Business to business relationships are complex to manage at the best of times, but with organisational teams being displaced, working patterns upended and employees being furloughed, it makes it significantly more difficult, yet no less important to manage and maintain these.
The supply chain and supplier relationships are core to the business-to-business world. Bringing stability to these, managing critical points of failure and being prepared for the unexpected, are all essential to minimising the impact on the B2B chain and the end customer.
Although points of contact might have changed or be disrupted, it is important to provide consistency at the top-level and other relevant organisational levels, throughout the B2B supply chain. Focus on reinforcing senior level sponsorship contacts for changing the game and rapidly responding. At the same time, try and create a rhythm of updates with your usual point or points of contact, at a frequency that meets their needs. The priority is to work with partners up and down the supply chain to minimise any potential negative impact on the end user or customer.
Use the opportunity to be upfront with your supply partners and/ or business-to-business customers about critical contact points within the relationship that you’ve identified. If everyone understands the risks around these contact points, you can work collaboratively to build a more robust relationship model that will not only see you through the current Covid-19 crisis, but in the enduring future, to everyone’s benefit.
The current displacement of personnel in the B2B world, really provides organisations with an opportunity to build stronger connections. By recognising where you can do something to support the end customer in the chain, be that through technical, commercial or other internal initiatives, you can proactively support your B2B partners in maintaining their own relationships. Look for opportunities to help solve a relevant customer problem, where you might be able to support them and free up time and mind space, so they can focus on more pressing matters.
Finally, consider scenarios around any emerging mismatch between payments, orders on suppliers, inventory and forecast customer. Looking at your own and your supply partner or B2B customer’s risks, will allow everyone in the chain to adapt their business model whilst minimising impact further up or down the chain. This type of approach requires increasingly collaborative working with an inherent trust between those involved. However, the benefits for organisations that can adapt in this way will be both immediate and long-lasting.