Standard of Excellence: Great Customer Service is a Two-Way Street

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We all enjoy great customer service. In fact, we love great customer service so much that we are always happy to tell everyone we know when we experience it from one of our vendors. We actually want to let people know that we are getting special services from our vendors. We might even want to evangelize about them.

And that is the point of this column. The best way to get great customer service from your vendor partner is to be open to it, and actually want to receive it. Your job as the customer is to encourage it. And the best way to do that is to have a good working partnership with your vendors.

Here are a few simple rules to make sure that you always get the best customer service possible:

  1. Be very clear about what you need. Tell your vendors what you expect from them. In plain English let them know in detail what it takes for them to be one of your special suppliers, one of your preferred vendor/partners. Be very specific. Lay it out for them.  Leave nothing to chance. The better you lay out what you expect for them, the easier you make their job and the better service you will get.
  2. Help them when they don’t get it quite right. This means not shouting, yelling, or denigrating. Instead, explain what they did wrong and help them to understand how to improve. Actually, great long-term relationships are often forged in adversity. Take advantage of a problem, treat it as an opportunity, a learning moment, and a time to grow together with your vendor and future vendor/partner.
  3. Be encouraging. This is critical and the real key to a successful vendor/ customer relationship. Don’t be stingy with your praise when your vendor does something good. First, tell them that you recognize and appreciate what they did and then encourage them to do it again. It is truly amazing how effective praise is. That praise will resonate in that supplier’s mind for years to come. He will actually hear your voice each time he works on your product. He will want to do an excellent job for you. Praise from a customer can work as a kind of business motivational aphrodisiac when it comes to getting your supplier to go the extra mile for you.
  4. Reward them when they go the extra mile for you. If your supplier does something really spectacular for your company give them a gift. Send them donuts, or other snacks for the entire team. If it’s not too big a company send them T-shirts with a thank you message on it. And, by the way, it sure does not hurt to have 30 or 40 people walking around wearing shirts with your company’s name and logo on them. Talk about a living reminder of the special relationship you have with that supplier.
  5. Evangelize about your vendor. The best way to reward great customer service from a great supplier/partner is to tell other people about them. An even better way to do this is in writing. There is nothing more valuable to a company than to have their happy customer write testimonials for them to use for their own marketing and new customer acquisition. Giving your customers a testimonial, or better yet a success story, is the absolute best gift you can give them.
  6. Help them grow their business. Treat them as a real partner. Look out for their well-being. Help them grow their own business. After all, if they are a great partner and supplier, you want them to stay in business, and the best way to do that is to help them grow. Besides testimonials and success stories, send some of your friends to them as well. Urge your friends to use them as well. That will go miles toward making your supplier healthy and assure that they will be around for years to come providing you with those great services and products that you love.
  7. But the most important thing of all, as it is in all good relationships, is to stay in touch and stay in constant communications with them. Work with them on your current projects and tell them about your upcoming projects so that they can prepare for what you are going to need them for in the future. By telling them about your upcoming projects and requirements you are letting them in on your future and in the end that will only serve to help you in the long run. The better prepared your vendor/partner is to handle all your needs, even far into the future, the better she will be able to continue to give you the super customer service that you love.

I know that most of this is very basic, logical, and easy to do. But in the end, the rewards of having a solid vendor-partner relationship are so great that it is the best thing you can do, not only for your vendor, but for your company as well.

Anaya Vardya is president and CEO of American Standard Circuits; co-author of The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs and Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals; and author of Thermal Management: A Fabricator's Perspective. Visit I-007eBooks.com to download these and other free, educational titles. He also co-authored “Fundamentals of Printed Circuit Board Technologies.” 

