When it comes to finding the right equipment supplier, what appear to be relatively minor details can end up being warning signs for the future. You may just glance at the website that your supplier has and decide whether you like the layout, whether the graphics are pleasing to the eye. Yet there are other important factors that you have to pay attention to when reviewing your supplier’s website.
By using the information presented here, you will be able to review a potential supplier’s website quickly. This will not only help you avoid issues later on, but will also assist you to spot potential pitfalls that you will want to avoid.
Do they even have a website?
You might be surprised; there are some legitimate suppliers that do not have a website. Having spoken to some of them before, they suggest that most of their business is done locally and they do not need a website. Nonetheless, it cannot be considered surprising that those companies without a website are perceived as less trustworthy. It is just not a good sign if your potential supplier does not have a website.
If they do have a website, what sort of website do they have? Is this merely a placeholder (e.g. having an online presence because it is “expected”) or do they provide information to current and prospective customers? Your potential supplier having an online presence does not really mean anything unless it actually benefits you in some way.
Just because a supplier has an outdated website, it does not necessarily mean that they are not going to be unable to support your product needs. However, if you see that their latest update on the website is that they will be attending a trade show (back in 2012); it probably does make you a little hesitant about the relevancy of their website. A poorly managed website could also display signs of a poorly managed business. If they are unable to manage their site in a quality manner, is that a symptom of other more serious issues with the supplier?
You may never have to contact your supplier about anything. If at all possible, you might just complete your order – be happy with the delivered product – process your payment – transaction is finalized. Yet it is important that you have ways to contact your prospective supplier before you ever decide to order from them.
You want to see if there is a listed telephone number and a contact form/email. Do not merely assume that contact information by itself is enough. Make the effort and contact them through these methods. Do they respond to the information on their website within a few hours or does it take days before you hear back? If you do get a response, how helpful is their answer?
Similarly, when are they available via phone? Are they available throughout the weekday during normal business hours, or do you find that when you call them, you often end up hearing nothing but a busy tone or just do not get a response?
Determine whether the supplier has a social media profile. Are they on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, do they have a blog of their own? If so, how active are they on these ventures? Do they provide information to their followers or are all the posts little more than self-promotion?
How many followers do they have? Finally, are they actively engaging their followers and addressing possible concerns, or are they merely just sending out gloating status update after status update?
See whether the website actually has information about the key contacts of the company. While it might be comfortable to have the same contact whenever you do business with a supplier, it is still important to have other contact options if necessary.
If you do have a listing of the key personnel for the supplier, look them up online. Find out what type of information is available about these people online. This does not mean that you have to hunt down their Facebook address. It just means out finding out if they are mentioned online, either in a positive or negative manner.
The ‘about us’
There is one place on the website where the company has a chance to “gloat and promote” itself as much as it wants – their “about us” page. This gives them a chance to tell the reader why the company does what it does, what sets it apart from the competition, and where its passions lie.
Even though it is important that the company offer good customer service and good prices, it is also important that you can feel positive about the company you are in business with. Read the “About Us” section in order to get a good understanding of who the company is, where they came from and their vision…it is important to feel comfortable and knowledgeable about the companies you do business with.
Links to authority sites
How credible do you believe that the website is? Does it have lists of authorized manufacturers, certifications, service/warranty info, case studies/testimonials? Are you able to trace these back to ensure that they are genuine or are you just “taking their word for it?”
Check to make sure that there is a physical location that you could go to if “worst come to worst”. The more physical locations there are, the better it is. Even though a single location is not necessarily indicative of a “fly by night” operation, having more than one available certainly increases the legitimacy and strength of the supplier.
Pay attention to the accessible technical information that the website offers as well. There are few things more frustrating than having to wait for an email or a fax that might provide some solutions to a problem that you are having.
Having the information readily available is not just convenient; it can also mean the difference between hours of downtime and having the ability to start looking into solving the problem yourself.
As you can see, looking at the supplier’s website is not just about exploring the website functionality. It is also there to help you evaluate whether you believe that this supplier is going to be a long-term asset for you or if they might have packed their bags in the next few months.
Especially with larger, expensive purchases, keep in mind that you are also evaluating a supplier for their ability to offer ongoing support. If you think that their website is indicative of an inability to do that, chances are that you should think long and hard whether this is the right supplier option for you.