By Fabien Gaussorgues
I must have read or heard “this information should be provided by the customer” hundreds of times. It comes from manufacturers, traders, sourcing agents — all living in China, whether they are Chinese or westerners.
Naturally the customer is supposed to know his/her products best. However there are often choices that call for an expertise the buyer may not possess. The buyer is in an uncomfortable situation and has to decide on a complex issue with little understanding of all the factors involved.
Let’s take a very simple example that happened last week, to illustrate this issue. The supplier was a local foreign (non-Chinese) company.
The American customer provided a color reference for his product based on the RBG standard. The supplier’s feedback was immediately that RGB cannot be printed, and they need a Pantone uncoated number. The customer had no industrial background and was obviously at a loss. He gave a color reference and simply wanted to get the same color on his product.
What did we do? It was simple. There are multiple online converters for color references — among which, the correspondence in the Pantone book to a RGB reference. We sent it to the customer for acceptance. The customer was happy to just confirm the decision, instead of looking for an answer on a problem he doesn’t understand fully.
This is what I call being a ‘solution provider’ than a ‘problem provider’.
I face this issue with my team too. Especially with new comers that simply transfer the suppliers’ questions to our clients. It happens nearly every day.
Thinking of solutions in China is crucial. I brings trust and professionalism. And it helps foreign buyers understand how China business works. It makes communication and operations smoother.
The most common problems are related to what every buyer needs to go through:
- QC inspections (what is an acceptance quality limit, what is considered a major defect, what to include in the inspection checklist…)
- Logistics (what incoterms such as FOB mean, the BL, LCL vs. FCL…)
- The order process (PI, PO, contracts…)
- Compliance (RoHS, FCC, FDA, UL, CE…)
- What do when quality issues are found
- And much more.
All those concepts generate multiple questions. Importers with limited experience need some guidance, otherwise they have no idea what is the best fit for their needs. Buying in China would be so much easier if suppliers suggested the best ‘next step’.
This attitude is actually similar within a company. Managers don’t want to learn about problems — ideally, employees would also suggest options and solutions.
You can educate your suppliers to change their attitude and be more constructive. It doesn’t always work, but when it does succeed you can more easily make them your long term partner.