Check out this additional content from American Standard Circuits: 

  • RealTime with… American Standard Circuits, three discussions: flex and rigid flex PCBs by Anaya Vardya and Dave Lackey; RF/microwave PCBS by Anaya Vardya and John Bushie; and thermal management by Anaya Vardya, John Bushie, and Dave Lackey 
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2021

Standard of Excellence: Great Customer Service is a Two-Way Street

11-22-2021

We all enjoy great customer service. Actually, we love great customer service. We love it so much that we are always happy to tell everyone we know when one of our vendors provides us with great customer service. We actually want to let people know that we are getting special services from our vendors. We might even want to evangelize about them. And that is the point of this column. The best way to get great customer service from your vendor partner is to be open to it. Here are seven ways to be sure you always get the best customer service possible.

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Standard of Excellence: Partnering to Produce New and Innovative Products

10-27-2021

One of the best features, the best benefits of working closer in partnership with your vendor partners is working with them to develop new products for the industry—whether it’s a new thermal management material with one of your laminate vendors or helping them develop a new piece of equipment that will benefit your entire industry. This is when a great partnership can serve to benefit everyone involved, even those not directly involved those in your industry who will benefit greatly by the new and innovative product you worked on. Talk about partnering productively!

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Standard of Excellence: Great Things Are Accomplished With Partnerships

09-29-2021

There are some very simple steps to developing and sustaining a good partnership with your PCB vendor/partners, all based on treating your partners as you want to be treated. It's following the Golden Rule. But before you do that you have to get rid of that other golden rule, “he who has the gold makes the rules.”

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Standard of Excellence: Co-Marketing with Your Vendor Partners

08-25-2021

This is certainly a time for all of us to pull together in the true spirit of cooperative partnership. There are even better ways to increase the level of partnership you have with your vendor now, and with your customers as well. One on the best ways is to do some co-marketing.

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Standard of Excellence: Working Through Shortages

08-16-2021

As result of the pandemic, severe shortages—both real and created—from our offshore vendors is making it difficult for us to build and deliver products on time. Here are five tips for getting through this together.

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Standard of Excellence: The Beauty of a Partnership

07-28-2021

Partnerships are more important than ever. Not only with your vendors as we regularly focus on in this column, but with your competitors as well. I believe that if we can all start working together in this new post-pandemic world, life will be much better for all of us individually but also better for our industry as a whole.

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Standard of Excellence: Dare to Share

05-13-2021

We often talk about the value of working closely with your vendors to the point of making them partners. This strategy makes sense. The closer you are to your vendors, the more you help them, the better vendors they will be, and most importantly the better partners they will be. Now let’s take that idea to the next level, all the way to the point of a true partnership.

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Standard of Excellence: Finding the Right PCB Partners

04-12-2021

The pandemic and also recent shifts in our geopolitical view of the world have changed the way we look at offshore PCB vendor partners, especially those in China. These two factors alone—increase in new technology, and an onshoring trend for buying more PCBs domestically—have caused a significant paradigm shift in choosing your PCB/ vendor partners.

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Standard of Excellence: Be the Vendor—Walk in Their Shoes

03-18-2021

We have been constantly reminded over the years to step into our customers’ shoes: looking at things from our customers’ perspective, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel, understanding the challenges they face to make it in their own marketplace. We have been advised that this is the best way to gain insight into what it takes for us to become valuable to our customers.

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Standard of Excellence: Being a Great Customer

02-11-2021

If you want to have a truly successful partnership with your vendor, you have to get rid of the golden rule…no, not that one, but that old. worn out phrase, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” You can believe that if you want, but if you do, you can forget about having a true supplier/partnership with your vendors.

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2020

Standard of Excellence: Going Public With Your Partner

12-14-2020

One aspect of a great partnership with your vendors is to show the world how you are working together. Demonstrating how a great partnership can serve both your companies well and is beneficial to your industry too. Anaya Vardya shares nine ways to go public with your partner.

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Standard of Excellence: Bringing Your Salespeople Together

11-23-2020

One of the most overlooked aspects of having a great partnership with your PCB vendors is making sure that your salespeople know each other. Anaya Vardya shares six key reasons to develop a partnership between your sales team and your PCB vendor's team.

