With vendors located all over the globe, international conferencing becomes a vital tool in your supply chain management process. While numerous communications methods exist, being able to speak with multiple parties at once can ensure that nothing is overlooked or left to chance. At the same time, being able to hear each other’s tone of voice can prevent misunderstandings and lead to more personal relationships.
Why Use International Conferencing for Vendor Collaboration and Status?
If you only need to speak with one vendor located in another country, using a traditional phone will do the job. However, when other parties such as other vendors, trade consultants, freight forwarders, brokers, and regional team members need to join the call, a traditional phone system may not be the best choice. For starters, your phone system may not be able to support more than a handful of callers at once. In addition, your vendors may face hurdles or restrictions in dialing an international phone number.
An international conference call can overcome these problems. With an international conferencing plan, you can host low-cost global conference calls with as many participants as you would like.
International conferencing overcomes international dialing problems by offering local and toll free numbers for hundreds of countries around the world. This means that your vendors will dial either a local or a toll free number (depending on how you set up the call) that is local to their countries. If you opt for toll free international conferencing, you will be charged per minute, per participant based on each participant’s countries’ calling rates. Alternately, you could set up the international conferencing system to automatically dial each participant’s phone number at the scheduled time. This option works well when calling costs are high as it usually results in a lower per minute rate.
Not only does international conferencing overcome many dialing issues, using a teleconference to collaborate with vendors allows for real-time discussions in an engaging, productive environment. For example, if you need to solve a problem within your supply chain, a teleconference is perfect for asking questions, getting answers, clarifying expectations, and providing guidance. It can also ensure that everyone is on the same page as well as prevent you from having to repeat yourself to multiple participants. You can also record your international conference calls to share with involved parties who might not have been able to participate in person.
Holding More Productive Vendor Meetings with International Conferencing
While international conferencing is easy to set up and use, your time, and the time of your vendors, is valuable. In addition to being respectful of time, holding more productive vendor teleconferences can reduce your international conferencing costs. Though international conferencing is a low-cost alternative to travel, you will incur costs with each conference call you host. Since you pay by the minute per participant, running an efficient teleconference can make a bigger difference than you may realize.
Start by determining the answers to the following questions:
▪ What is the purpose of the call? What is the desired outcome of the call?
▪ Who should attend? Will there be language barriers? Is a translator available?
▪ Will others need time to speak to the group? For example, an engineer may be better able to explain a component’s specs to a manufacturer than you would. If so, it makes sense to invite the engineer to address the vendors during the conference call.
▪ What questions do you need answered?
▪ Which tasks will be assigned and to whom?
▪ What supporting documents should be distributed prior to the call?
▪ How much time should the call last and is this sufficient for the call’s purpose?
▪ What countries are involved? What time zones? What time and date is the most practical for those involved?
▪ Would a recording of the teleconference be helpful to attendees after the fact?
The answers to these questions should guide you in designing an agenda for the call and scheduling it. By defining the purpose and expected outcome in advance, you can then create a focused agenda that moves the teleconference strategically from one key point to the next.
Once you’ve identified who should attend the teleconference, determine if their attendance is absolutely necessary. This can help you in scheduling the call around the most important participants’ schedules and time zones. For example, if you have several vendors in China who absolutely must attend and a warehouse supervisor in Long Beach whose attendance would be nice but not mandatory, you may want to coordinate timing with the vendors in China first to ensure a workable time period for the teleconference. For those secondary individuals who may not need to attend the call in person, consider sending them an MP3 recording of the call to listen to later.
Using international conferencing to communicate with vendors overseas
It is a great way to collaborate and build stronger working relationships. It is also an affordable choice that does not require any travel or specialized equipment. By spending some time planning your international conferencing agenda, you can guide the group through the meeting with focus and purpose.
In addition, a well-planned teleconference respects everyone’s time and keeps international conferencing costs within your desired budget. Make sure everyone is on the same page by using international conferencing regularly for overseas vendor collaboration and status.