Problems happen. When a problem happens with an order, the ideal outcome is one where the supplier becomes a partner in the situation and helps to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of the client.

For example, as a distributor, you send in your order and good art. You approve the art proof from the supplier. Then the item comes in and there’s something wrong – the product is defective, the imprint isn’t right, the product doesn’t come in like the spec sample, or maybe there was a communications problem and you got something you didn’t expect. The client is refusing to accept the order, with good reason. What happens next sorts out the good suppliers from the not-so-great ones.

Good suppliers work with you to arrive at a solution that makes you look great to your client and doesn’t kill your profit, even if there’s a bit of loss for both of you. They are a partner in the process.

What can you do when the supplier doesn’t want to own their problem? Suppose all they want to do is offer you a little (or even big) discount but your client doesn’t want that solution. First, you, as the distributor, need to do whatever it takes to save the situation for your client ensuring they have what they need when they need it, even if it costs you money. It’s your reputation on the line with the client, not the supplier’s. The client is watching YOU how you handle the situation and will most certainly use this problem as a criterion to decide if they use your company again in the future, so keep the client happy!

After you have done what you can to satisfy the client, there are some steps you can take with the supplier to drive them towards a better resolution:

  1. First call up the chain to the president, if necessary. If you still can’t get satisfaction with the problem, send a letter to the owner with a sample of the unsatisfactory product and any documentation showing that you followed all standard procedures (use a return receipt letter to ensure he gets it). In the letter, explain the situation and how the client refused the order because it was not up to his expectations or what he approved (whatever the specific problem is – be clear).
  2. Emphasize that you are making things right for the client regardless and you expect them to be accountable for this problem/misrepresentation.
  3. Then take the whole refused order and send it back to the owner’s attention via the post office, also return receipt. If you return the product, you make it clear that you are not going to use it, and you can ask for a refund.

These steps make a statement to the supplier that you are not going to back down on the resolution of problem they caused. Stay professional with the whole process and persist. The best result is that the supplier gives you a refund. It’s helpful to other distributors if you also rate them in SAGE and/or ESP based on the outcome. Your rating helps other distributors make informed decisions about which suppliers to use. Do remember to rate responsibly and not out of frustration, especially if you do get a good resolution to your problem.