1. PREVENTION IS BETT ER THEN CURE:
We all know how much it is important to avoid issues. Hence it is a must for us to have in -built systems which are very clearly defined and structured and are well understood and agreed by the vendor even before the order is placed. This can be in the form of Contract rather than an Agreement. Organised and big import companies have this system built by themselves. Medium and small scale importers and wholesalers must also follow the same principle. The Contract must have clearly defined rules/SOP on how to handle disputes related to product and customer service. If a Buying Agent is also engaged in the process, then you will need two different Contracts-one with your Agent and another with Vendors plus Agents also a signatory to them. Never think that it is not worth it. Believe me, one bad shipment and all your money saved in not having a contract will be gone in air.
2. PREPARE NOT TO BE SURPRISED:
Whether you have an Agent or no Agent, make sure that you have a system in place to get regular updates on your order. You may define this in the SOP or Client Manual that is a must to prepare and shared with the factories. Like for timely delivery, Client Manual must define the time line for intimation of latest updates at specific stages of order or every fortnight, as the case maybe. It must define that regular inspection pictures must be sent across from the vendor/agent at every stage of order process. If formats/templates are prepared and shared it is the best. Moreover, detailed final inspection report with pictures must be approved by you before they can dispatch the goods from their factory.
Ideally a full service Buying Agents should be best option to manage local operations. If this is not an option and you yourself find it too complex to deal with the process of having quality reviewed before the goods are dispatched, it is worth to hire a third party inspection company and get their inspection report sent to you for quick review before goods are released. Make sure no surprise is landing at your warehouse. This will kill the business and sometimes can be fetal as well. Your buying pattern will determine the best way to go forward.
3. PENNY WISE POUND FOOLISH:
Above two points covered the tracks that might be followed to ensure issues are better prevented rather than cured. If at all they need to be cured, then the first thing we must assess is what we are getting into. Is the issue is delayed delivery or it is poor quality? If the issue is manageable by little effort, do not stress yourself out. Simply put an orange flag to address it in the next shipment from that vendor. Do mention your concerns to see how they respond. And put them under PO clauses so that they are highlighted once you place the next order. One of our buyers always used to mention the issues they faced in previous shipments whenever they sent new PO. If at all you feel that the issue needs immediate course correction, engage the vendor right from that day.
Make all communication channels open including placing the phone call and sending texts to the senior management to raise your concerns. Serious issues might need a different approach as such issues are linked to many factors.
4. PATIENCE IS the KEY:
Whenever we have some issue to tackle, make sure that we use tonnes of patience. Once we had an angry client who was mad about delay. Instead of reaching out to us or giving an opportunity to the factory to do course correction, he sent the cancel note for the goods. He thought that this threat might work and factory will notice. However, the factory shot back with the acceptance of cancellation as they were too nervous to deal with such an impatient client. Eventually he had to take back the step and seek the answer on how to handle it efficiently. If the goods have already been paid for which happens in most of the cases and then you discover some quality problem I would suggest never rush back with a frustrated statement or an outburst. Take stock of the situation with a peaceful mind. Reach out to your representative(Buying Agent) or set up a time with the vendor with all facts in hand. This patience will pay in the long run.
5. DIG IN YOUR SHOES:
This step might seem weird to some of the readers. But my experience tells me that if the international vendor is aware about your long- term intentions to maintain buying relations with them then things become much easier to tackle. The earlier they know, the better it becomes. We have been managing an account from seventeen years now. We have had very troublesome period with almost 25-50% shipment delays in a year or some time entire shipment getting scrapped due to quality issues. However, we always worked as a team to tide over the crisis together. And in some instances, the supplier was also roped in to bear the loss. Those suppliers have also grown their business multifolds with us. Being there for long term helps everyone. To sum up I would say A known devil is better than an unknown devil.
(Article Contributed By Lokesh Parashar, Vice Chairman, BUYING AGENTS ASSOCIATION)
“I am fed up with this vendor. As soon as I sent them a quality issue I have received in the shipment, they have stopped responding.” Or “My goods are delayed. I keep asking for arrival date of my goods but the factory is silent on it. -These are very common phrases we listen from clients who have ordered goods from overseas market. Is this a common problem? Yes. And do we have some solution to handle it? Yes again. Let me list five major things you must do to ensure that disputes with international vendors can be avoided or resolved to every one’s satisfaction. It is a very wide topic to cover, however I will try to give some insight.