‘The Reference Check’ is an integral step in the public procurement process. The supplier provides three past customer references to the would-be customer to show proof that they are who they say they are in the proposal. In a perfect world, this step protects the buyer from contracting a supplier with a poor track record.
But as many of us in public procurement know, not all reviews are created equal.
Here at Procurated, we specialize in supplier performance feedback. After collecting tens of thousands of supplier reviews and talking to public sector professionals in organizations big and small, we have a pretty good idea of what makes for high-value supplier feedback (positive or negative).
There are four key elements of a valuable supplier review. Just remember, ‘R.A.T.E.’ –
Let’s break each of these down, in the context of supplier performance feedback.
Strong Supplier Feedback is Relevant
Is the feedback you are getting regarding the same product or service you are considering? Does the contact you are speaking with work for a similar type of agency or have a similarly structured team? Did the purchase occur recent enough to be a relevant example of the supplier’s work?
If you are searching for, say, a construction supplier, how much more valuable does a reference become if that person used the supplier for the same sort of project (bridge repair), used the similar project delivery method (job order contracting), and even had the same project manager you would get?
What if none of these qualities are true?
Next time you request references, consider clarifying that the reference worked with the supplier within a certain capacity, so that their feedback will be most relevant to your needs.
Strong Supplier Feedback is Accessible
Too often, we hear from buyers in the public sector that they can’t reach the references provided by the supplier. Many unreturned voicemails and emails later, the buyer is forced to move forward without contacting a reference.
High value supplier feedback is accessible to those who need it. And while every supplier decision would benefit from a quality reference, the cost/benefit of spending hours tracking down feedback for a low-risk commodity purchase just doesn’t add up.
So as we look to incorporate more supplier feedback into our procurement process, it’s important to keep in mind how to make this feedback most accessible for those who need it. That’s why on Procurated, rather than depending on phone calls and emails, we allow public sector buyers to add feedback on their own schedule that will live on the supplier’s page. Buyers looking for supplier feedback need only to log in to access that information.
Strong Supplier Feedback is Trustworthy
When it comes to supplier-provided references, there can be a lot of grey area: are they one of the supplier’s few happy customers? Do they feel pressured to be positive as they are listed as a reference? Do they have a relationship with the supplier that would lead them to be biased?
These questions are why more organic referrals are preferred to references; there is stronger trust that the person is sharing their true experience and impression of the vendor. But, these referrals are hard to replicate at will (see, “accessible” point above!).
Procurated neutralizes this risk of bias by treating the feedback-giving and feedback-receiving as two different actions. Public sector customers write a supplier review, on their own time, as a record of their experience; not with a particular reference conversation in mind. Because of this, prospective buyers can see a more objective account of the organization-supplier relationship. Organic reviews are more trustworthy than supplier-provided references.
Strong Supplier Feedback is Educational
The goal of a reference call is to learn more about the supplier you are considering working with. So, it’s frustrating when all you hear is, “Yes, I can confirm that the agency worked with X supplier from January 1st through November 8th 2018.”
As we seek out – and give – supplier feedback, keep in mind that the goal is to learn something. Relevant context and objective performance information all helps the buyer have a more well-rounded idea of what to expect of the vendor.
Give and Get Better Supplier Feedback using R.A.T.E.
In 2022, let’s commit to giving and getting more valuable feedback about supplier performance. Whether you are adding a review on Procurated or talking to a colleague at a tradeshow, aspire to share relevant, accessible, trustworthy, and educational supplier information to help each other make the most informed supplier decisions.
Procurated is a supplier feedback database for the public sector. We believe centralized, secure supplier feedback enables public sector professionals to make informed supplier decisions. If you work in the public sector and want to review a supplier you work with – or read reviews of suppliers you are considering working with – learn more by visiting www.procurated.com.