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Standard of Excellence: 4 Areas That Will Improve by Next Year

10-13-2020

As we continue to work our way through this pandemic, it makes us wonder about—and even yearn for—what things will be like one year from now. Looking ahead to what doing business will be like, Anaya Vardya shares four things that we have been forced to do today that we will still be doing—and, hopefully, doing even better than now—in October of 2021.

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Standard of Excellence: Five Ways to Ensure You Have the Right Military PCB Supplier

09-21-2020

With the current shortage of qualified and certified military PCB suppliers, finding one has become more challenging than ever, and the trend toward consolidation over the past few years has only added to the shortage. Anaya Vardya shares five guidelines to consider when developing a bilateral relationship with your military PCB supplier.

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Standard of Excellence: Looking at the Future Together

08-10-2020

With so many things changing right now, as well as lots of innovation happening and new products being developed, it’s important that you share your vision of the future with your PCB suppliers. Anaya Vardya shares six general logistical processes to use when working with customers on their product innovation and development.

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Standard of Excellence: Being a Valuable Customer

07-14-2020

We always talk about being a valuable vendor, but what about being a valuable customer? Anaya Vardya shares five guidelines for making sure that you are always your suppliers’ most valued customer.

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Standard of Excellence: A Great Partnership Is a Two-Way Street

06-08-2020

Are you a good and true partner to your PCB vendors? Are you doing everything you can to participate in an honest partnership where both partners equally look out for one another? Anaya Vardya shares 16 questions to consider when contemplating how good a partner you are to your PCB vendors and others.

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Standard of Excellence: You Get What You Pay For

05-12-2020

When you work with a good PCB fabricator, you need to have a good understanding of the total value of the product. Many companies look for the bottom-dollar price of PCBs and do not take the time to make sure they are getting the very best deal they can. Anaya Vardya discusses the value of a PCB and what makes up the true costs.

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Standard of Excellence: Partnership in Challenging Times

04-14-2020

Now, more than ever, we need to partner with one another. Traditionally, Anaya's columns have focused on developing a strong working bond with your PCB vendor partners. In this column, Anaya discusses how we must have partnerships with everyone we deal with during our daily business lives.

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Standard of Excellence: Successful R&D With Your PCB Partner

03-17-2020

Now, more than ever, we have to rely on our PCB partners to help us with new product development. A great deal of trust and confidence in our PCB vendors is required to create and fulfill this type of partnership fruitfully. Anaya Vardya shares eight things that must be in place to have a successful R&D relationship with your PCB partner.

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2019

Standard of Excellence: Respecting Your PCB Vendor Partner

12-10-2019

One of the more important aspects of any partnership is mutual respect for one another. And, of course, this is extremely important when it comes to your PCB vendor partner. Many times, in the past, PCB fabricators have been treated as the third wheel in the relationship, stuck between their suppliers on one side and their vendors on the other. In most cases, both of these other entities were much larger and more powerful that the PCB shops.

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Invite Your PCB Partner to a Strategic Sales Meeting

11-11-2019

The best way to work with your PCB vendors is to treat them as strategic partners. This means not only sharing your current needs but your future ones as well. I know that this requires a great deal of trust on your part as well as that of your PCB vendor partner. But if you have been reading this column, and doing everything we have recommended, then you should already be prepared for this. If you want your PCB vendor to be prepared to meet your future needs, you have to tell them what they are; it’s that simple.

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Standard of Excellence: Your PCB Technology Partner

10-15-2019

There are regular PCB vendor relationships, and then there are the partnerships where you invest in future projects, such as developing processes for a new technology where you will have to share the work, responsibility, and success of the project. In short, project partnerships require a much deeper and more trusting relationship with your vendor.

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Standard of Excellence: Great Partnerships Are Forged in Adversity

09-24-2019

When you’re in the PCB business, the one thing you can count on is that something will go wrong; it always does. Here are six steps to not only help and support your vendor through problematic times but also use the adversity as an opportunity to develop a deeper and more productive relationship.

