Over the last few months, businesses have found themselves creating and implementing continuity plans to ensure they are able to, where applicable, meet the expectations of their customers and deliver a new form of business as usual.

Supply chains are disrupted, end-users are impacted and business as we know it isn’t the same. Difficult boardroom decisions are being made which will change many industries, and marketplaces, for years to come.

At Cordant we felt the pressure on both ends of the spectrum. We had clients who eased off their service requirements in the face on the pandemic… but others who hit unprecedented peaks in response to changing consumer behaviours and public demand.

So what happens if your business’s performance is dependent on supplier relationships?
What if your customer is seeking better deals or opportunities elsewhere in the face of adversity?

Contrary to popular belief, good businesses don’t prioritise contractual relationships based on price, popularity or even speed of implementation – instead, they consider the total value of the relationship and the sustainability of the contact. Business leaders who actively invest in external relationships; embedding collaborative activities, making suggestions for growth, nurturing the partnership, will be valued and stand out from competitors.

External partners need to be kept engaged and motivated therefore communication is key! We need to go above and beyond the contract and SLA.

Agreements that focus only on mutual rights, obligations and commitments of parties involved will no longer suffice in this new economy. Suppliers need to deliver service with meaning by making a much greater contribution to the professional relationship.

We need to be relational, not transactional.

So how can you maintain good collaborative relationships?

As a point of contact, you must stay connected. To really understand a business’s values and culture, you have to get to know its people. Make sure you get acquainted with all external stakeholders… keep in touch, plan regular catch-up calls – even if there is nothing to say you should always be present and available.

Similarly, never automate support, always be authentic. If you truly value a business relationship, adding your contact on to an email marketing list isn’t going to position you as a being invested in the contract. Add a personal touch to everything you send or share, make it relatable and personal.

Always plan ahead and try to predict contractual improvements, changes, or risks in advance of problems arising. To position yourself as an expert, keep your finger on the pulse and be the first to share new information… interpret their wants and adapt the contract, or agreement, when circumstances arise, even if they were not initially in the agreement.

Give positive recognition in the form of written references, video testimonial, online reviews or LinkedIn endorsements, in exchange for the same in return. This helps the reputation of all involved – supporting the promotion of both parties and wider stakeholders. You should always be asking; “what can I do to help”.

There are many ways you can create lasting relationships with your customers, in turn delivering meaningful service. Effective collaboration will result in a mutually beneficial partnership and a business contact who recognises, and appreciates, how you support their organisation. Taking the time to invest in collaboration won’t just reap benefits when business is good, but could prove vital for maintaining resilience when disruption occurs.