By Guest Editor
By Rick Bender, Sales Director, CenterPoint Group
Competition in the office supply market is stiff, and plenty of companies would like to have your business. But, there is a difference between a company that wants to have your business and a company that wants to earn your business. While choosing an office supply company isn’t a glamorous task, it’s a task that shouldn’t be entered into without some careful consideration. Office supplies are a big expense, and if you’re overpaying for your paper, pens, and other essential supplies, you can be losing out big time in the long term. Here are eight questions to ask yourself as you narrow down your options.
Do they offer a wide variety of products? Take a look at their website, and review their catalog of products. You should be able to order more than just pens and paper. In fact, having one supplier for as many products as possible should be the goal. You’ll also want to look for a good variety of brands, from the cost savers to the brand names. If you have a favorite pen or brand of paper, make sure they carry it!
What extra services do they provide? Beyond just ordering supplies, check to see if your office supply company offers any additional services. Some important ones to look for are printing, marketing materials, and recycling. Also, look into their rewards program. Do they offer volume discounts or rebates?
What is their pricing for core products? It’s not cost-effective to shop around for every single office product you purchase, but some cost-comparing will save you money. Keep in mind that 70% of a company’s office supply cost is generated by 30% of the total products ordered. Take a list of your five or 10 most-ordered office supplies, and compare them to make sure you are getting the best value every time you order.
Do they provide a good web ordering experience? A fully functional ordering experience is a must. Ordering online means you can easily compare products and prices and keep all your supplies in your shopping cart until you are ready to check out. Make sure they have a good reporting system and order history section so you can easily re-order your frequent supplies. Finally, if you need an approval system, ensure that it’s easy to use, understand, and change, if necessary.
How smooth is their onboarding process? An efficient onboarding process often means they have the resources to continue to provide support as a customer. Ask about their services to transition your ordering from your previous vendor. You should have layers of support, and customer service should be easily accessible.
What delivery options are available? Depending on your needs and the size of your business, you should have several different delivery options available. If you need a loading dock, front door, or desktop delivery, make sure your office supplier can accommodate that and that you can specify your preference when you order.
How is their customer service experience? Mistakes in delivery, ordering, or payment are inevitable. Ideally, these mistakes don’t happen often; but when they do, you should always be taken care of. Often what defines a good company is how they treat their customers when something goes wrong. Don’t cut costs when it comes to customer service; no one wants to spend valuable time on the phone waiting to speak to someone about a lost or incorrect order. Look for a knowledgeable customer support staff with multiple levels of management. Don’t forget to read their return policies and billing term options.
How does their reputation stack up? Don’t be afraid to check reviews and ask around about their reputation. Doing some research on how they are performing financially and how long they’ve been in the industry should give some clues into how they will perform as your office supply vendor. Ultimately, you shouldn’t have to think much about ordering office supplies, so you’ll want to work with a company that is flexible and accommodating.
Choosing the right office supply company may seem daunting given all the available options. However, it can be painless by asking the right questions upfront. Check into their product variety, extra services, pricing, web ordering, onboarding, delivery options, customer service, and reputation. Each of these components is crucial in getting the best possible partner. Then you can focus on providing the best products and services for your clients.
With more than 30 years of experience working with and providing excellent customer service to companies of all sizes, Rick Bender now is the Sales Director at CenterPoint Group. CenterPoint is a management consulting firm that specializes in reducing purchasing expenses of businesses in areas such as office supplies, janitorial supplies, reducing cellular phone expense, fleet maintenance, gas and rental car expense, small parcel, and industrial supplies.
George E. Krauter
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