use this information to guide my purchasing. Sometimes it’s ordering extra in anticipation of a disruption of service. Sometimes it’s a potential significant price increase in the near future due to an unforeseen event (trade war).”
While the Your Views survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific. Due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100%.
Subscribers to American Laundry News e-mails are invited to take the industry survey anonymously online each quarter. All managers and administrators of institutional/OPL, cooperative, commercial and industrial laundries are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and identify industry trends.