The unpredictability of China vendor communication

What people are saying about Mulberry Fields
a very interesting blog…”   – a company in France


It is always a good idea at the onset of your relationship with your vendor in China to confirm who is in fact sending you emails.  Even though you may get an email with the vendor’s name that originates from the vendor’s email account, leading you to believe you are communicating directly with the vendor, it is most likely from someone in their office who speaks English and handles the correspondence with overseas customers. The reason is that very few vendors in China actually speak English. Even I have acted in this role when I worked in the Shanghai office of a major US textile company.  I sometimes wrote emails for the GM whose native language was not English and who had to communicate on sensitive issues with the US office. But the GM’s name was on those emails, not mine. By clarifying communication at the outset you may avoid misunderstandings in the future.

It is also a good idea to try to get a back up contact in your vendor’s office so, in the event the person who you communicate with is out of the office, there is someone else you can email for answers to your questions.  China vendors are often not in the habit of informing customers when they will be out of the office – even if it is for a week or more – and they do not always check their email when they are out on business. So China vendor communication can sometimes be exasperating. You may be losing sleep because you are waiting for confirmation that an order will ship on time but hear nothing from your vendor. Two weeks later, after you are apoplectic, you get an email in which your contact tells you she was away for a family emergency and your order has shipped.  If you know the pitfalls of China vendor communication up front then it is easier to deal with when it happens.

A final thought:  If you do go to China to meet your vendor, take a gift for the person you have been communicating with.  In many cases these are young graduates who do not make a lot of money and certainly cannot afford, although they may desire, western name brand goods (still expensive in China). They will appreciate your gesture and it will probably ensure good and timely communication in the future.  When I worked in wholesale in the US I picked up gifts – usually a small bottle of perfume for my factory contact and a case of cigarettes for my vendor –  before my trips to China.  My boss at first questioned these gifts but after one trip to China with me he saw the efficacy of it. It engenders good feeling all around.  Not to mention the fact that usually your China hosts will roll out the red carpet for you when you visit them and overload you with China souvenirs before you leave.  It is nice to reciprocate.



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