Columnists Features

Providing feedback to suppliers is courteous

YOU are in the middle of a very important assignment and suddenly you receive a call from an equally important prospective customer who demands a quotation or bid from your organisation for a consultancy assignment or the supply or provision of goods or services.
Naturally, you would want to respond so that you do not miss an opportunity and also that you do not put your firm in bad light for future prospects, by failing to respond.
You then put aside your important assignment, telling yourself that a few hours to one day will not make much of a difference in your ability to complete the initial assignment.  The prospective customer calls you on the hour to push for your bid or quotation.
Being a professional, you decide that giving the customer a plain quotation would bear negatively on your organisation. So you decide to go flat out and professionally work on both technical and financial proposals with all diligence.
Of course, you may have worked on such proposals before and you may not necessarily work from scratch. So you look for a past proposal that you provided for a similar job, do some cutting and pasting, finding and replacing certain parts of the document.
You do not want to make any silly mistakes and you try your best to read through your proposal thoroughly and carefully update or make corrections.
The needs for the prospective customer are slightly different from the last proposal that you gave out, so you have to dedicate time to carefully work out your costs.  You depend on some suppliers yourself, so you also must get updated quotations to make sure that you do not underquote anything.
If you have to hire skills, you also have to check availability of skilled personnel that will form part of the project team.  Once you have all the basic information in place, you then proceed to finalise your technical and financial proposals.
After all the work, you then print and deliver to the customer and wait for feedback.  You are lucky if the prospective customer will accept an electronic proposal and I cannot understand how 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus Christ, we still cannot accept electronic submission of bids and tenders in certain institutions.
Suppliers incur huge amounts of costs in couriering bids or transporting them in person. And even worse, some suppliers miss the submission deadline just by minutes.
If organisations inviting tenders and bids for supply of different items decided to charge suppliers for the cost of printing the bids, I have no doubt that suppliers would pay.  They after all currently incur that cost when organisations inviting bids demand three or four sets of the proposals.
Besides, some even demand payment of some non-refundable fee when you are responding to a tender and this is something I intend to research on and get the rationale behind such charges.
Can you now imagine, how it feels, after all this effort, you do not hear from the prospective customer at all?  Isn’t it only fair and courteous to communicate to bidders the outcome of their proposal, whether they succeed or not?
To show transparency, as claimed in most value statements, organisations could even communicate to all bidders which supplier has been awarded the tender.  Hats off to organisations that already have this practice.
The low responses, in some cases, to some tenders, is not that there are no consultants or suppliers to do the work but the confidence of transparency and ethical conduct in some sectors has been eroded.
The three-quotation system, for instance, makes certain organisations pressurise the supplier to issue them with a quotation that they only use to go to the competition and obtain lower costs.
I wish to applaud organisations that use the Quality-Cost based approach.  Cheap is expensive and providing feedback to suppliers is courteous.
Suppliers are a key stakeholder to the organisation’s business and organisations therefore have an obligation to ensure that their concerns are addressed, in much the same way as they address the needs of their customers, employees and shareholders.

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