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Driving excellence with suppliers by putting people first

By Andy Hickson: Vendor Team Manager, Telefónica UK

A recent article in the Chartered Institute for Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) Supply Management magazine got me thinking. “Making savings right across the spectrum” talked about how one Financial Consultancy firm in Australia had been on a transformational journey over the last 3 years. Starting from scratch, they had built a specialist vendor management team, implemented a supplier relationship strategy, and delivered hard and soft savings for their business and customers. There were amazing similarities to our own journey at Telefónica in setting up the Vendor Management team to support our ICT business.

But the thing that struck me was that while there were parallels, we had taken a slightly different path. A path that I believe will deliver sustainable results, and not just short term gains. Why? Because right from the outset, we understood that to drive long-term vendor value and to be successful we had to view and treat our suppliers differently… we had to put people first.

But what does putting people first actually mean? It means involving, collaborating and communicating openly and honestly with our suppliers and stakeholders. So how did we approach it?

By laying the foundations

We built flexibility into every area of the supplier account plan. From the outset, both sides (O2 and the supplier in question) shared a single vision – to deliver exceptional customer experience. Putting the customer at the heart of everything we do.

While it was important for the partners to think as one, it was even more critical for them to act in unison. We subsequently introduced Skype for Business, instant messaging/video calls and twice-weekly check-in calls to monitor progress. For example, we worked closely with the ICT specialist sales teams to anticipate customer demand – so the right products were always in the right place, at the right time.

By hosting value creation workshops

To ensure customer service was similarly progressive and make the supplier relationship leaner and more responsive, the teams hosted value creation workshops. This ‘culture of collaboration’ has allowed O2 Business to seamlessly offer clients a range of services and products, including everything from staff training and deployment, to configuration and disposal – all without incurring the typical costs of establishing in-house by leveraging the suppliers’ capabilities.

By implementing best practice

Working as one allowed our partners to share best practice and improve customer service, efficiency and productivity. This included joining forces to improve contracts, jointly develop supplier briefs and build monthly supplier review processes that suited all parties.

At O2 we recognise that specialist teams with experience and knowledge can work collaboratively with procurement, and understanding the suppliers’ individual situation can deliver great results.

And we’ve been recognised for this hard work, too. We’ve been shortlisted this year in the CIPS Supply Management Awards “Best Supplier Relationship” category. A joint entry with one supplier – Ingram Micro – explaining some of the unique and innovative things we have done over the past few years, and our determination to look beyond the traditional buyer/supplier relationship.

Ready to scale up your business? Call an O2 business specialist on 0800 028 0202 or call free from your O2 mobile on 8002.


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