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Sherlock Ohms

It Takes a Good Vendor to Get a Good Outcome

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Rob Spiegel
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It takes a village
Rob Spiegel   10/8/2013 8:45:15 AM
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Nice story Jay. This is a good example of the importance of strong ties along the supply chain. For the vendor, this is customer relationship management as its best.

Nancy Golden
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Re: It takes a village
Nancy Golden   10/8/2013 12:54:34 PM
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Rob, I agree - I also enjoyed Jay's story and it reminded me of my old days working for Dallas Semiconductor (which had Mostek roots) and Optek Technology (who moved into the old Mostek building in Texas). One thing I would like to elaborate on - regarding the term vendor. I think Jay was so successful because he went directly to the manufacturer - he most likely spoke with the product engineer that was assigned that family of devices. The amount of testing and characterization product engineering is responsible for would give them details and information that would not necessarily show up on a spec sheet - like the story that Jay related. In industry parlance, the word vendor might also mean a third party distributor who might have a good basic knowledge of a device's functionality - but for the tricky questions, going to the manufacturer like Jay did is typically your best bet.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It takes a village
Rob Spiegel   10/8/2013 1:16:57 PM
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Good point, Nancy. I know it can be tricky getting to the right person, especially if you're working through a distributor. I know one distributor that arranges three-way conversations that include the customer and the manufacturer in cases such as this one. That's good customer relations.

Nancy Golden
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Re: It takes a village
Nancy Golden   10/8/2013 1:31:05 PM
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Not only is it good customer relations, Rob - it also speaks to the value of developing good relationships with your vendors, regardless of where they fall in the supply chain. I consistently used one specific third party vendor over and over again because of their tremendous customer service. That made them look good to their primaries since we were buying lots and lots of test equipment with projects constantly in the queue. Not only that, it was obvious that the distributor and the manufacturer worked as a team - which really increased their effectiveness and as a result, mine as well.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It takes a village
Rob Spiegel   10/8/2013 3:45:16 PM
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Good examples, Nancy. I've seen a number of distributor/manufacturer alliances that help both companies succeed. I've seen these alliances visit with key customers to demonstrate new technology and offer on-site training. This happens when the focus is on the needs of the customer. 

Mydesign
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Re: It takes a village
Mydesign   10/9/2013 4:29:04 AM
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"Not only is it good customer relations, Rob - it also speaks to the value of developing good relationships with your vendors, regardless of where they fall in the supply chain."

You are right Nancy. Without customers, there is no business, so by keeping this in mind business units has to establish good cordial relations with their customers. If customers are happy, they will refer more customers to their vendors. There is an old saying "Customer is the King'

Nancy Golden
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Re: It takes a village
Nancy Golden   10/9/2013 9:47:11 AM
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The problem with "There is an old saying "Customer is the King'" is that it is an old saying, Mydesign. That concept was drilled into us when I worked at Taco Plaza as a teenager. Unfortunately regarding retail and food service, that concept seldom holds true anymore. Customer service has gone down dramatically in many companies that I regarded as solid brands over the years. Retail shops are very complacent about providing any additional help.  50% of the time if you walk into a fast food restaurant, it will be difficult to find a clean table although the restaurant is practically empty.The level of care we grew up with simply does not exist. In industry however, this type of attitude can kill a company. I wonder if it is because niche vendors have more at stake customer service-wise, then retail markets where the consumers number in the millions...

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It takes a village
Rob Spiegel   10/9/2013 11:38:34 AM
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Nancy, talk about fast food customer service stories, I heard a good one about Ray Kroc when he ran MacDonald's. He was driving to a restaurant with a district manager and noticed that a fence right next to the restaurant had a bunch of wrappers and trash blown up against it. The district manager said, "I'll call that manager and ask that the trash be piclked up right now." Ray Kroc replied, "Tell the manager I'll be out there helping to pick up the trash." I would imagine trash never built up on that fence again as long as that manager was in charge.

Mydesign
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Re: It takes a village
Mydesign   10/14/2013 9:30:53 AM
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"The problem with "There is an old saying "Customer is the King'" is that it is an old saying, Mydesign. That concept was drilled into us when I worked at Taco Plaza as a teenager. Unfortunately regarding retail and food service, that concept seldom holds true anymore."

