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From the Desk of Kim Zablocky: Retailers, How Accurate Is Your Supplier Database?

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 9, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2017

About 12 years ago, a major national retailer decided to send Christmas cards to the company's supplier community. 70 percent of those cards were returned. The person was no longer there, missing information, undeliverable as addressed, etc. To say the CEO was livid would be an understatement.

He asked, "Don't we have a clean list of suppliers anywhere in this organization?"

Trust me, that's a true story. We at RVCF decided to contact a bunch of our retailer members at the time and ask for examples of their supplier lists. The lists we saw were terrible. This experience inspired us to develop our Supplier Data Integrity Program.

Historically, retailers have had two contacts at the supplier organization – the salesperson and the credit person. But the retailer needs to know more than the people who sell them stuff and call for the money. As a starting point, you need to be able to reach specific people in operations, compliance, supply chain, customer service, IT and EDI.

Much of this information can usually be found somewhere in the retail organization, but in different parts. Some could be in accounts payable. Some could be in merchandising. Some could be in supply chain. When you have so many information siloes, it's difficult to pull everything together.

Think of it this way. How do you expect to communicate initiatives, requirements, expectations and feedback – or send Christmas cards – if you don't know how to connect with the people who should be receiving this information?

Even if you're diligent about periodically updating your supplier information, contact lists degrade by 15-20 percent each year. Turnover in retail is high these days, and most retailers don't have the bandwidth to stay on top of the supplier database. This constant churn causes gaps in information that lead to miscommunication, slow response times, compliance issues, unhappy customers and lower profits.

The RVCF Supplier Data Integrity Program was created to help retailers make sure that the right information is getting to the right people.

The first step is to gain internal buy-in within the retail organization. We'll work with you to craft internal communication. Senior management participation is critical to ensure that our efforts receive the appropriate attention from the supplier. We'll work with the retailer to create a list of personnel whose contact information needs to be collected and/or reconciled.

Buyers will actively participate with the data acquisition by contacting their supplier's sales representatives via e-mail. RVCF can help you craft the message that requests contact information from the appropriate departments within the supplier organization. Sales reps can either submit the information themselves or forward the e-mail internally.

Submitting information is as simple as clicking a link in the e-mail, which takes the supplier to a landing page that we create for the retailer in our marketing platform. Just click the link for the department, fill out the contact form, and repeat the process for each contact and department.

After all information has been submitted, we'll scrub the list of any inaccurate contact information, make the necessary updates, and deliver a clean, accurate list to the retailer in a CSV or Excel file. The retailer can then load the information into their ERP system so all operating units can benefit from the refresh.

This is not an overnight process. It usually takes about 60 days from start to finish. However, the Supplier Data Integrity Program is free for retailers who are RVCF members. This is one of those services that could very well justify the cost of membership by itself, depending on the state of your supplier list.

For example, we've had to whittle down the list of some retailers from 50,000 contacts to about 5,000. How long would it take you to do that using in-house resources? How expensive would it be if you hired a third party?

We recommend going through this process every two years. Approach it through the lens of the old 80/20 rule. The top 20 percent of your suppliers likely represent about 80 percent of your revenue. You probably communicate with these suppliers on a regular basis. Their contact information should be fairly accurate, but verification is still important. The bottom 20 percent of your suppliers represent a fraction of your revenue. Inaccurate contact information probably doesn't cause that much pain, but it still needs to be updated.

Our Supplier Data Integrity Program has the greatest effect on that middle 60 percent of suppliers that are important to your success and have growth potential. You can't build the relationship if you don't know how to get in touch with the right people.

It's time to get those supplier databases in order. RVCF retailer members, we can take care of it for free. To request more information, click here and fill out the form. Having valid, accurate contact information is possible, and it's critical to building and maintaining a mutually beneficial and profitable trading partner relationship.

(646) 442-3473

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Tags:  Supplier Data Integrity Program 

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