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3 Ways to Improve Communication with Suppliers

Published: 22 May 2015 01:36:28 PST

communication-with-suppliers-titleHaving communication problems with your supplier? Perhaps the factory doesn’t understand your requirements. Or maybe your factory contact is slow to communicate or altogether unresponsive. Sometimes they say they will do something, but it doesn’t get done.

A lot of buyers will struggle to work effectively with their supplier overseas. And if you’re among them, you’ve probably wondered what you can do to improve communication with suppliers.

In an earlier article, we told you about 3 Barriers to Communication with Suppliers. Now we’ve taken our own experiences, having worked with international buyers and suppliers for over 7 years, to offer some tips that will help you meet your supplier on even ground. ?Here you’ll learn about three ways you can improve communication with suppliers right away.

1. Keep emails simple to improve communication with suppliers

Sometimes we see clients send a barrage of emails to a supplier in a short period of time – all pertaining to the same issue. These emails sometimes contain technical English jargon, local slang or spelling mistakes.

You may feel your supplier’s English is pretty good. But chances are, they are copying those emails directly into an online translator so they understand the meaning in their native language.communication-with-suppliers-writing

If you have many different emails, use complex language or have spelling mistakes, this can very easily lead to a misunderstanding on the part of your supplier as they won’t clearly understand the key points.

Our recommendation is to keep to one single, simple email chain when possible. Use short words, short sentences and simple bullet points to allow the supplier to respond to each point.

A useful tool to help you write in simple English is the Hemmingway App. This will review your text and highlight areas where it could be improved and shortened for easier reading.

2. Follow up with a phone call to improve communication with suppliers

Getting your contact on the phone is one way to quickly improve communication with suppliers. If the supplier does not respond to an email within a reasonable amount of time, or just becomes non-responsive in general, follow up with a phone call to find out what is going on.

If you’re waiting for the supplier to reply to a specific email, offer to review the points over the phone so you can gauge whether or not?they genuinely understand the points being raised.

Not receiving any news at all is on par with receiving bad news when dealing with your supplier, particularly if it’s a Chinese supplier. It’s common for a supplier in China to withhold bad news by simply not responding to a customer’s inquiry. Generally, silence means there is a problem, or something is not being understood and needs to be clarified.

A factory in Asia typically won’t reach out and say, “We don’t understand this, can you please explain?”, as it could lead to a loss of face. However, if you give your supplier contact a call to find out what is going on, they may be able to confide in you the real situation.

If a factory cannot grasp a certain concept verbally, go back to basics. Pretend that you are explaining the issue to your 5-year-old nephew. Speaking slowly and in simpler terms will go a long way in making sure your supplier understands.

3. Limit the number of contact people to improve communication with suppliers

Dealing with a large number of people can really complicate your order. That’s why minimizing the number of people you need to talk with can improve communication with suppliers. Ideally, you would have one key contact person from your organisation who deals with a scommunication-with-suppliers-emailupplier. Likewise, you’d do well to be communicating through a single key contact person for at the factory or vendor.

Although difficult with larger clients who deal with large factories and multiple projects, the more people involved, the greater chance there is for miscommunication.

Wherever possible, allocate one key individual to be the point person in dealing with the factory. That person should be someone that is sensitive to the local cultural and has an ability to communicate in simple, easy-to-understand English.


Manufacturing products in another country is challenging. But communicating with your supplier doesn’t have to be. To improve communication with suppliers:

  • Keep your emails simple
  • Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call; and
  • Limit the number of contact people where possible

These measures will go a long way in making sure you and your supplier are both understood and you’re expectations for product quality and shipping are met. So put these tips to practice and start communicating effectively today!

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