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Supplier Ratings and the ASI Holiday and Incentives Expo

Filed under: Education, Industry Initiatives, Media Coverage

I’ve received emails and calls from several suppliers and distributors about the ASI Holiday & Incentives Expo for fall 2009, which we announced a few weeks ago in a press release and in an earlier blog post.

As you may know, the event will be limited to 400 supplier booths and to suppliers with at least four stars (out of five) in the ASI Supplier Performance Ratings System, or those nominated by distributors through a written testimonial to ASI.

Distributors are excited about a show designed to jumpstart the busy fourth-quarter holiday selling season.  And, since the number of booths is limited by the venue size, they’re equally pleased that we’re helping to determine which suppliers are eligible to exhibit based upon their performance rating.

Among suppliers, those familiar with the ASI Ratings System are largely pleased we’re using it for the ASI Holiday & Incentives Expo.  But several, especially those with fewer than four stars, are either less than enthusiastic or want to know more about the ASI Supplier Performance Ratings System.  Or both.  So I’d like to share with you how the system works and some important statistics.

The ratings system is designed with two major goals:

  • It provides distributors the opportunity to share with the entire distributor network their opinion, in ratings and in optional comments, about suppliers.
  • In an industry where too often decisions are made purely on price, it allows suppliers to differentiate themselves on their service.  This helps distributors to realize they may want to consider making a selection on how well they will be served overall, and not just by how cheap a supplier’s price might be.

ASI Supplier Performance Ratings are calculated every day across each of six areas, creating the most accurate and timely picture available in the industry.  The information is available to all ASI distributors and suppliers.

How the System Works

The process is designed to be transparent, to allow flexibility for distributors and suppliers, and to encourage a dialog between all parties.

  • Distributors can rate suppliers through ESP Online (from the supplier detail screen or the tools menu); by downloading and faxing back the form posted at www.asicentral.com/supplierratings; or by clicking the link in the left column of http://www.asicentral.com/ for the online form. 
  • Distributors use a 1-5 scale (very poor to excellent) to rate each of six areas.  They can also submit comments about their experience.  The numerical results from these ratings are then converted to be shown as stars.
  • The six areas distributors can rate are: Overall Satisfaction, Product Quality, Communications, Delivery, Imprinting/Personalization, and Problem Resolution.     
  • If a written comment is submitted, it is forwarded to the supplier for review before it is posted.  The supplier has five business days to respond with a comment about the distributor and the distributor’s comments.  Both comments are then posted together.  If no response is received from the supplier, then the distributor comment is posted alone.
  • Written comments include the name and ASI number of the submitting distributor, making the identity of the individual firm completely visible to the supplier and to other distributors.    

Statistics

While there is some concern among suppliers that the ratings and the comments are mostly negative, that is not the case at all.  The overwhelming majority of ratings and comments are quite positive.

  • The average supplier rating is 3.70, which is represented graphically as three-and-a-half stars.
  • Comments are posted for suppliers 25% of the time and suppliers respond to 11% of the comments they receive.  A review shows most of the other comments are positive and require no reply.
  • Suppliers with an average overall numeric score of at least 3.75 (rounded to four stars), and who have five distributors submitting reports, are eligible for special ASI programs and recognition.  These include the opportunity to place advertising in the Select catalog or to exhibit at the ASI Holiday & Incentives Expo in Las Vegas, and it is part of the criteria to qualify for a Counselor Distributor Choice Awards nomination.  Currently, 670 suppliers meet this elite status.

More details and a Q+A section are included below.  Let me know what you think about the ASI Supplier Performance Ratings System – my email address is tim.andrews@asicentral.com

ASI Supplier Performance Ratings System – Q+A

Q:  Where can I find ASI supplier performance ratings?

A:  Supplier ratings appear in ESP Online, on http://www.asicentral.com/ and in the ASI Quarterly  Register.

Q:  Where can a distributor rate a supplier?

A:  Distributors can rate suppliers through ESP Online (from the supplier detail screen or the tools menu); by downloading and faxing back the form posted at www.asicentral.com/supplierratings; or by clicking the link in the left column of http://www.asicentral.com/ for the online form.  For simplicity, consistency and accountability, only those forms and formats are accepted.  To ensure data integrity, the ability to rate using the online system is part of the password-protected area of ASICentral.com, so only ASI members can view content and rate suppliers in this area.

