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How to Build Trust in a Supply Chain Partnership

 How to Build Trust in a Supply Chain Partnership

A supply chain partnership built on trust and transparency trickles down to a great experience for the end customer. “If a client can’t rely on their partner to do what they say they’ll do then their customers can’t rely on them,” says Bob Hilberg, General Manager of FIDELITONE’s warehouse in Reno, Nevada. Trust, especially during times of crisis, drives long-term customer loyalty. 27% of U.S. consumers have already punished brands they think misbehaved in response to Covid-19.

“I see most success with clients who really want to have a collaborative relationship,” says Bob. Lack of trust can hinder any partnership from reaching its full potential but it can also inhibit growth in the form of opportunity cost.

We gathered three of our experts, Bob Hilberg, Brian Askew, Supervisor of Client Services and Tim Burroughs, Strategic Account Manager to discuss how trust is built and why it’s beneficial to all players in a supply chain partnership.

What are the building blocks of trust in a supply chain partnership?

  • Open communication

“Our fulfillment clients send me purchase orders as soon as they come through so we can prepare for what’s coming down the pipeline,” says Brian.

It’s important for our clients to understand the responsibilities of each team member’s role so we can put the right expert in front of them to address their needs. If an issue arises, you can solve it faster if you have the right people involved.

A phone conversation or in-person meeting can sometimes be more effective than email: “Everyone likes email but from time to time we need to pick up the phone and see how clients are doing. I get to know clients on a personal level,” says Brian.

  • Collaborative planning

Planning should be cross-functional and involve different departments. Having open communication about your supply chain partner’s capabilities will help to develop the best plan for how to react to changes in your business.

“The holiday season is around the corner so we’re already planning for it. If clients communicate their seasonal marketing plans, we can prepare for fluctuations in demand. When inventory starts coming in, we’re ready to ship,” says Brian.

  • Accountability

Bob, Brian and Tim are all in agreement that it’s crucial to do what you say you’re going to do.

“What’s the old saying? You build more trust with your actions than your words,” says Tim. “If you’re not following through with your actions and missing deadlines, you’ll lose trust pretty quick,” adds Brian.

A regular review of process and goals also holds everyone accountable. “We do business reviews for most clients where everyone comes to the table to share what we are doing well and what we need to improve on. Reviews facilitate a continuous improvement cycle,” says Bob.

  • Honesty and transparency

“We own our mistakes. How we react to a mistake and collaborate on a sustainable solution is more important to a client than what the mistake actually is. You have to tell the truth whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent and you’ve got to be reliable,” says Bob

It’s key that all parties in a supply chain partnership commit to these building blocks. “It’s a two-way street, so clients need to practice the same principles,” says Tim.

Trust in a supply chain partnership allows you to focus on what you do best: growing your business.

It’s difficult to focus on marketing or growing ecommerce sales for your business if you spend a significant portion of time micromanaging a supply chain partner. “A small issue in billing can become too big of a focus if there’s lack of trust,” says Bob. Lack of trust in any business partnership creates more management work which can be an opportunity cost.

“If you’re a company with ambitions of growing internationally and you don’t have trust with a 3PL partner, the opportunity cost is that you’re not spending time finding a partner in an overseas market that will help you grow,” says Bob.

FIDELITONE wants to help you grow your business. “We have a lot in our toolbox we can help with like vendor management and procurement. If we can do that, our clients can free up time to focus on sales and marketing. Free up bandwidth so they can focus on growing their business. When there’s a level of trust, the partner can create efficiency with new solutions,” says Bob. 

Trust is especially important in times of crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global supply chains and is an unexpected crisis that we’re all going through together. Establishing trust before a crisis happens ensures that your partner is in the best position to get your business back up and running as soon as possible.

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“I talk to one of my clients everyday about how the retail industry is reacting to the pandemic. Honest and open communication makes it easier to solve a problem when the stakes are high. When the recent tornado hit Nashville, we were in constant communication with clients about the status of their inventory,” says Brian.

“Trust is important because clients need to know that they can count on you during good times or during a crisis. We’re there for them day in and day out,” adds Tim.

The end goal: A partnership where everyone wins

Everyone wins when a supply chain partnership is built on trust and collaboration. Our clients are able to focus on what they do best while they trust FIDELITONE’s team of experts with their order fulfillment or last mile delivery needs to ensure a great customer experience.

Please contact our team with any questions. Our supply chain experts are happy to consult with you on how to build a partnership that drives growth for your business.

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