There are several reasons why a company might decide to end services with their current supplier.  A reoccurring answer to this question is that it became a “bad relationship”.  Of course a desirable working agreement would be one that is reciprocally beneficial, but a misbelief still exists that it is solely the supplier who needs to drive the relationship.  The truth is a relationship between a supplier and a customer is mutually entered into and is fostered by both parties.  By enhancing your relationship with your supplier early on, you may be able to discover some easy changes that could generate savings potential and other value added services down the line.
Once a new contract is signed and the business has been secured, the sales representative that promised excellent service and seemed to know the details of your business may no longer be your main line of contact.  These responsibilities are often moved to an account manager or are shared by a customer service team.  The relationship that you thought you would experience has been pushed into the hands of someone you have never met.  Though an account manager is privy to some information about your company, they may not know the ins and outs of what you need and when you need it. 
It is important to treat this as a new relationship, not one that is simply carried over from a sales rep.  Be sure to address your company’s needs and requirements up front to the person that will be touching your account most often.  It is also important to conversely understand the supplier’s needs.  Are there pieces of information that they need from you in order to make things run more smoothly on their end?
Establishing regular requirements and upfront expectations with your supplier contact will kick-start your relationship.  The ability to maintain this relationship and create an open line of communication will take effort from both parties. 
Try to keep consistent in the way you communicate with your account rep.  Most service representatives are managing accounts on a regional basis.  They are much more likely to provide speedy and accurate service to an account that they remain in contact with.  So when it does come down to crunch time and you need a special service offering your company will be remembered in favorable terms.  A service rep is much more likely to go out of their way for a customer that they know than for one that only calls with problem after problem.
Once a supplier relationship is running smoothly, it is worth engaging your account rep to help with process improvements.  Your account rep will not only know the details of your business, but they will be able to give you an accurate picture of their own company’s future offerings and where they could add value to your business.
Your relationship with your supplier does not need to end at a sales call.  Participate in the relationship with your account manager and help guarantee the service levels your company signed on for.
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Ian Mac Manus

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