Q:  Where can a supplier rate a distributor?

A:  Suppliers can submit distributor payment habits to ASI and that information is used to derive a unique credit score for every distributor firm – equivalent to the ASI Supplier Performance Ratings.  The scores are displayed in ASI CreditConnect and those credit reports include in-depth data on paying habits, past-due reports, current versus prior credit comparisons and other important details.  It also lets suppliers set custom criteria for ranking distributors based upon their payment history and buying patterns.  Comments are not posted about individual distributors but that capability is being considered.   

Q:  As a supplier, where do I ask questions about my ratings?

A:  Suppliers can easily look up their rating in ESP Online for Suppliers, which is free to every ASI supplier.  The ratings also are available at http://www.asicentral.com/.  Individual questions can be directed to ASI Customer Service by calling 1-800-546-1350, or by sending an email to ratings@asicentral.com.

Q:  Why should suppliers like a ratings system?

A:  Suppliers often say that they wish distributors made buying decisions based on more than price – to also include customer service, delivery, imprinting, and the overall experience with a supplier.  The ASI Supplier Performance Ratings System provides a way for quality suppliers to stand out based on the quality of their service and on the enthusiastic recommendation of one distributor to another.

Q:  How long does it take for a rating to be posted?

A:  Ratings submitted via ESP Online without a comment appear overnight.  If there is a comment, then the supplier has five business days to review it and to respond to it.  In that case, comments would appear after about seven business days.

Q:  In ESP Online, there are references listed for suppliers on the supplier detail screen.  Do those references have anything to do with the ratings?

A:  Yes.  The independent references that appear on the supplier detail screen are taken from the distributors who have rated a supplier through ESP Online.

Q:  What are the six areas that are rated in the ASI Supplier Performance Ratings?

A:  The six areas rated, in addition to the comments box, are:

Overall Satisfaction:  General level of satisfaction with the transaction being reported.

Product Quality:  Relative to your expectations based upon price, catalog or electronic images or samples.

Communication:  Promptness and accuracy related to questions, invoices and order status updates.

Delivery:  Were published or agreed upon shipping schedules met?  Was packaging adequate?  (Do not consider carrier delays.)

Imprinting/Personalization:  Quality relative to your expectations based upon imprint method, product, catalog or electronic images or samples.

Problem Resolution:  Satisfaction related to concerns raised during the transaction in question (if applicable).

Comments Box:  Distributors can leave written comments about their experience on the transaction being reported.

Q:  How do the ratings from the six areas fit into the overall star rating?

A:  Ratings are averaged across each area to produce an average numerical score, which is then converted to a star rating.

The table below shows how the average numerical score is converted to a star rating.  Numbers are rounded up or down to the nearest half-point to determine the corresponding star rating.

Display Stars

Rating Value

5 Star

4.75 to 5.00

4 1/2 Star

4.25 to 4.74

4 Star

3.75 to 4.24

3 1/2 Star

3.25 to 3.74

3 Star

2.75 to 3.24

2 1/2 Star

2.25 to 2.74

2 Star

1.75 to 2.24

1 1/2 Star

1.25 to 1.74

1 Star

1.00 to 1.24

Q:  What is the process for written comments? 

A:  ASI Customer Service reads every comment submitted by a distributor.  If it includes inappropriate or foul language, the comment is rejected.  If not, it is forwarded to the supplier via email.  The supplier has five business days to respond.  If the supplier responds, then that response is also read by ASI Customer Service.  Both comments are then posted together within about seven business days.  If the supplier does not reply, the distributor comment is posted alone. 

Q:  Why would a rating be rejected?

A:  A rating could be rejected because:

  • A rating was already submitted for that transaction.
  • Inappropriate language in the comments area.
  • A transaction was not completed.

Q:  Can decorator members submit ratings?

A:  Not at this time, but ASI will offer that capability in the future.

Q:  Is Overall Satisfaction an average of the other five areas that can be rated?

