Be alert for discrepancies in supplier communication. It’s not because you want to play a “gotcha game” and be picky over wording but because catching discrepancies in supplier communication will catch discrepancies in their actions. Discrepancies in their actions bleed over into final product quality and delivery.

Insist on Precise Communication

This is part of supplier training during your sourcing and manufacturing endeavors. This may be hard for some of you starting out, but you need to insist on exactness in your communication with your suppliers.

Make yourself be exact.

Insist your suppliers are exact.

Don’t use a different word each time you are describing the same thing. If your supplier uses a different word or a description than what’s been used between you, have them correct it.

Have everything in writing.

The email communication between you and the supplier should be a timeline and evidence of the process and project, not a jumbled mess that you have to sort through.

Too often the buyer is discussing one thing and the supplier discussing something completely different and neither side realizes they are not on the same page.

A good way to be sure what’s discussed is what’s being answered; ask your supplier to respond underneath each of your points.

Start out by doing this to their points and then ask them to reciprocate.

Something Not Understood in Supplier Communication

You can see through my posts, that I’m the first to insist importers be mindful that suppliers are using a 2nd language and work accordingly around this. Be gracious and patient.

At the same time, in supplier communication, don’t allow there to be portions of communication to slide by you…that you don’t understand!

Many times, an incomprehensible update from a supplier goes unnoticed because the clients are not reading emails careful enough. Read your emails! This should really not have to be said..

Assuming you’re carefully reading your suppliers emails and you notice portions that are not understood…do not let it slide.

You can still be professional but also direct.

Ask the supplier to repeat the point.

“I’m sorry, I’m unable to understand what you are saying in that last update. I need you to resend it and try to word it differently or send an image showing your meaning”.

If the clarity does not improve but you think you have an idea of what they are saying, then try wording it to yourself and sending it back to the supplier, asking them if this is what they mean.

A supplier may say something incorrect and it turns out it wasn’t just a wording issue, but how they understood the project. If you do not correct their mistake, they may use your silence against you as a confirmation.

Quoted Date Discrepancies in Supplier Communication

It’s the same thing for timing matters in offshore manufacturing. It’s confirmed the goods are to leave the factory on March 30, for example.

Your supplier keeps saying the goods will be ready “soon”.

Or the goods will be ready in 2 weeks.

You go to the calendar and do the math…2 weeks lead you to April 3rd.

Is it the supplier isn’t being exact and they still know it’s March 30?

Or is it somewhere down the line the timing changed? All the more reason to be exact in your communication.

Don’t accept “soon” and 2 weeks when discussing something as objective as a date.

If you say March 30, then expect March 30 to be repeated back.

Be precise and expect your wording to be reciprocated.

It could be, these are not simply discrepancies in wording but also the supplier’s understanding of the project changed.

Or they were never clear in the first place.

If, in the initial stages of the project, you were saying debossed branding and now the supplier keeps saying “the print”, then something may have changed down the line.

Don’t assume they’re just being lazy with their communication, although that is likely. That could be a costly assumption.