In speaking with distributors, it’s clear that the biggest challenge this year has been coping with the continuous price increases from manufacturers. As this month’s cover story illustrates, the rising costs of fuel is once again forcing manufacturers to increase prices of products, as well as fuel and freight charges.

Distributors have little choice but to pass some or all of these costs down the supply chain to their customers. But, during this time, it’s important to keep your customers in mind and give them the same courtesies you expect from your suppliers.

I spoke with a few end users and it was evident what they didn’t want from their distributors: a bill with higher prices and no explanations.

Alert customers at least 30 days before the new rates go into effect. This gives them ample time to adjust their own prices to cover the additional costs. Also, put the price changes in writing so building service contractors have proof to show their customers if they, too, must increase rates.

Customers will also be appreciative if distributors offer them options. Instead of being forced to pay more for a given product, maybe there are cheaper alternatives for them to consider, for instance, using trash liners with a lower mil count or switching from ready-to-use chemicals to concentrate.

Being understanding of customers when raising product prices will make the increases easier for them to swallow. Good customer service will also prevent them from shopping around for a better price.