A:  No.  Overall Satisfaction is calculated just like the other areas.  That is because there are things that go into being satisfied with an order that are in addition to the other five specific areas listed and not every area has equal weight when deciding satisfaction.

Q:  How often are the ratings rotated out of the system?

A:  ASI has the only ratings system in the industry that automatically purges comments and individual rating submissions every quarter, based on a rolling 18-month cycle.  

Q:  If a supplier doesn’t agree with a rating, can anything be done? 

A:  A supplier has five days to respond to a distributor’s comment.  If a supplier responds, it is reviewed by ASI Customer Service and both comments are posted.  For questions regarding the process, contact ASI Customer Service, at 1-800-546-1350. 

Q:  If I am a supplier, how can I encourage my customers to rate me?

A:  Suppliers are provided forms and links to use when encouraging their distributors to rate them.  Some suppliers include ratings forms in every order they ship.  Others include a note in their confirmation emails, along with a link to the form.  The form is available at www.asicentral.com/supplierratings.  There are also more ideas at www.asicentral.com/asp/open/MemberBenefits/why_supprate.asp.  

Q:  How do I know the submitted ratings represent actual transactions?

A:  A distributor must be an active ASI distributor member, and agree to the following statement when submitting a rating:  “I hereby certify that the entry made represents a legitimate transaction between my company and the supplier and that any statements I make are, to the best of my knowledge, accurate.”  Only completed transactions are accepted for entry into the system. 

Q:  If there is no comment, does a supplier receive notification when a rating is made?

A:  No.  Only when there is a comment left by a distributor is a notification sent to a supplier about a rating.  Ratings can be checked by suppliers with ESP Online for Suppliers, which is available for free to every ASI supplier.

Q:  Where do email notifications about ratings get sent? 

A:  Email notifications are sent to the primary email address ASI has on record.  However, a supplier can request that a different email address be used.  Send a request to ratings@asicentral.com to check the email address or to change it, or call ASI Customer service, at 1-800-546-1350.


8 Comments

  1. JACK ISRAEL Says:

    I cannot find info about the 5 star supplier show mentioned above. Please email info.

    Friday June 13, 2008
  2. Tim Andrews Says:

    Hi Jack – thanks for writing. More details about the show are in the press release, at http://asicentral.com/asp/open/aboutASI/pressRoom/press119.asp

    Friday June 13, 2008
  3. Peter Elliffe Says:

    Hi Mr Andrews,

    I think this a great intiative on ASI’s part, one element in the industry’s move out of the shadows of the world of marketing – another part is the move of Staples to create the number 1 ad spec distributor. Some benefits that might flow from this could be that young people actually choose to build a career in promotional products rather than fall here by accident, and that related industries such as awards and recognition might get the word out that recognition really does motivate and inspire.

    I wondered, though about the choice of words. Does ASI now refer to listed distributors as “our members”, or “our network of distributors”? These words are important to the prickly, independent small businesspeople that actually make much of the industry run. Should those to whom promotional products is a new field feel that distributors are franchisees of ASI?

    Best of luck for the future

    Peter Elliffe
    Crystal World
    asi/47818
    UPIC/CWAWARDS

    Tuesday June 17, 2008
  4. Tim Andrews Says:

    thanks very much for your email.

    we’ve been referring to “members” for many years — the distributors and suppliers are “members” of a business network, pretty common in many industries, and this language is used in many industries. (in the consumer world, of course, there’s “members” of the american express card network, AAA, etc.)

    Tuesday June 17, 2008
  5. Shirley McIntosh Says:

    where and when is the show? Did I miss it?

    Friday August 22, 2008
  6. Tauretses Says:

    Hi!
    My name is Jessika!

    Friday December 12, 2008
  7. Matt Kennedy Says:

    I find the supplier ratings to be very helpful. If a supplier has five stars and a decent amount of ratings, you can pretty much be sure that the supplier will treat you right.

    http://www.dinerchairs.com
    http://www.counter-stools.com

    Tuesday December 30, 2008
  8. Steve Call Says:

    Thanx for this nice article. But I had difficulty navigating past your website because I kept getting 502 bad gateway error. Just thought to let you know.

    Sunday November 15, 2009

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