Yet, many vendor relationships are more contentious than they are healthy. Contentious vendor relationships can put a strain on on-site staffs and, worse yet, harm your relationships with residents.
The good news is there are some things you can do to improve relationships with your vendors. Asset Campus Housing and Aspen Heights shared their keys to a successful vendor relationship with us recently.
-Communication. Marriage counselors will tell you that the vast majority of marriage issues revolve around one problem … poor communication. In many ways, your vendor relationships are very much like a marriage. You have a contract with one another, you have expectations of each other and you want to work together in a manner that is mutually beneficial. If you’re not communicating well, there are going to be some challenges. Deadlines could be missed, work might not be completed to your standards, prospects and residents could feel neglected, systems could be down for way too long and people could get upset. In one instance at Asset Campus Housing, a paint vendor started painting all of the doors at a community when the doors weren’t even in the contract.
-Set Expectations Upfront. It seems as if expectations should be obvious during the contract negotiation process. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Demi Sterling-Kinney, vice president of operations for Aspen Heights, uses a standard scope of work for all projects and tends to use repeat vendors who already know their expectations. In addition, the company uses DocuSign to house all of the contracts so the individuals dealing with the vendor know exactly what they’re contracted to complete. But that also requires constant attention. When vendors make mistakes, it’s important to address the issues with them immediately to avoid future surprises.
-Collaborate with all parties, not just the executive level. In order to ensure you are able to effectively monitor your vendors, it’s important that everyone who might come into contact with the vendor has the information they need to manage them. If your regional manager is the only person who has the contract, it’s easy for a manager to lose sight of what that vendor is contracted to do. Often that leads to work not getting done, or to receiving an invoice for work that was never contracted to get done. That confusion can be costly. It’s easy for vendors, especially those who are passionate about their work, to get carried away. Sometimes they will see new things that need to be addressed and just start addressing them without realizing they weren’t in the scope of the job.
Technology, like Entrata’s purchasing and facility management, can play a big role in helping you implement these keys to successful vendor relationships. Today’s tools can:
-Store your contracts and provide controlled access. People who need to see them can access them quickly and easy. The systems can even offer vendors access so they can see what they need to do.
-Provide a communication forum. Nothing is worse than sending an important communication to a contact at your vendor’s corporate office, and it not being shared in a timely manner with the person doing the actual work. If the communication is shared in a group forum that everyone has access to, everyone knows immediately.
-Digital scopes of work. When the vendor uses your system to complete tasks, there’s much less room for error. They know exactly what they have to accomplish, when it needs to be accomplished and to what degree. And the management team can track them easily.
The more collaborative the relationship between you and your vendors, the more effective you can be at providing excellent customer service to your residents and prospective renters. And a little technology can help.