10 Tips for Maximizing Your Vendor Relationships

We’re a couple of months into the new year and chances are good that many of us have already broken some of our New Year’s resolutions. Don’t fret; it’s never too late to start evaluating our daily routines and habits in an attempt to improve our lives. Why not start by developing some work habits that can save you time and relieve stress? My company, Parasec, has developed 10 tips for cultivating your vendor relationships. We suggest that you print this out and use this as a guide for helping you maintain a happy, beneficial relationship with all your vendors. This is one resolution that pays to keep!

1. Understand That Service is Not “Selling” – Don’t fall into the trap of vendors who are obviously just trying to sell you more services than you need. Take the time to communicate your needs and expectations – a truly service-oriented vendor will be genuinely interested in understanding your needs so he or she can successfully address them in an appropriate manner.

2. Establish a Partnership - Talk about your basic expectations and educate your vendor about your firm’s culture and your own work process. This will help establish clarity in your working relationship. Get any questions or concerns addressed up front, and communicate that teamwork between the two of you is key in getting the job done.

3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Legal professionals must provide vendors sufficient information to get the job done adequately. Share information with your vendor so they will understand how they can best serve you, even if you don’t think a particular detail will make a difference. Ask your vendor to re-iterate your request back to you to make sure what you have said has been heard correctly.

4. Be Honest, and Expect Honesty in Return - Provide honest details in establishing true, accurate deadlines whenever possible and giving precise details as to what the finished product or solution should look like. This will ensure that your vendors can assess whether they can help and under what terms. By the same token, you’ll want your vendor to be honest enough with you to bring up possible problems, limitations, or alternatives – even if it means referring you to another resource if necessary to meet your parameters.

5. Plan Ahead - Either out of skepticism, lack of time or inexperience, many legal professionals don’t get their vendors involved early enough in the process. Planning ahead can help ensure that your project goes smoothly and that important deadlines can be met.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions - Some legal professionals don’t realize that as much experience as they might have, vendors often have more experience and knowledge in their specific specialized areas. Vendors’ knowledge can be invaluable because they deal with certain situations daily that some legal professionals encounter much less frequently – say only once a week, once a month or even once a year.

7. Demand Quality Control – Your vendor should have a quality-control process in place. Even the slightest error on documents submitted to agencies may result in delays and unexpected results. Inquire as to what kind of quality assurance your vendor offers.

8. Expect Pro-Active Error Resolution – Even with systems in place to ensure a job well done, mistakes occasionally do happen. Any vendor that says otherwise is being unrealistic, and is unprepared or reluctant to be flexible when an error occurs. It’s important that your vendor handles the situation properly. A vendor should practice pro-active problem solving with clients, and have procedures in place that allow its staff to make amends for any problem resulting from a mistake.

9. Rely on Your Vendor For New Resources - Ask your vendors to remind you of their other services that you might not need as frequently, or that you currently fulfill via a different vendor. If you have established trust with them, and they know how you like to work, it’s easier for you to work with fewer vendors. Often times if your vendor can’t provide the service themselves, they will happily suggest another resource who can. If you trust your vendor, chances are good that you can trust their recommendations.

10. No-Surprise Pricing – There should never be surprises when it comes to what services you’re getting for the price you are paying. Make sure your vendor is providing you with an itemized invoice, so it’s clear what you (and ultimately your client) are paying for – including document fees and service charges. A breakdown approach to invoicing can save you from paying for services you may not have used.

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