Tag Archives: supplier

Power shift from customer to supplier

I’m sure we’ve all heard the adage “the customer’s always right”.  Theory being whilst they might be demanding, possibly even unreasonable from time to time, they are what pay the bills so you have to try your best to keep them happy.

Does this apply anymore?  I’m starting to think not.  I think there’s three main reasons for this.  How new these are I’m not sure, but it seems to increasingly be the case that suppliers call the shots.


Customer lethargy?

This really hits with the big corporates.

We’re all guilty of lethargy as customers here.  We’ll moan about our bank/utility provider, but very rarely change.

We’ve become accustomed to sitting through 20 minutes of “your call is really important to us, please continue to hold” automated messages, before possibly speaking to a human.  We hate it, but don’t expect other suppliers to be any different, so stick with “the devil we know”.

We also know that their price quotes are mostly marketing spin.  You go to some price comparison site, every competitor price is lower than the deal you’re on now…but that’s just because they hook you in on a low deal, then ramp up the price a year later, knowing again that whilst you’ll think about doing something about it, you probably won’t bother.

Unfortunately I don’t think there’s any way to fix this.  Perhaps we are all busier than we used to be, and the belief “they’re all as bad as each other” means we put up with it.

The corporates know this, which is why they put so little effort into customer service.  It sounds like a terrible idea for a small business to not care much about your customers…but for big corporates it seems it’s a rational business decision.

So the end result is the supplier charging you an unreasonably high price, but you as customer do nothing about it.


Simple supply and demand?

We’ve been trying to get a few bits of building/handyman work done over the last few years.  I imagine many people have been in the situation we’ve encountered:

So you need some work done.  You contact 3 builders, expecting 3 quotes, so you can go with the one who you felt comfortable could do the job and price was ok.  Is that what happens?  Not from my experience.

You contact 3.  One won’t respond at all.  One will come round promising the earth but then never be seen/heard from again.  The third, if you’re lucky, will actually give you a quote.

If you actually wanted 3 quotes you’d probably need to contact 10+ builders.

The above is just to get the quote.  You then confirm with the “lucky” builder that you want to press ahead, and struggle to pin them to a date when they can actually start.

Why?  I’m not a builder so don’t know for sure…but I think in the South East it’s perhaps largely a supply/demand issue.  With house prices so ridiculously high, building an extension compares well with the other option of moving to a bigger house.

This applies to far more than just building work, but is perhaps an issue only suffered when dealing with suppliers of a tailor made service, rather than an off the shelf product.

What it means is that it’s all very well being a customer with cash sitting in your pocket, but that doesn’t in itself guarantee you’ll find plenty of suppliers wanting to provide the service you’re after.  Very frustrating situation to be in, especially when all you hear on the news is about massive unemployment etc etc.

Then the work starts, things take longer than expected, cost more than quoted, you don’t get the calls with updates when you were promised…but when you ask around your peers it seems like that’s par for the course.  You therefore end up having little choice but to be grateful for the average service you get.

Only thing I don’t understand is why more suppliers don’t politely decline the work at the outset, rather than string you along with promises they seemingly have no ability to/intention of keeping.


Automation/systemisation reducing flexibility of suppliers?

Possibly this is the only “new” one, though could have started with Henry Ford and his no doubt slightly misquoted “you can have any colour you like, as long as it’s black”.  It’s also one I can sympathise with as a supplier.

For us to remain competitive, we need to be able to systemise things.  This largely means having Maslins clients fit a certain “mould”, so we can:
– have a database help keep track of things for us, like deadlines,
– do searches to easily find all clients who meet a certain criteria for advice purposes,
– ensure we can be on top of any tax changes that impact them (tax legislation is HUGE and constantly changing, so being an expert in every single thing is impossible).

On the MVL Online side it’s even more pronounced.  Clients need to complete an online form, again populating a database, which then has information pulled out into various templates across the lifespan of a liquidation.

This isn’t about providing bad client service, I’d certainly hope it’s about the opposite, ensuring we provide GOOD client service.  Avoiding the risk of over-promise/under-deliver, ensuring things don’t slip through cracks etc etc.

However, what it does mean is when a potential client approaches us, asking whether we can do things a different way to what we normally would, quite often the answer will be unfortunately not.  It’s not practical for us as a business to take on clients of all shapes and sizes, or each with very bespoke needs.

It also sometimes means a client who’d been happy with us to a certain point finds they have to move on.  Fortunately this is normally very amicable, and is typically due to a client becoming “too successful” and outgrowing us.

We’re of course far from the only supplier this applies to.  Indeed it’s more obvious with things like software.  Take a package like FreeAgent.  You can get it for circa £25/month and it’s great.  However, it can’t cater to every possible business.  If it doesn’t cater to yours, you could try to build your own system, but this would cost an absolute fortune in web developer time…alternatively you could of course look around for other “off the shelf” packages that might be better suited.

What you’ll quite often end up finding though is that you as the customer have to “give” in terms of what you want, because what the supplier provides is fixed.  Another example of the customer being a little low in the power rankings.


Interested in what other people think.  Have you been in situations where you as customer have felt very “weak”?  Or examples where you as supplier have got customers jumping through hoops just to give you money?!