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We have all worked with partners and suppliers who consistently provide underwhelming service. Given that most businesses strive to improve profitability and productivity levels, it would appear to be a strange contradiction that mediocrity would be tolerated. Yet, the phrase ‘better the devil you know’ is frequently used and accepted.

This article addresses one of the most common oxymorons that has plagued businesses for far too long. You can eliminate or reduce the negative impact these ‘devils’ have by adopting the three approaches below.

1) Communicate Expectations

Even suppliers who don’t have dedicated account managers (such as software vendors) can be notified about customer expectations. Sending feedback via online portals, sending emails to product management or joining a user discussion forum can all result in beneficial change. Suppliers won’t necessarily be aware that the service they provide is mediocre without constructive feedback and most businesses strive to continuously improve. For example, a software vendor welcomes feedback about product feature to ensure the ongoing success of a solution.

For large businesses using the services of various suppliers (some of which are unique to their business units), an audit will quickly uncover where gaps and shortcomings exist. Expectations should be promptly communicated and managed. A simple online survey can list all suppliers, their overall rating and the areas that need improvement.

2) Seek Alternatives and Back-ups

Some partners and suppliers will not change the way they operate. Breaking up with them hastily can severely affect business continuity, affect operations and have severe legal and financial ramifications. Invest time in researching alternative options. Most prospective suppliers will offer trials, demos or other options to display their product and services.

3) Banish Complacency

‘Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.’ This is the inevitable outcome of complacency according to Andy Grove, businessman, engineer, author and former president, CEO, and chairman of the board of Intel Corporation.

Even if existing suppliers are satisfactory, pro-actively seeking alternatives or backups is beneficial. As a result of this process, an unexpected discovery could be made which could produce extraordinary improvements.