Problem Resolution Management; What to Expect from the Unexpected

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We all would love to say that when working on projects that everything always goes according to plan, right? From time to time, we all know that things happen and honest mistakes can be made. Sometimes those mistakes are internal to your business; made by an employee or contractor which present a certain challenge. Other times mistakes can be credited to your supplier partner. If it’s the latter, what’s important is how you work with your supplier to reach an equitable solution through problem resolution management.

Communication is Key
When working on any order or project for one of your clients, it’s always best to stay in close communication with your supplier. Clearly define the expectations and desired results, outline specific information and get everything in writing. Particularly, confirm all pricing, including specials fees, your client’s in hands date and their approval of the order. When there is a tight timeline, keep in mind that any changes made could impact the expected date of delivery. Document your timeline carefully and when in doubt, ask for confirmation that your project is still on time and on budget. And get that in writing just in case you need to refer back should problems arise.

When Your Plan Goes Out the Window
Despite our best efforts, you can get that call that suddenly makes your day a mess. When this happens, go back to your documentation and review to discern where things may have gone wrong. Be honest if you realize that YOU have made a mistake. If you have a good supplier partner, it’s best to reach out and admit your mistake, not find a way to place the blame elsewhere. If they value the relationship, they should offer to help resolve the situation with you to keep your client happy. In turn, they will keep your business and continue to grow the relationship, which is best for all parties.

However, if you realize that the mistake was made by your supplier, gather your documentation and clearly state in writing the facts. Remember to be professional and courteous because you will need your supplier’s help to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. The old saying goes, “you get further with honey, than with vinegar.”

After clearly stating the facts and providing documentation, your supplier should seek to find a solution that meets you client’s expectation and yours. Depending on the circumstances that may or not be possible, but stay positive. What’s important is to work together on addressing your client’s needs first which may take some creativity. For example, if your client is expecting an order that is for an event and your supplier calls stating they cannot fulfill the expected quantity, suggest that they provide an alternative at a discounted price. The alternative may even be of higher quality as a balm to you client for not being able to provide the agreed upon product. It may be a credit on a future order, or even an additional item not expected, but that is complimentary.

When negotiating with your supplier, have an idea of how you would like them to fix the problem, because you have the right to ask but be prepared just in case you don’t get it.

And When You Don’t Agree
What happens when you have an expectation of how you would like the problem resolved and your supplier doesn’t agree? Keep your client’s needs in mind first and foremost, and stay calm. It is human nature to let our emotions get the best of us, but this is where we can create more problems unnecessarily. If your supplier isn’t willing to budge, you have to consider what they are willing to do, in conjunction with, what you may HAVE to do for your client. No one wants to lose money on an order, but if the client is a good client, it might be a necessity. Then, it’s safe to say, you have to decide when it’s time to part ways with your supplier, if the relationship is no longer profitable.

Financially, you can decide to pursue further recourse if you determine the repercussions warrant this step. Proceed with caution and seek expert advice from an independent mediator or legal counsel. Certainly, as much as this should be avoided, sometimes it’s necessary.

Lastly, just know that problems may happen. The difference between a vendor and a true partner is how they handle these problems. Having a great partner will help you navigate through and even sometimes, come out looking like a hero to your client when you save the day.

AboutMichele Cardello

Michele Cardello joined Proforma in April of 2014. Prior to joining Proforma, Michele spent 17 years in the Professional Photography industry as a senior executive specializing in Marketing & Sales. Michele is excited to begin a new journey as Proforma’s Director of Strategic Partner Development, which is great, because she loves to travel, explore new surroundings and read (lots of time to read when traveling!)

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