Nancy, still I feel that the slogan is valid. According to you, what's the new concept?

Nancy Golden
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Re: It takes a village
Nancy Golden   10/14/2013 9:46:29 AM
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My design, the slogan is valid in some corporate cultures and a local fast food franchise, Boston Market, exemplifies customer service every time we eat there. But I have gone into a large retail electronics franchise on several occasions (different locations) needing service only to watch bored young employees standing in clusters talking among themselves. Approaching the group with a request for help, one employee would reluctantly tear themselves away, and escape any service as soon as possible. This behavior would never be tolerated "back in the day." Tech support has gone downhill - either it is nonexistent, it has so many layers to get to a knowledgeable person that it is an exercise in frustration, or a fee is charged. I think there are still some companies that focus on customer service, but there are different facets to the problem for those who don't. Some are simply financial decisions as to how much service is extended, some have to do with resource allocation, some simply with company philosophy, and part of the problem is that there has been a value shift in our culture with an intense focus on self, and that does not translate well to "Customer is King" from the employee's perspective. Of course that opens up a whole other topic that belongs under a more cultural-sociological venue.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It takes a village
Ann R. Thryft   10/17/2013 6:34:23 PM
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I've had experiences exactly like Nancy's, and I, too, remember when such lousy service and attitudes would never be tolerated. This discussion makes me wonder if this is one reason so many people have gone to online shopping. My main reason for shopping online is finding stuff not offered locally, and that's probably a big reason for many. But I also wonder how many people have gone to online because in person can be such an awful experience.

Nancy Golden
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Re: It takes a village
Nancy Golden   10/17/2013 7:52:26 PM
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Actually Ann, that is one of the reasons that I hesitate to online shop. I still have a strong desire for human interaction in the buying process regarding products that I am not familiar with. I only buy online when I am confident in the product and am fairly certain I won't need customer service. I still go to a brick and mortar if I think it's a possibility so that i will have some alternatives if I have problems - I really dislike the hassle of mailing returns and paying shipping when shipping for returns are not guaranteed. No matter how inconvenient or incompetent the customer service I receive at the un-named electronics store... I can always go to their management level to get satisfaction. Fun and happy experience - maybe not - but beats the alternative of mail refunds or nonexistent help when problems arise.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: It takes a village
Ann R. Thryft   10/21/2013 1:02:51 PM
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Nancy, I've had lousy experiences shopping online, too. But not nearly as many as I used to have, and not nearly as many as I've had in person. I buy mostly books, music, clothes, shoes, cosmetics, household goods and appliances online. Most of those I purchase from known, trusted sources with good customer service. And if I get lousy customer service from one individual at a trusted source I complain: loudly and a lot, until the problem is fixed. I do agree about the shipping charges for returns--that's the biggest turnoff for me. But in all of these categories I don't have a choice: I have to buy online because whatever it is isn't available locally.

Mydesign
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Re: It takes a village
Mydesign   10/21/2013 11:38:35 PM
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"But I have gone into a large retail electronics franchise on several occasions (different locations) needing service only to watch bored young employees standing in clusters talking among themselves. Approaching the group with a request for help, one employee would reluctantly tear themselves away, and escape any service as soon as possible"

Nancy, I think they have been employed for helping and briefing the products to customers. If similar things happened, it's an indisciplinary action and the customer has the right to complain about it.

Mydesign
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Deliverables
Mydesign   10/9/2013 4:25:29 AM
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"This experience showed me that, when your own efforts to understand a problem and its environment aren't enough, reaching out for additional expertise without delay can make the difference between good outcomes and slow, costly ones. It also underscores the value of good relationships with good vendors."

Jay, you are absolutely right. Only good vendors can do deliver good outcomes. The basic thing is only good vendors are able to employee good technicians/ service/developers and hence their deliverables are also prompt with high quality/standards.

Tool_maker
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Re: Deliverables
Tool_maker   10/9/2013 4:51:44 PM
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@Mydesign: Oh how I wish you were correct all of the time. I work for a vendor of sheet metal fabricating tooling. Too often we lose jobs because the customer's purchasing departments look only at the initial cost. We sell quality dies, on time, and stand behind what we produce, but many times there is little customer loyalty in business. Just as Nancy said in an earlier post, things have changed. However, it is not only in the customer service aspect of customer/vendor relations, but at the other end where we have a long relationship, but lose a contract for a few bucks to a new vendor.

