The questions that any business should always be asking itself are:

  • Why should the customer buy this product?
  • Why should they buy it from me?

All too often the assumed answer to both of those questions is that they want the best price. These are hard times and, undoubtedly, sometimes that assumption is true – but not always. Often, contractors and installers are not nearly as focused on price as they are on value, and the quickest way to improve the value of any customer/supplier relationship is to offer a level of service, response and reliability that helps the customer save time and deliver a better service to their own client.

For the merchant, providing that added-value service and reliability depends on two key factors:

  • A ‘can do’ company culture
  • Supplier relationships that support that service-driven approach.

The first is a matter for the merchant to nurture internally, while the second involves manufacturers like cylinder specialist Gledhill finding ways to deliver a smoother, more efficient supply chain through the merchant network.

For the customer, any reasons why the product they want is not available when they need it are irrelevant. What counts is that supply issues may affect their product and merchant choices in the future, so manufacturers and merchants must develop strong working partnerships that ensure the customer is never disappointed.

Take Gledhill’s new Rapide service, for example. The service is designed to provide free next-day delivery of custom-specified copper cylinders ordered before 1pm, and a same-day collection promise for standard core vented and unvented cylinders through its nationwide depot infrastructure.

It’s an initiative that provides a completely joined-up approach between supplier and merchant, with the fully specified orders placed at the merchant as the customer’s usual buying interface and fulfilled by Gledhill as the supplier in a choice of collection or delivery options.

The merchant receives its usual margin and adds value to the customer relationship by problem solving for the customer and delivering the ‘extra mile’ level of service that forms the foundation of repeat business.

It’s just one example of how co-operative working between suppliers and merchants can help drive stronger business relationships, and how merchants should expect more from their suppliers, whether it’s product training, customisable literature or guaranteed delivery deadlines, to ensure a smoother supply chain that develops customer loyalty.

Jason Hobson is managing director of Gledhill.