Red Flags of Alibaba Series: #3 When Your Factory is a Bad Communicator

Mar 14, 2024 | 0 comments

This red flag number 3 can slowly torture you.

I have a feeling you may nod along and appreciate this one. We’ve all lived it in some form or fashion when dealing with businesses…

This red flag is easy to overlook but will make your life a living nightmare later.

Red Flag 3: Working With a Bad Communicator

Here’s the scenario:

Pricing is great. Samples look good. The lead time is suitable.

➤ But the factory has always been slow to respond.

➤ Or responses have been vague.

➤ Only some questions receive answers.

➤ Different people answer each time.

➤ And follow ups aren’t made.

Does any of this sound familiar?

In the face of exhaustion—after shortlisting suppliers for weeks—it can be very tempting to try to brush it off and want to move forward. But more often than not that will be a mistake.

A very painful mistake.

Over time, bad communication can cause many issues.

Let’s break it down:

(A) Unexpected changes to your product

This one makes the hair on my neck stand up. There are factories who will—rather than tell you about an issue or challenge—decide to just deal with it.

The end result? An altered product that you only find out about during your pre-shipment inspection. By that time it’s normally too late or very difficult to make corrections.

(B) Delays, delays, delays

There’s nothing worse than seeing your stock levels dwindle and hearing that your order has been delayed.

Worse, you only find out when YOU ask for a status update.

(C) Increased costs

This can happen with any supplier. But it’s more likely to be a “surprise” with a factory who is a bad communicator.

And there’s few things worse than getting surprised by a price increase halfway through your order. By then you will have little room to negotiate or adjust your budget.

So what’s a brand to do?

I often think of factory communication as having two main aspects:

(1) Strong written and oral communication

This means the supplier is accessible, organized, and quick to respond.

They answer all of your questions, not skipping any.

And if you propose a video call they are willing to jump on.

(2) Level of cooperation

We often throw around the term “配合度” (cooperation level) on our team when talking about new factories.

It’s important because it entails how willing a factory is to work with the client on getting all of the details right.

If you have a mismanaged factory or one that doesn’t take your order seriously (for various reasons) they may become short in their replies or stop replying altogether.

Or sometimes, despite good communication, a factory may not budge on minimum order quantities, pricing, or customization.

Overall, listen to your gut. If you notice or sense this red flag early on, pay close attention to avoid future pain.

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