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The importance of building relationships in the apparel industry

  • Published at 10:13 pm December 29th, 2019
RMG Apparel Industry
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Customers desire a connection with their manufacturing partners

The building of meaningful relationships between manufacturers and customers is crucial for the longevity of Bangladesh’s RMG sector. However, too often we see that there is a lack of long-term manufacturer/buyer relationships within the country and this needs to be addressed.

“No matter how smart you are, if you don’t know how to work with people, your dreams will just be dreams,” said Jack Ma, China’s wealthiest man and the co-founder of the world-renowned Alibaba Group.

The power of building relationships cannot be underestimated -- whether that be relationships with your employees, co-workers, business associates, or customers. However, business relationships within Bangladesh are often seen as fractious, short-term and, ultimately, result in disappointment. 

Given the importance of relationships in enabling successful business development, shouldn’t all stakeholders in the apparel industry be dedicating more time to their development? What are the benefits that can be expected?

What is abundantly clear is that the establishment of business relationships will encourage communication and interaction with customers, employees, suppliers, and business associates. 

Successful business relationships nurture trust amongst all involved. The importance of trust in establishing meaningful manufacturer/ customer relationships is paramount as it is the single most important factor in building any successful business, team, or relationship. A customer that trusts their supplier will listen to that company’s issues and, likewise, a business that trusts their customers will strive to do their very best, even in the toughest trading conditions.

Short-term relationships with customers who place an order to fulfil their immediate needs and then never return will not help any apparel manufacturing company develop their business in the long-term and is something that has been experienced by the industry in recent years.

Conversely, those customers that have established a relationship with their supply base, based on service, product capabilities and trust will return, and this is key; building a base of loyal, repeat customers through relationships is essential for the success of any apparel operation. 

Any business stands or falls on its reputation in the marketplace. It is imperative that apparel business owners and their management show empathy, courtesy, and attention to their customers, employees, and business associates. By behaving in this manner, a business will establish a good reputation and will be regarded as trustworthy and experienced. This brand-building by any apparel company will result in a growth in business with existing customers.

Hand-in-hand with growing the existing business, better brand reputation increases the power of word-of-mouth marketing. A customer that is introduced to a company through word-of-mouth is already confident that the business will be able to satisfy their demands as they have come to know of the operation through other satisfied customers.

Encouraging a healthy relationship between apparel company owners and management and their employees and between the employees themselves is essential in the operation of a successful business.

By treating all employees with respect and applauding their success garners trust in the owners of the business. Employees who have trust in their managers and company owners become more motivated, increasing their productivity and commitment to their roles as they feel safe in the knowledge that their efforts will not be taken advantage of -- contributing to the overall growth of the business. 

The development of sound business relationships leads to customer satisfaction. We operate in a volatile industry -- things can go wrong at any stage of the production process, from the procurement of raw materials, through to production and final shipment of goods.

There will be times when a customer is disappointed in the service being provided by a company. What is important is not to hide away from the issues but be open about them with the customer. A relationship forged over time, where both parties trust each other, will not be damaged as long as the manufacturer treats the customer with respect and does everything in their power to communicate effectively with them.

All of us involved in Bangladesh’s RMG industry are aware of the challenging market conditions facing brands and retailers in the United States and Europe, our two largest apparel export markets. Strong business relationships between manufacturers and their customers will lead to greater understanding and result in support from both sides.

A strong relationship with a customer will ensure that business is maintained, even if quantities are reduced and the onus falls on all Bangladesh RMG manufacturers to work with their customers to ensure that their business keeps moving forward. This can only be achieved by the development of meaningful long-term relationships and an understanding of the conditions that our customers may be facing. 

By our very nature, we in Bangladesh can feel intimidated by establishing relationships, in particular with Western business partners. I don’t believe there is anything to fear, as the benefits to be gained are plentiful for all parties. When positive relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, and business partners are established, the results will provide motivation to establish even more relationships.

History is littered with tales of businesses which, despite providing great products and services, have failed because they were unable to establish meaningful relationships with their customers. The Bangladesh RMG industry’s customers desire a connection with their manufacturing partners and want to build relationships and trust in order to establish and maintain meaningful long-term business relationships.

Mostafiz Uddin is the Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited. He is also the Founder and CEO of Bangladesh Denim Expo and Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE). He can be reached at [email protected].

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