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Standard of Excellence: How Strong Is Your Vendor Partnership?

08-28-2019

For the past year, I’ve talked about various aspects of developing a great vendor-customer relationship with your PCB fabricators from trust to confidentiality and sharing the future. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when testing the strength of your current partnership with your vendor.

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Standard of Excellence: Finding a Global Solution With Your Domestic Supplier

07-23-2019

As the world goes global, so does the PCB industry. It is no longer sufficient to have a domestic PCB vendor; it has become critical to have a portal to offshore PCB acquisitions as well. But here are six reasons why, in many cases, it is better to go through your own domestic PCB supplier when you want to take advantage of the global PCB vendor base.

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Standard of Excellence: Choosing the Right Replacement Vendor

06-24-2019

What happens when you have all of the suppliers you need, but a larger firm acquires one of them all of a sudden, and there is only one qualified supplier left when there used to be two. As a smart PCB user, you always want to keep your options open in case you are going to have to qualify another supplier to buy your PCBs from.

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Standard of Excellence: Three Ways to Face the Future With Your PCB Suppliers

06-03-2019

Once you have established a solid, trusting relationship with your PCB vendor, you can start working together developing new products, technologies, and in some cases, services. There are even times when your PCB supplier will bring projects to you. Here are three ways that you can work with your PCB suppliers to face the future.

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Standard of Excellence: Four Tips on Listening to Your PCB Suppliers

04-29-2019

Once you have done your due diligence, have developed a strong working partnership with your PCB suppliers, and now feel confident that those suppliers are the right ones, the next step is to recognize that your PCB suppliers are indeed the true experts, and that you can trust them enough to listen to them. Here are four tips on listening to and learning from your suppliers to ensure that you have the best PCB value that money can buy.

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Standard of Excellence: Buy Based on Value, Not Price

04-02-2019

There are only two ways to buy PCBs; the first is based on price, which is the wrong way because it encourages a very shallow relationship based on just one thing—the price of the boards; and the second, and right, is based on value. A great company should understand what it means to buy value.

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2018

Standard of Excellence: Preparing Your Vendors for the Future

12-03-2018

Now, it’s time to talk about the future with your PCB vendors. Referring to our previous columns, if you’ve done everything right so far, you will now have a strong working relationship with your PCB supplier. They understand all they need to know to fabricate perfect boards for you at this time. With trust and respect between you, you’ve truly formed a strong partnership going into the future.

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Standard of Excellence: Forging Partnerships Through Adversity and Problem Solving

10-29-2018

For the past few months, this column has discussed how to find and work with a great PCB vendor, and most importantly, how to form a strong, productive partnership. This month, Anaya Vardya will address how adversity can forge a great partnership between you and your PCB vendor that will last for life.

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Standard of Excellence: Working for the Future—Partnering with PCB Vendors on Innovative Technology

10-01-2018

The true test of the vendor-customer relationship comes when you need innovative PCBs—boards that are not easily found in the common marketplace and are so technologically advanced that they require your designers and suppliers to work together to go where neither has before.

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Standard of Excellence: Preparing for the Future with the Right Supplier

08-13-2018

Is your PCB supplier ready to take you into the future? Sure, they are doing a good job today, but what about tomorrow? What will happen when new designs require boards to be made with thermal or RF materials, or have lines widths down to two mils?

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Material Selection: The Key to RF/Microwave Success

07-23-2018

This month's column is written by Anaya Vardya and John Bushie. In today’s environment, there are a number of suppliers that may have similar materials but price points and lead times may vary. If you are open to trying different options, it is a good idea to work closely with your PCB fabricator so they can educate you on these aspects. Another option is to do parallel builds with multiple materials in the early stages of honing a new design to determine the optimum material set.

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Standard of Excellence: Making Your PCB Fabricator Your PCB Partner

06-12-2018

Are your PCB needs exceeding your vendor base’s capabilities? Do you feel that your suppliers are no longer able to keep up with your PCB needs? Do your designers feel limited by your vendors’ limited capabilities? Are you finding an issue locating alternate sources for PCBs due to the consolidation of the larger shops in our industry? If so, you are not alone.

