Many businesses – hospitals and other healthcare organizations included – see their customer or patient relationships as the most valuable relationships in the organization. Understandably. These groups provide the revenue that keeps the organization going. But there are other key relationships business leaders need to pay close attention to and cultivate as well: employees, investors—and vendors! Yes, vendors, while a source of expense, also have a key impact on your hospital and your ability to meet patient needs and delivery quality care.
Here are some tips for improving your crucial vendor relationships.
Make an Effort
This may sound obvious, but many organizations simply don’t take the time to get to know their vendors on a personal level. As Bob Ronan writes for CIO.com, “taking the time to meet socially with vendors will help you build relationships that will make your work interactions better.” Obviously, it’s not easy to connect on a personal level with a revolving door of dozens or more vendors as you’re continually shopping for the best deal or leveraging one vendor against another. That’s why Ronan also recommends keeping your vendor list to a minimum when practical. “It is hard to have ‘special’ relationships if you have many vendors providing similar services,” he says. “Smaller numbers allow you to spend more money with each vendor and build strong relationships which will result in better service.”
Mutual Respect Builds Mutual Trust
It’s rare to have a completely conflict free vendor-purchaser relationship. Sometimes vendors underperform, under-deliver or just fail to meet expectations. Sometimes purchasers pay late, refuse to pay at all or are just overly demanding and difficult. While these situations can damage and even ruin a vendor relationship, they can also be opportunities to strengthen that relationship if they are resolved effectively. Often an executive level discussion can smooth things over and build familiarity with senior levels of the organizations. The key is to focus on being understanding and respectful.
Common Goals and Teamwork
Jarie Bolander writing for The Daily MBA points out that, “a mutually beneficial relationship requires both parties to understand what each one brings to the partnership. Having a keen insight into why a particular vendor or supplier wants your businesses will make the deal easier to do.” Similarly, Ronan says, “it is worth the time to customize a presentation [to your vendors about your business goals and specific needs]. Talk about the problems you have that you don’t know how you are going to solve. You may be surprised at the result.”
Vendors are just one of the many stakeholder relationships a healthcare organization needs to manage, and while the relationships you have with patients and employees may take center stage, don’t underestimate the importance and potential benefits of a strong vendor relationship.
Have you found ways to strengthen relationships with your vendors? Share here!
Trust…the healthcare marketer who has been in your shoes! Jean Hitchcock has spent more than 25 years at some of the nation’s most respected health systems. As a healthcare marketing and communication leader, she understands your competing priorities. Your strained resources. The pressure to differentiate your services and distinguish your brand. All amid seismic changes in our healthcare system.