Procurement communication is a two-way street

By Louis Hof

November 30, 2015

Procurement at all levels of government needs fixing — the current focus is on the processes rather than the outcomes.

A large component of this is something most of us would see as a very basic expectation: communication. And our expectations have changed.

In the digital age we’ve come to demand 24/7 direct communication with any organisation or person through a variety of channels, from social media to email, text and of course telephone.

Having open channels of communication for your organisation is vital — now more than ever — and if you’re not seen to be “on” and responsive at any time, this can be detrimental to your organisation’s reputation.

I’ve noticed that in an age where online communication rules — think email, live chat, Twitter, Facebook — it is actually becoming more difficult to establish two-way communication with organisations, both public and private.

This also rings true for governments wanting to procure services.

I have recently experienced the difficulties of two-way communication with both public and private sector organisations, so here are a couple of scenarios I hope others can avoid:

The generic enquiry webform — and nothing else

Having a web enquiry form is fine — as long as it is still two-way communication. The enquiries need to be responded to in a timely way, and it needs to be used to complement the other contact methods.

We were recently asked to register with an organisation and were given the company website as the mechanism for doing so. Unfortunately, the website provided a single communication method — the generic enquiry webform.

To give the company some credit, the enquiry was responded to rapidly, but with a thanks-but-no-thanks reply from a do-not-reply email address containing no other contact information. This was time wasted on our part, and frustration on the part of the contact who genuinely wanted to engage us but was held up by his own organisation’s processes.

Removing human interaction from the tendering process

More often than not, all communication when submitting a tender is done through online portals, with no contact names, email addresses or telephone numbers if you have a query regarding the tender.

As a long term procurement professional, I understand the need for probity, but not to the extent that it becomes detrimental to the operational areas of the organisation achieving optimum outcomes.

Often for a supplier to prepare the best fit proposal, there needs to be a proper dialog with two-way discussion to fully understand the problem and develop a solution, particularly where the buyer’s requirements could be confusing. A supplier is left to make the difficult choice between submitting a generic bid (and if successful, alter the proposal to best suit the client’s actual requirements) or not bidding at all. Neither outcome is in the best interest of the buyer attempting to obtain a value-for-money outcome.

Ultimately, a failure to provide effective communication channels for your customers and stakeholders may have a profound effect on the reputation and viability of your organisation.

In the interests of reversing this trend, you can contact me through my profile below.

Read more at The Mandarin: Rethink the way you look at savings in government procurement

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