What Does Good Supplier Feedback Really Look Like?

It’s a key step in the procurement process for tenders and post-project reviews, but we need to improve how we manage supplier feedback.

You’ve reached the end of your tender exercise, the contract has been awarded and you’re organising the kick-off meetings. But wait, there’s a step you may have forgotten – supplier feedback.

Supplier feedback is a critical tool for procurement, whether it is used during the tender process, or as part of Supplier Relationship Management efforts within the organisation. However, procurement professionals could be accused of carrying out supplier feedback poorly, either leaving it as an afterthought or omitting it from the process completely.

If supplier feedback is a component of your organisation’s practices, it is critical to ensure that the information you provide is constructive, and can be used by the suppliers to improve their performance effectively. In order for procurement to improve, we need to understand what good supplier feedback really looks like.

Why provide feedback?

Why should we take the time to provide supplier feedback? It isn’t necessary for all tenders, orders or relationships. The simple answer – high value tenders and strategic relationships are worth focusing time and resources on and working with suppliers to receive responses.

Providing feedback not only recognises supplier efforts and shows appreciation, but it is impactful across multiple areas of practice:

  • Provides unsuccessful suppliers with the information they need to make improvements for future tender responses;
  • Demonstrates transparency in the award of contracts, and shows that everything has been evaluated fairly and in line with tender criteria;
  • Enables suppliers to provide their own expertise and feedback on specific areas of the procurement process or relationship management;
  • Increases the likelihood of unsuccessful suppliers bidding on future tenders (if you are taking the feedback on board);
  • Strengthens relationships within your supply chain, supporting continuity of supply and innovative working.

How to provide feedback

The method of providing feedback to the supplier will largely depend on the nature of the relationship and/or the value and complexity of the tender. Lower value tenders can be covered by a written response via letter or email. However, strategic relationships and high value tenders should have feedback delivered via phone call or face-to-face meeting where possible.

For tenders, all suppliers – including the successful ones – should be invited into the feedback process. Some may not take up the offer, but it will show them that you value their input by making it in the first place. For SRM activities, you should involve strategic suppliers or those you are hoping for a closer relationship with in the future.

Take care to capture information being shared so you can provide a copy to the supplier and keep one for your own records. You never know when having that detailed information may help you out.

What ‘good’ looks like

We know what good feedback feels like when we get it ourselves, and it shouldn’t be any different for our suppliers. 

At the outset, you should thank the supplier for taking the time to respond to the tender. Then, set out what the feedback will cover and, if this relates to a tender, how your scoring and evaluation was carried out.

Once you’ve provided the context, you can dive into the feedback:

  • Make clarifications – deal with any questions the supplier has on the process, evaluation, or project outcomes;
  • Don’t wing it, be prepared – have all the necessary information prepared beforehand. If you need to follow up after the debrief to give more detail, that’s fine;
  • Avoid an excess of feedback focusing on the negatives – make sure you tell your suppliers what went well and the strengths of their responses or actions;
  • Don’t criticise, be constructive – provide areas for improvement against evaluation criteria or project KPIs (it’s important for lessons learned and working with these suppliers in the future);
  • Be honest – no supplier will thank you for not being fully open or lying in feedback, it does no-one any good and undermines trust.

Use this template as a foundation for your communications, and add elements of your personalised process as you get more practiced at giving feedback. Our top tips to ace your negotiations are also extremely helpful for giving supplier feedback!

Make it two-way

Remember: good supplier feedback is a two-way street. You should be requesting feedback from your suppliers as a standard part of tenders or reviews. This gives them an opportunity to provide their thoughts and insights on tender processes, company documentation and what might be improved in the future.

The UK supermarket industry has come in for criticism in the recent past regarding their dealings with suppliers. Under the spotlight of the industry’s feedback loop is the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) annual survey, which will be particularly important this year as retailers and suppliers continue to work in an environment impacted by COVID-19 and Brexit.

Providing the opportunity for feedback will ensure that your suppliers feel like their opinions and expertise are valued, and encourage them to actively pursue strategic relationships with procurement for future contracts. Strong strategic supplier relationships have a foundation of collaborative working, trust and communication: ensuring consistent two-way feedback will not only strengthen your existing relationships, but also help to develop new ones too.

So the next time you’re wrapping up your tender exercises, remember to include supplier feedback. Your suppliers will thank you for it and you never know, it might just give you some information to make your procurement activities better than ever.

Want to learn more about building the best supplier relationships? The Vested business model is here to help.

Join Kate Vitasek on 20 May 2021 for a session on making Vested relationships work for your organisation. This exclusive session is for The Faculty Roundtable members. For more information on The Faculty Roundtable, please contact [email protected].