27th Oct 2022

It’s good to talk: why communication is the key to successful customer-supplier relationships

When you report a problem with one of your filters, most suppliers will simply ask you to return it.

You might have to complete a form outlining the issue, but these tend to be generic and give you little room to explain the problem fully. You then have to spend hours on the phone with customer support trying to resolve the issue, which inevitably leads to disruption and frustration.

By contrast, a good filter supplier takes the time to build relationships with every customer. Instead of blanket recalls and standard contact forms, they engage you one-to-one so they can find quick and cost-effective solutions to any problem you face.

We may live in the age of automated chatbots, but there's no substitute for person-to-person support.

The 3 key elements of a strong customer-supplier relationship

1. Trust

Blocked filters can be a real headache in process industries. The quick fix is to replace the blocked filter to get the process up and running again. But the most important thing is to ask why did it block?

  • Did we instal the correct filter?
  • Have process conditions changed? E.g. flowrate, temperature, or sterilisation parameters
  • Has the SOP for the process changed?
  • Has the supply of raw ingredients used in the specification of the filtered fluid changed?

The only way to get to the root cause of the problem is to have an open and trusted relationship with the supplier and discuss all possibilities.

Successful customer-supplier relationships are built on trust. You want to know you can trust your supplier to be upfront and honest with you and feel confident that they'll work with you to find the best solution.

The best suppliers offer more than products. They use their expertise to help you:

  • Optimise your processes
  • Minimise production costs
  • Find tailored solutions to your problems

You should feel comfortable enough to have open discussions with your supplier They should listen, take time to understand your processes, and provide solutions tailored to your needs.

2. Expertise

Expert filter suppliers understand your industry, processes, and requirements. They ask the right questions at the right time, so they can identify your biggest pain points and guide you towards the most cost-effective solution.

More importantly, expert filter suppliers don't pretend to have all the answers and try to bluff their way through conversations. If your point of contact is unsure about something, they're not afraid to ask someone within their organisation that does. And if they need to learn more about your manufacturing process to find a solution, they will.

Download our whitepaper. Discover how the right filtration partner can benefit  your people and your process. 

3. Accessible support

When you have an issue with a process-critical filter, the last thing you want is to spend hours on the phone with customer support being passed from person to person before reaching someone who can help.

Partner with a supplier who makes customer support accessible. Whether you want to talk to someone in dispatch or a technician, you’re never more than a phone call or a few clicks away from support.

How a quick conversation provided the solution for a European pharma company

The problem

Earlier this year, a European pharmaceuticals company contacted us after experiencing issues with one of our 0.2-micron Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) membrane filters.

The company used the product regularly to filter ethyl acetate, heptane, and acetonitrile without encountering any issues. But the customer reported that they couldn't achieve any flow of the acetonitrile through the filter.

After reviewing the written details from the customer, we suspected there might be more to the problem. So, we got in touch with the customer to talk through the issue and discovered the production process was slightly different for the problem batch.

PTFE membranes are inherently hydrophobic. This means they repel aqueous solutions with surface tensions greater than 28dynes/cm. Acetonitrile has a higher surface tension.

The solution

By reviewing the original (satisfactory) production process in detail with the customer, we discovered that the customer was filtering the solvents one after the other through the same filter. The ethyl acetate and heptane were filtered first and this 'wetted' the membrane due to their low surface tension. Pre-wetting the membrane allowed the acetonitrile to flow freely through the membrane.

The new production process used an individual filter for each solvent. The membrane wasn't pre-wetted, and this restricted the flow of the

Further discussions revealed that to achieve the required process specification of the solvents, a depth filter was a more appropriate product. By talking directly with the customer and spending time discussing the process in detail, they now have a more cost-effective filtration solution and one that's applicable for all three fluids.

You can only achieve this type of success if you trust your supplier and share the full details of your production process.

Get talking

Communication is the foundation of all successful supplier relationships. Before choosing a supplier, ask yourself:

  • Are they open and transparent?
  • Can I trust them to look out for my business's best interests?
  • Do they have the experience and industry knowledge to solve production-critical issues quickly and cost-effectively?
  • Will I be able to access the support I need when I need it?

If you can answer yes to these simple questions, then you know you’re on the right track.

How a filter manufacturer delivers expertise to your business

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