Checklist: 10 core components for your next vendor survey

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The relationships your department forms with trading partners can have a big impact on your financial success and well-being.

When relationships are positive, you see more discounts, favorable terms and long-lasting partnerships. But when relationships struggle, you face late fees, cut ties and maybe even costly lawsuits.

Unfortunately, miscommunication and misunderstandings are common occurrences between business partners. Sometimes, your staffers may not know about the problems that vendors are having until they ask them directly. That’s why regularly surveying vendors is a best practice for any finance department.

With detailed feedback, your staff can identify previously unknown issues, note frequently mentioned patterns and improve business relations overall.

For maximum results, your survey should hit on both the objective (technical) and subjective (personal) aspects of your operations. Round up your staff and pass along this two-part checklist to gauge your vendors’ satisfaction with 10 core elements:

5 technical elements

  • Payment timing: Does your department routinely hit payment deadlines? How often (if ever) are late fees issued?
  • Payment accuracy: Do vendors ever receive erroneous payments, including overpayments or underpayments?
  • Contract adherence: How closely does your company stick to the contract terms, including agreed-upon deadlines, payment methods, early payment discounts, etc.?
  • Software (if applicable): How do vendors feel about your online workflow, portal, etc.? Is it easy to use and beneficial from their end?
  • Process satisfaction: Overall, how happy are vendors with your processes? (At the end of this first section, have your staff add extra space for vendors to leave specific comments and suggestions.)

5 personal elements

  • Politeness and professionalism: Do vendors find your staffers agreeable, helpful and courteous?
  • Responsiveness: Do staffers get back to vendors in a timely matter and keep them updated while issues are researched and settled?
  • Problem resolution: How skilled is your staff at resolving exceptions and other unforeseen issues?
  • Accessibility: Are forms, resources and payment details easy for vendors to obtain and use?
  • Customer service satisfaction: Overall, are vendors content with your communication and business relationship? (At the end of this second section, have your staff add extra space for vendors to leave specific comments and suggestions.)

After this information has been gathered from vendors (say, on a yearly basis), your staff can analyze it fully. What were the common trends? Any frequent complaints? Do any problems involve other departments (e.g., Purchasing or Sales) and thus warrant a bigger conversation?

Staffers should also note specific outliers (i.e., vendors who gave the lowest and highest ratings). If there are any vendors who seem dissatisfied, it could be well worth it to reach out directly to show your loyalty and commitment to improving your business relationship. And oppositely, vendors who are extremely satisfied with your company could be optimal targets for negotiating better terms or requesting more favorable discounts.