We are hearing about the supply chain every day — not just in our industry, but everywhere. Our backlogs keep growing and it is obvious the problem isn’t going away any time soon. This is frustrating for everyone involved, and though most of us have no control over the issue, systems integrators may receive heat from some customers. Good, consistent communication with your end users can help mitigate challenges and strains on relationships, though. Here are four tips PSA is passing on to its members and owners about how to navigate through these times.
1. Stay in Contact With Your Suppliers
At PSA we are talking to our technology partners daily to get constant updates about products so we can share the information with our members and owners. There are so many moving parts with the supply chain challenges and things can change daily. Having this open line of communication has also helped us pivot when necessary. Some have had shortages on one product, but in-stock supply of another that can be utilized instead. By talking through the needs of our members and owners, and because of the great partnerships we have formed, most are going out of their way to deliver exceptional service. Likewise, carriers have been operating above max holiday volumes for almost two straight years, so even if a product is available, it may still see delays in shipping.
2. Communicate Often, Repeating the Message
It is not enough to simply send one e-mail addressing the supply chain. It’s important to regularly talk to your customers about what the supply chain shortage means for your business and how it could impact them. Send e-mails, post on your website, have your team make calls, but make sure you are constantly explaining the challenges with the supply chain and the need to build adequate time into projects because of it. PSA has formed a task force to check in weekly on our backlog and the impact it might be having on our membership. We are encouraging our technology partners to regularly provide statuses and we’ve built lead times on products into our webstore as well. Some might be tuning out the supply chain messages because they are hearing it so often, but when it impacts them directly is when they’ll finally pay attention. Therefore, a phone call or in-person conversation expressing just how it may impact them can go a long way.
3. Look for Alternatives Where Possible
Now is the time to get creative. In our discussions with technology partners, we are learning that many do have stock in key products. Our sales team has been very clever in helping members and owners find alternatives when the product they need is not available. Do you have a client who regularly purchases a product you know is delayed? If so, can you work with them to anticipate upcoming needs and get ahead of the issue? It might take some extra brain power, but there are potentially alternative routes that can be taken to fulfill a project.
4. Be Transparent
This is the time to be as realistic as possible. You must set clear expectations, even if they are “no known lead time on a specific product.” While I love to take a “glass is half full” approach to life, in this instance, give your customers the most accurate estimate of product delays … and then maybe add more. This is where a discussion with the supplier can help you determine if the estimate you are getting is accurate or subject to continuous delays. We’ve also heard the resounding message that surcharges and price increases are imminent this year and beyond as the world continues to grapple with the shortages and demand driven by the pandemic. We are continuously reminding membership these price hikes could be coming and to communicate that with their end users as well.
Ultimately these conversations are not fun to have, but they are necessary to ensure relationships stay intact and integrators remain on the same page as their end users.