As I have previously discussed, there are dropshippers and there are companies that you need to stock their products. As I have continued to grow and have many of both types of relationships, these are the factors that make for a successful long-term relationship:
- Do they stand behind their product? I had a situation today where I shipped product to Alaska. The item shipped was a module neon system. Two of the modules did not blink as described. I called the supplier of this product, and they gladly agreed to ship the new product up to Alaska for me. If my supplier would have refused to do this, I would have had to order new inventory and ship afterwards. It would have been a couple of weeks before the customer received the product. This would also apply when a supplier issues the call tags and takes care of all product warranty issues where an product exchange is necessary.
- Will they ship either 3rd party or use you UPS/FedEx account? Often suppliers will kick up the handling charge a bit when using their own account number. Since my website typically sells things with a set shipping price or a built in shipping price, it is critical I can minimize these extra cost.
- How will they receive POs? One of my best suppliers likes to receive faxes. And, since I fax from my PC, this works out very well. Another of my good suppliers receives email POs. Although email is good, I like it when I fax and receive an email confirmation. (I recommend eFax.)
- How do they provide tracking information? This is an area of EXTREME weakness. My two best suppliers usually have a tracking number in my email box within an hour OR within a day of shipment. (And, a couple of suppliers also send a hard-copy invoice.) In most cases, I am not provided tracking information. I get the tracking info after being prompted by the customer. OR, I get the invoice from the supplier with the tracking # included. This is an area of excessive busy work as we try to get the customer all of the information they require.
- If dropshipping…how quickly do they drop ship? My two best suppliers typically ship same day if the order is received by 1:00. This is of great comfort to both me and my customers. My other suppliers typically are prompt, but since they don’t communicate immediately upon shipment, we are never 100% confident the item has shipped.
- Do you have access to “head guy(or gal)” at the company? When I need custom quotes or when I want volume pricing, this is key. No matter how big of a company you are, you look much bigger when you can get the customer information VERY specific to their project.
- Do they pro actively let you know about new products? Not many of my suppliers do this very well. Those who do, make me feel guilty if I don’t get new info or new products up on the website quickly.
- Lastly, speaking of websites, does your supplier help you get their product on your site? Many will give you graphics and access to their website. BUT, if you find a supplier that will give you a spreadsheet with most of the information needed for your website, you are doing VERY well!
None of my suppliers do all of these perfectly. And, I am not always perfect as well. I am fortunate to have the suppliers I have. And, I will always accept new ones that provide many of the bullets listed above.