A request for information (RFI) from suppliers is often the first stage in supplier onboarding. By including well-formatted supplier questionnaire in your RFI, you can develop a more efficient supplier selection process and make it easier to review and compare suppliers once you’ve received their responses.
Here are 10 tips for creating supplier questionnaires:
1. Include internal customers early on
Most likely the request for a new supplier or new component came from an internal customer. While initial communication may be focused on specifications and needs, make sure they understand the role you want them to play when reviewing responses. Their input may not be necessary for all sections, such as financials or company background, but you may need them to review technical qualifications. The sooner you let them know they’ll be needed, the easier it will be to approach them with the final responses.
2. Put your best foot forward
A supplier questionnaire may be the first touchpoint you have with a supplier. Are you making a good impression? Take the time to proofread the introductory email and questionnaire questions. If you want to become a preferred customer, set the tone from the very beginning.
3. Segment your suppliers
It may be tempting to send out the same questionnaire to every potential supplier, regardless of industry. In the short term, this may seem like a timesaver, but the frustration experienced by suppliers as they sift through the questions may harm your chances of partnerships in the long run. Create different templates for different categories.
4. Ask for only relevant information
Focus on the situation at hand and whittle down your questions to those that will help you select a supplier. You can always ask for additional details at a later stage. A narrower focus for the supplier questionnaire will help you clarify priorities and make it easier for the supplier to provide you with all the information you need.
5. Group questions by topic
Dividing your questionnaire into various segments simplifies the review process down the line since you can easily send off one section to be reviewed by the relevant stakeholders. It can also help you see whether or not you have forgotten to ask something essential.
6. Include “If yes, then” questions
Yes/No questions are great for their simplicity, but sometimes additional information is needed. Create a space for suppliers to add more details based on their initial response. For example, you might ask, “Does your organization hold a current ISO 9001 certification?” If they answer yes, ask them to attach the document.
7. Request information updates
Suppliers questionnaires aren’t just for new suppliers. If you have a supplier in your portfolio, but you haven’t done business with them in awhile, don’t be afraid to send them the questionnaire. It’s one way you can verify that the information you have on file for them is still accurate and that they are still qualified to provide the products or services you need.
8. Consider compliance and risk
A supplier questionnaire is a chance to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. At this point you shouldn’t be looking at pricing, but you should be looking at what sets suppliers apart from each other. Pay particular attention to questions that can help you identify risk factors before entering into a contract.
9. Put yourself in the suppliers’ footsteps
Before finalizing and sending out your questionnaire to suppliers, send it to a colleague or team member. Ask them to go through it. A second or third set of eyes can help you fix any mistakes or fill in any gaps, saving you the hassle of having to send follow up notices to suppliers about corrections, clarifications or added questions.
10. Guide suppliers through the process
If this is your first interaction with a particular supplier, offer technical assistance, especially if you’ve sent out your questionnaire via an e-sourcing solution. Even the most user friendly tools may require a friendly follow-up phone call or email. Some tools even include a message board that allows you to send out notifications to all suppliers at once, making it even easier to assist suppliers who have questions during the process.
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