HOW TO…Manage Supplier Complaints


Author: Margaret Gilbert

This is an issue that fortunately does not occur regularly. The fact reflects however in how complaints are managed. It has to be said that buyers are often taken aback when a complaint is made. The normal reaction is to deny that there is an issue.

Suppliers have a right to ask for answers but they have to do it right. This often does not occur.

Steps to manage:

  1. Acknowledge the complaint
  2. Review the issue
  3. Get a ‘fresh eye’ to look over the documentation
  4. Discuss internally
  5. Discuss with supplier
  6. Make a decision
  7. Communicate decision

The main question is: does the complaint have merit. An open mind is required to look at the issue strategically.

What can be learnt – you can learn from what has occurred, even if you are right – and especially if you were wrong – for next time.

Keeping an open mind – It is important to keep an open mind and take the time to investigate. We should not assume that we have not made an error.

At completion – what then? It is useful to review actions and to assess for next time what lessons can be learnt and to put in place additional systems and procedures.

Is ignoring an option – no, this is not an option.

Useful checklist:

  1. Have you collected all the facts?
  2. Have you documented the procurement and kept on file?
  3. Is the complaint specific, vague or frivolos?

The answers will provide a way to manage.

Suppliers have the right to complain but they need to provide factual documentation providing reasoning for their complaint. You should follow the particular complaint process.

How to reduce room for complaints

It would be useful to ensure that the documentation is clear and concise and that the procurement process is open so all can participate. All suppliers to be treated the same. That supplier information is kept confidential and for buyers to provide feedback to bidders.

These are ways to ensure that there is less reason for complaints to be made. The vital issue is to ensure procurement transparency.


Managing complaints is essential for transparency and to make sure that both parties are operating in the right way. Documenting the procurement process is essential and can provide the reasoning for how a decision was made.

We cannot ignore or deny there is an issue. Mistakes can be made, this has to be acknowledged and dealt with. Inaction can lead to bigger problems and outcomes.

The principles of procurement namely transparency and accountability have to be paid attention to.


About Author

Procurement and Supply Australasia (PASA) is the leading provider of information and education to procurement and supply professionals throughout Australia and New Zealand. PASA supports the largest community of engaged procurement stakeholders in the region, through its renowned series of events, publications, awards, plus various community and network building activities. PASA is a trading name of BTTB Marketing, for many years recognised as the leading producer of conferences and events for the procurement profession in Australia and New Zealand. Whether producing under the BTTB, CIPSA Conferences or now PASA brands over the last ten years, our events have consistently led the market in terms of both educational and networking opportunities.

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