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5 Keys To Communicating Clearly In The Supply Chain

8/20/2018

Stock photo of squirrels having a conversation to illustrate good supply chain etiquette.

Whether you’re talking to your suppliers, staff, clinicians, or customers, the nuts and bolts of communication are the same.

True visibility into inventory’s movement and usage is something of a Holy Grail for supply chains, but the bad news is that it’s not going to be possible anytime soon - and it may not even be all that beneficial. You have to know when your suppliers and coworkers are dealing with extra strain, and they have to know when you’re under pressure.

Look at the example of supply chains being affected by hurricane season every year. It requires constant communication to coordinate where supplies are needed and who can move them before and after a hurricane comes to cripple the supply chain. They have to consider all of the following keys to clear communication - and so do you.

 

1. Be Connected

In dealing with contacts both internal and external, you need direct access to the right person. That means not only knowing who the key players are but the best way to contact them. We’d recommend some kind of centralized planning system, like Basecamp or Slack to coordinate tasks and calendars internally. Should be no problem since you’re already in constant contact with your clinicians to take their supply preferences into account and to tell them about supply policy changes, right?

If they won’t come to you, you have to go to them. Wherever they are - email, phone, text, WhatsApp, Snapchat - that’s where you need to be. Okay, maybe not Snapchat. If your supplier only responds to phone calls, call them. If your accounting team only responds to email, email them. Unless it’s that Orson guy from Accounting who keeps trying to show you pictures of his pet squirrels. Keep him restricted to the phone, and even then, restrict conversations to a minimum.

 

2. Be Responsive

Timely communication goes both ways. If you want others to jump on your problems ASAP, you have to be ready to do the same for them. “Poor planning on your part…” and all that.

This next sentence is going to make some of you wince, but it’s for your own good. Turn on your notifications. At least during business hours. When an email comes in, you need to know about it. And of course you’ll have to prioritize your responses. The middle of a presentation isn’t the time to open that Google Alert. But if you’re not responding to messages - regardless of the medium - within 24 hours, you’re going to develop a reputation of unreliability that you don’t want.

That’s not to say you should always be accessible. You shouldn’t even have to give out your cell number. You don’t want Orson texting you pictures of those squirrels at all hours. He shouldn’t even have pet squirrels, right? Isn’t that illegal somehow?

 

3. Be Open

If you’re not satisfied with a vendor’s communication - or lack thereof - would you still do business with them? Why, when you can leverage your buying power to make the changes you want?

It’s the same with your customers. Yes, in healthcare we tend to think of them as patients first, but as long as they have to pay for healthcare, you have to be willing to act the part of a business providing a service. Maybe that means paying more attention to customer feedback. Maybe you’ll want to solicit new ideas. If you don’t have some system in place to allow these conversations to take place, create one today. And that goes double for your suppliers.

There’s a middle ground here, of course. You can’t let every suggestion affect policy. Like the requests Orson’s been making for the past two years for you to come over for a game night. If you step foot in that house, you’ll be as trapped as those squirrels.

 

4. Be Clear

You know what’s never unprofessional? Proper spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Use them in texts. Use them in emails. Use them every time. Not just that - how you word things matters. It will ensure that what you’re trying to say is what you’re actually communicating.

Is your business card from a time when people still needed business cards? Make sure all the information on it - and your website and your social channels and everywhere else - is up-to-date.

When you leave a review on Etsy for the tiny costumes Orson sews for his squirrels, you’ll want it to be perfectly understood. Especially if it might be used as evidence in a later court case.

 

5. Be Kind

Politeness is the minimum required to do business in a civil society. What’s better than being polite is being considerate. Before you tear into someone who isn’t getting you what you need on the timeline that you need it, find out what’s going on. You never really know what someone else is going through - personally or professionally - until you ask. And then, once you find out what the problem is, see how you can help. And if you form relationships that rely on more than just business, they’re likely to benefit your business going forward.

Maybe Orson rescued those squirrels from certain death and gives them a really lovely life. There he goes trying to kiss one right now, and - yep. It bit him. That seals it. Someone call the police.

 

 

So there you go: just remember C-R-O-C-K! (We didn’t mean to make an acronym out of this week’s advice, and this one doesn’t seem to have anything to do with communication, but if saying “CROCK!” helps you remember, why fight it?)

But remember as you’re cracking skulls to make sure your contacts are in constant contact - the CEO is not above answering your messages, by the way - you can’t hold anyone else to a higher standard than you hold yourself. If they’re supposed to answer your emails within 24 hours, you have to do the same. If you want to be left alone on your vacation, you have to give your coworkers and suppliers the same courtesy.

And if you pick up a call from an unknown number while you’re in witness protection and you hear chittering in the background, put the phone down and close all the curtains. It’s almost impossible to escape someone who can train squirrels. They’re everywhere.

Everywhere.

 

 

Headline photo via Depositphotos.

Topics: selling medical inventory, supply chain management, medical supply, digital supply management, squirrels, erp, crm, feedback, customer relationship, patients, basecamp, slack, communication, healthcare inventory, buying medical inventory

Alex Diamond

Written by Alex Diamond

Raised in the armpit of East Texas before escaping to the civilization of Austin, Alex is an author and former radio/podcast personality. If you ever run into him, ask him about the day he split his pants in front of the Lone Ranger.