How Much Can You Really Save If You Switch Suppliers?

I was a little flabbergasted by this recent article over on on how switching suppliers will save billions in the UK. While there are often savings to be had if you are willing to switch suppliers, the reality is that the savings, once the total cost is calculated and the total value derived, is never as much as you expect, especially if the product you are buying isn’t a true commodity. And even if it is, there are other considerations. Consider the following categories:

  • Office supplies
    Okay, you can always get a better quote. But remember that delivery charges often aren’t fixed (and will usually increase beyond the average rate of increase by the local delivery company) and the better the deal you get on negotiated SKUs, the more they’ll overcharge you on anything off contract (and, if you’re not watching, charge you even more than what you would pay in the office supply store down the street). The “loss leader” is always designed with your loss in mind.
  • Communications
    Okay, you can always get a cheaper (mobile) plan. But the cheaper the plan, the more you pay on overages, roaming, and long distance (LD). Have an executive with an unpredictable travel schedule? Watch your roaming and LD costs skyrocket! Have an organization where 20% of users don’t fit the basic plan profiles? Watch your overage costs skyrocket! For every penny you save, you’ll lose it somewhere else.
  • Janitorial Services
    You’ll always find someone cheaper. But they won’t necessarily do as thorough a job, and if you’re not careful, they might skip the background check and you might come in some day to replace the backup drive only to realize that the backup drive is gone!
  • Contingent Labour Management (CLM)
    You’ll always get a better quote, but the less a CLM firm gets to fill a position, the less incentive they have to spend the time to find the best person for the job, especially if your competitor is paying them more to fill that same position. And, in the long run, the few hundred you save costs you a few thousand (or tens of thousand) in productivity losses.
  • Custom Manufacturing Services
    You’ll always get a better quote, but what will you sacrifice in quality? And what if they put lead in the paint, melamine in the milk, or bisphenol A in the plastic? Then what?!?
  • Advertising Services
    I’ve no doubt that you can cut any quote in half, but advertising isn’t about cost, it’s about the revenue it helps you generate. Is it really worth hiring a B player at half the cost when the A player is five times as likely to come up with a campaign that helps the organization double sales?

So while you should definitely be willing to change suppliers, don’t rush a decision and be sure to let your current supplier compete in the go-to-market if they have been serving you well. Sometimes all they need to find savings (either by being more aggressive on margin or on innovation and finding more creative ways to serve you at a lower price point) is a little incentive. And remember, it’s not worth switching for 5% that will never materialize unless it’s a multi-million dollar contract. And even then …

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