  I just reread what I said and realize that is the way we probably got new customers as well and such is the way of the free enterprise system. Some times life stinks.

Mydesign
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Re: Deliverables
Mydesign   10/14/2013 9:11:55 AM
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"However, it is not only in the customer service aspect of customer/vendor relations, but at the other end where we have a long relationship, but lose a contract for a few bucks to a new vendor."

Tool_maker, it's all depends up on the customer. Certain point of time they prefer a cost effective solution and on other time quality rather than cost. So we won't be able to predict what comes on which way

chris.raymond@intusurg.com
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Other old memories with address quirks
chris.raymond@intusurg.com   10/9/2013 1:46:06 PM
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I think the old 2102 1K static RAMs had a related issue.  The Intel datasheet stated that CS* must be high during all address transitions.  Other vendors did not have this requirement.  Apparently there were dynamic nodes in the address path on the Intel parts.  So you could step through memory by holding CS* low and incrementing the address bus on all but the Intel parts.  Ah the good old days.

 

-Chris

bobjengr
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GOOD VENDORS
bobjengr   10/21/2013 5:42:39 PM
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MyDesign--I agree completely.  There was a time, back in the dark ages, when a company would work jointly with a vendor in applying his product to an assembly or subassembly.  I always considered them to have necessary expertise on their product and understood the limits of acceptability relative to THEIR design and design intent.  When satisfied, we would never "shop" the outcome but gave the PO and contract to the vendor working with us in supplying the information.  We considered them to be invaluable.  Excellent post Jay.

Mydesign
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Re: GOOD VENDORS
Mydesign   10/21/2013 11:41:42 PM
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"I agree completely.  There was a time, back in the dark ages, when a company would work jointly with a vendor in applying his product to an assembly or subassembly.  I always considered them to have necessary expertise on their product and understood the limits of acceptability relative to THEIR design and design intent. "

Bobjengr, now also most of the retailers are like brand ambassador or feedback collector for the companies. They are persons, who know well about the pulse of customers and business.

William K.
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Re: GOOD VENDORS
William K.   10/25/2013 8:13:41 PM
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The concept of rewarding the PO to the vendor who supplied the effort to make their product work well in an application was totally lost on a bunch of purchasing people at one company. And it caused a great deal of hard feelings and lost support as things got more complicated and the need for support increased. The purchasing trolls would take our assistance providing vendors price and post it, asking "can you beat this price?" When I found out about it I made my case by pointing out that the very small savings in purchase price were no where nearly as great as the value of the assistance we had been given. But I still had to hammer on purchasing repeatedly. Like most MBA types they had no concept of anything except the daily profit figures. That company no longer exists except in history books, which is too bad, since it was a fun place to work much of the time.

jbswindle
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Re: GOOD VENDORS
jbswindle   10/25/2013 9:53:10 PM
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Some very large companies require that all procurement be done exclusively by a purchasing department that, in some cases, may be in another state and have no responsibility to engineering at all.  I know of one company that threatens termination to engineers who talk procurement with vendors at all.  Bottom line is that engineers benefit from finishing their tasks on time and on budget, procurement benefits from cutting costs, and this puts them at odds with each other. 

Mostek was probably willing to bite the bullet in this case because of an ongoing excellent and very close relationship with my company.  Mostek alternate sourced Zilog product and in addition to significant RAM procurement my company procured much of its needed Z80 family parts from Mostek as well.  The problem of distributer support of design effort with subsequent loss of purchasing selection predates this story and remains a hazard to both needy engineers and helpful vendors.

William K.
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Re: GOOD VENDORS
William K.   10/26/2013 10:05:30 PM
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JB, that may be why the purchasing folks wear all kinds of gold and have diamond studded Rollex watches. They also drove much nicer cars and lived in much nicer areas. And sometimes we even got to hear te explanations as to why they did so very well. And the public explanations were never believable.

I am talking about some areas of Chrysler purchasing in the mid seventies, but not naming names just yet.

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