By Rich Weissman
I took Fred’s proverbial head off today. It was premeditated, fast, efficient and I threw an ace. I haven’t taken apart a supplier in years and while the muscle memory of an old-fashioned supplier lashing seemed quite natural, I felt sad after the fact, unfulfilled and a bully.
This was personal, to a point. You see Fred is my car salesman. After 20 years of being very satisfied at Dealer F, I switched brands and dealers. Let’s call the new one Dealer J. I was introduced to Fred by my salesperson at Dealer F so the relationship was greased in a generous handoff.
The service at Dealer F was top notch. My family and I bought a dozen vehicles over the past 20 years with Dealer F and while the sales process was easy, the service was extraordinary--holiday-tip extraordinary; treat my wife and kids well extraordinary; full trust extraordinary; free loaner extraordinary.
But alas, styles and times change and on to Fred and four cars in the past five years for various family members. We were generally treated well by Fred but I give the dealership only a B for service. I saw a bit too much turnover in the service writer staff and communication was decent, but not extraordinary. Give it another five years, I thought to myself, and they would be at the level of Dealer F. Wasn’t I an expert in supplier relationships? I made the foundation of my career in managing relationships. This was a piece of cake.
But storm clouds began forming a couple of weeks ago when my son called for a quick oil change. They told him no. Keep in mind they have a dedicated oil change lane and he just called to verify that they still had it. Fast forward to last week when he tried it again. Told on Thursday to come by on Friday and refused service when he came by due to “special circumstances.”
He told me that he would move on to another service provider. I took offense. Not at him, but at my supplier, the one I have been working on a relationship with for the past five years. When I called, Fred was happy. Traditionally when I call it is to come in and buy something, or introduce a family member to Fred and the dealership. The thoughts of a commission evaporated when I told him that he lost one customer (my son) and a second customer (his wife). Now while service is not his responsibility, I did remind him that I buy for service, and that I could buy anywhere. I reminded him of my historical relationship with Dealer F. He agreed.
So, today I have a fracture in a relationship that I nurtured for five years. I was a bully to Fred and that will harm ongoing work with him. The service is still broken and my trust level is low. I pride myself on relationships in my personal supply chain and it pains me when they don’t perform. I can be objective when dealing with others' money but it is different with family’s money.
But all is not lost. Things are running smoothly with my new electrician and plumber. For now that is.
Endicott College Assistant Professor Rich Weissman teaches management courses for the School of Business and the Van Loan Graduate School. He is also the director of corporate education, which includes the Center for Leadership, Endicott’s management development institute. He is vice chair of the planning committee and also serves on the technology committee and the Institution Review Board. A practitioner turned educator, Weissman has more than 25 years of experience in all facets of procurement and supply chain management. He has held positions with large business units of Fortune 500 companies, medium-sized contract manufacturing companies, small venture-backed Internet startup firms, and third-party procurement, consulting and strategic sourcing firms.
Rich holds an M.S. in Management from Lesley University and a B.A. in Economics from Rutgers University. He is past president of the Purchasing Management Association of Boston and a recipient of the Harry J. Graham Memorial Award, the highest honor bestowed by the association.
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