The Importance of your Factory Relationship
Chinese factories service literally every country in the world. Each factory has hundreds or thousands of customers. How are you going to stand out?
Your attitude can decide your success or failure, but ultimately your factory relationship will decide the difference between high quality and low quality goods.
Every factory has the capability to do a good job. Depending on the tier of factory you're working with, different skills will be lacking from their team. Experience with certifications, experience with foreign trade, ability to source the proper quality of raw materials, communication skills, transparency, directness and common sense all fall under skills that may be lacking. It's your job to ensure that the relationship with the factory is good, so that the goods can be made not only on time, but also properly.
Working with Chinese factories is not the same as working with American factories. Just because money has changed hands does not guarantee that your goods will be made properly. It in fact has very little bearing. They're very happy to send you a pile of crap and keep your money.
Also, just because the factory hasn't contacted you with questions or issues does not mean that the goods will not have any issues. In fact, that could be a bad sign. If the factory does not stay in constant contact, they could be attempting to cover up issues or resolve them without your assistance--neither of which are desirable outcomes for an entrepreneur.
How can you build a good relationship with your factory?
Every good relationship is built on communication. Just because you are halfway around the world, that does not give you the excuse to treat your factory like robots. They're far from it. You need to show them that you care about them, so they will care about you.
How to show you care? Here's 5 strategies that we've found effective:
1. Get to know your Rep
That's right. Even if they say their English is poor, hop on the phone, wechat video or Skype with them. Get to know your sales rep. Ask them about their family and what they enjoy to do. These are real people, just like you. So act like it!
2. Spend plenty of time on your contract and P.O.
Triple check every detail. This isn't just for your benefit, this is because in Chinese culture, spending an excessive amount of time on something shows how deeply you care.
In my first meeting with a client, she rushed to finish up the meeting with the factory boss, so as not to waste his time. That's how business goes in America. I had to pull her aside after the meeting and tell her that her rushed behavior made it seem as if she did not care about the quality or outcome of her product. The next meeting was more than 3 hours long; she definitely took my advice to heart!
This is Chinese culture. Take your time. Pretend like this is the most important part of your week (it probably is, in fact).
3. Visit or Send Gifts
Get their address. Go visit if you can. They LOVE factory visits. They typically sit around and translate emails in English all day, and rarely meet a customer. Make the business trip or hire someone to do so (like us).
If you can't (even if you can) send gifts! Your factory will LOVE to receive something special from your home country. They will post about it all over Wechat, and will feel so proud.
It's a cheap alternative to having fault goods! ;)
4. Find any way to stay on the top of their head
Along the same lines as call your rep - find a way to stay on the top of their head. Emailing them everyday is one strategy, but c'mon... it's annoying. Connect with them on Wechat or QQ. Make it easy for them to ping you and vice versa. Call or Skype them. Take that extra step and stay in frequent touch. It's a LOT easier to get a response on frequent small items, and even easier to get a response if you combine this tip with one of the others!
5. Learn a little Chinese
Seriously. A 你好 or 你吃饭了吗 can go a LOT further than you'd think. That's "ni hao"--how are you--and "ni chi fan le ma"--have you eaten, yet? for the record. ;)
Showing that you care enough to invest time in learning how to communicate with them goes a long way. Don't have time? Yes you do. It will only take a few minutes. Head over to youtube and search a few phrases. Listen and learn.
The more you learn, the more you show you care, and the more they'll care about you. They'll remember the funny foreigner who asked them for tips on pronunciation.