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Standard of Excellence: 5 Things a Total Global Solutions Supplier Can Provide

01-10-2018

Our world now extends far beyond the traditional brick and mortar of the domestic board suppliers of yesteryear. Now our customers demand that PCB fabricators provide them with a complete and total printed circuit board solution, from domestically built ITAR-registered defense and aerospace boards to high-volume, offshore solutions.

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2017

Standard of Excellence: Customers are Shooting for the Stars—Are We Coming?

08-17-2017

For years we have been calling them “science projects,” those PCB orders that did not quite fit into our normal process stream and therefore needed special attention, as well as special handling. Often, we have had to use trial and error to come up with just the right process to successfully complete the order.

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Standard of Excellence: The Challenges of Hiring Good People and Methods for Success

05-17-2017

Increasingly, we hear about the challenges of finding and hiring good people in our industry. We are being hit on all sides; much of our work force is aging out while young people don’t seem to be too interested in joining the printed circuit board industry. Let’s face facts: Fewer young people are going to college to become circuit board process engineers.

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Standard of Excellence: The Advantages of Flex and Rigid-Flex Circuits

05-01-2017

Since their introduction, flexible and rigid-flex circuits have been steadily moving from the fringe of electronic interconnection towards its center. Today, flex and rigid-flex circuits are found in countless products from the very simple to the highly complex. The reasons for this shift to the center are numerous; most of them are related to the advantages they offer. An examination of some of the benefits and advantages will make this clear.

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Standard of Excellence: Staying Prepared with Operations

03-08-2017

Handling the operations of a PCB company these days is a challenge, to say the least. When I started in 1979, we were building single-sided, double-sided, four-layer multilayers, and the occasional six-layer if you really had your act together. We were using FR-4 materials sprinkled in with an occasional polyimide build.

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2016

Standard of Excellence: Selling Technology—A PCB Engineer Transitions to Sales

12-21-2016

Selling technology today takes a great deal of time, patience and most of all knowledge of the product. There was a time when a salesperson was just that, a salesperson. Now, with the onset of all the new technologies, from RF and metal backed boards to flex and rigid-flex boards, to HDI and microvia boards and heavy copper boards, a salesperson must know what he’s talking about.

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Standard of Excellence: RF Microwave Technology—The Future is Now

11-29-2016

Although RF/microwave technology has been around for a considerable amount of time, many people are still not sure exactly what it is. This month, I am going to dedicate my column to explaining exactly what it is, why it is used, and in what products is it used. I’ll also discuss who needs it.

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Standard of Excellence: Let’s Get Flexible

11-18-2016

Although flex and rigid-flex technology has been around for many years, it is only in recent years that it has come into its own. The reason for the increased requirements for the flex and rigid-flex technology is simple: Devices are getting smaller.

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Communication Breeds Success

08-29-2016

We all need to talk to one another. You need to work closely with your customers. And we all need to work with the new generation of PCB designers and design engineers, many of whom have never set foot in a board shop. Fortunately, they make up for their lack of DFM knowledge with their hunger for information.

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The Future is in Fine Lines

07-11-2016

The age of much finer lines and spaces is upon us. After years of slowly moving towards this technology our customers are now demanding that all of us provide them with fine lines and spaces.

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LED and Metal-Backed Technology—Today and in the Future

05-25-2016

Probably one of the hottest, or should I say coolest, technologies today is LED. I would also venture to say it is one of the fastest growing as well...

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Tips for Finding a Great PCB R&D Partner

04-06-2016

This new column, Standard of Excellence, represents a cooperative writing effort by a team of experts at American Standard Circuits. This month, we begin with CEO Anaya Vardya, who focuses on R&D. In his piece, he provides his insights on what characteristics to look for in a good R&D PCB fabrication vendor partner, and a few things that are expected of them to do for you.

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