Utilize Structured Systems and Automation to Improve Vendor Responsiveness
It happens to everyone. You send out an inquiry to a vendor. A few days pass and no one replies. You email, you text, you leave a voicemail. A few more days pass, and finally you get a response.
This is especially troublesome with vendor risk assessment questionnaires and other documentation required for your third-party reviews and compliance. You can’t properly assess vendor risk without answers to this questionnaire or follow-up documents.
What do you do when critical vendors are out of compliance? You can employ a combination of policies and tactics to spur more responsiveness.
Why vendors don’t respond
Some vendors can seem distant and aloof after onboarding. How does it get to this point?
Before entirely blaming the vendor, consider how communication can easily get backed up or ignored. For instance, email isn’t always the best means of correspondence. Most vendors receive a massive number of daily inquiries. A vague email may not grab a vendor’s attention. In addition, the primary contact for the service you’re receiving from a vendor may not be the best contact to get the information you’re seeking.
A vendor may be disorganized, and your attempts at reaching out is simply getting lost. You must also consider time zone differences. Some vendors even stubbornly prefer a face-to-face talk.
What can you do if you’re locked into a contract with an unresponsive vendor?
Setting the tone of a vendor relationship
Remember that you’re talking to a person. Each interaction affects future conversations. It’s important, however, that you set the tone for your relationship with a vendor from the start:
- Communication is key. Talking to vendors in the right way can change the quality of that relationship. Help your vendors serve you better by making your expectations known early and often.
- Simplify and streamline your questionnaires. Reduce the amount of questions you send to the contact. There’s no reason to send 186 questions to a vendor when 15 will get the job done. You may also subdivide your full vendor questionnaire into segments and send them to the most appropriate contacts within a vendor. For example, send the legal lead the questions surrounding compliance and the IT lead those on cybersecurity and data protection. People are more likely to respond when the questions they face are relevant to their job responsibilities.
- The best way to guarantee a response is to include the vendor’s responsiveness as a contractual requirement. This eliminates any ambiguity. You’re also covered if terminating the vendor relationship is necessary. You have it on paper that they violated the contract by not responding.
Open the lines of communication
A VRM solution can open the lines of communication with vendors and help you automate. You can manage vendor records, contracts, documents, and questionnaires with the right software. You’ll gain visibility into who has responded and who hasn’t, and how long the request has been outstanding.
A good VRM software product will also provide various types of questionnaires for your vendor evaluation and due diligence needs.
Your solution can help you process and review when information is submitted through questionnaires. Supporting vendor documentation should be linked to responses. The risk can then be rated based on the responses with a summary view that can be reviewed with subject matter experts and your business owners.
Of course, none of this can be done if the vendors don’t complete the questionnaires or respond to your inquiries. A powerful VRM solution can handle this by automating the request and receipt functionality. This greatly reduces the frustration of repeatedly reaching out to vendors. And in the event of contract termination, you’ll have the features and tools you need to document and archive records.