Clear Communication

Misheard numbers, letters or words cause communication miscues and inefficiencies.

A system for clarity is helpful.

For instance, The Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, also known as the NATO alphabet:

Radiotelephony_Spelling_Alphabet_(1955)

Virtual Lab Managers talk with scientists and suppliers talk on the phone quite a bit. Clarifying spelling or letters in POs and tracking numbers saves time. Using The Radiotelephony Alphabet, or other clarifying system, helps keep communication clear, efficient, and reliable.

A tip from Hotel-Alpha-Papa-Papa-India Lima-Alpha-Bravo-Sierra.

Image: Public domain.

Purchasing Standards for Suppliers

Supplier standards for HappiLabs virtual lab managers

This post is for suppliers.

We want to help you help HappiLabs help scientists.

HappiLabs is developing an evolving set of standards to help our Virtual Lab Managers decide which suppliers to buy from so that scientists get what they want, at a fair price, quickly. Keeping their experiments on schedule, within budget is good for science and global human health.

We manage purchasing for >150 scientists, spending more than $400,000 per month from >200 suppliers. Sometimes we have no choice who to buy from because the scientist has a very specific request. But in many situations, we are given the flexibility to choose the supplier.

Some suppliers stink at what we call the Purchasing Experience, and some are excellent. The gold standards on our internal ranking system are NEB and AbCam. They are reliable, quick, and give us the information we need when we want it.

Here are 3 actions you can implement as a supplier to make us happy with your purchasing experience, and therefore, more likely to keep buying from you.

1) Get us a quote faster than 24 hours.

When we ask for a discount on an item we don’t already have a quote for or we are buying in bulk, we don’t want to have to wait 2-5 days. It’s silly that we depend on sales reps in the field who can’t respond to our requests until they get to a computer. Don’t undervalue the inside sales rep.

Fist bump to Matt G. from LifeTech (Thermo), Sean from P212121, Chris S. from VWR, and Marwan at Bio-Rad.

2) Send automated shipping updates.

To keep scientists on track and on-time we notify them of when their order will arrive. Obtaining a UPS, Fedex, etc tracking # is how we do this.

We do not want to spend 5-10 minutes logging into your website or calling customer service to find the tracking #. NEB and Amazon are exceptional. Once an item ships, they send an email with tracking number. Fisher, you should know your “Shipping Notifications” are useless. Our Virtual Lab Managers have learned to ignore it. The “Here” link is a dead end. Can you fix this?

Useless-Fisher-Shipping-notification-happilabs

This is a winner:

Tracking number for scientific orders

3) Send automated invoice (PDF format is preferred)

Most companies do, but some don’t, which require us to make phone calls to customer service or log into websites. Save us 5-10 minutes and automatically send this via email, and a PDF is preferred. Life Technologies (Thermo), Qiagen, and Amazon we’re looking at you.

Keeping scientists happy is our #1 goal, but keeping the accounting department happy is important too.

Bonus points if….

1) You have online chat.

Online-chatVWR, P212121, IDT, Fedex….great job!

2) You provide us a dedicated customer service agent. 

Our Virtual Lab Managers move fast, like Jimmy Johns. We do not like losing 5-10 minutes on the phone with customer service. Therefore, we’ve started allowing a dedicated customer service agent access to our team via a private Slack channel. Thank you to Sigma, E&K Scientific and the few others who have provided us a dedicated person. It is very helpful and allows us to post a question and come back to it later.

3) It takes less than 2 days to update a shipping or billing address.

We’re constantly baffled by how long this takes for most suppliers. The process requires filling out paperwork and then waiting for some kind of approval. We understand, due to the nature of some supplies that are regulated, that it takes time, but better communication about timing will be appreciated. 🙂

GE Healthcare, it’s taking a week. What does this mean, from a customer service agent:

“I’ve started a work flow to have the address updated in our system.”

Suppliers, we want to build a relationship with you. If you have questions, reach out: https://www.happilabs.org/contact/

The Cost of Moving a Lab out of a Biotech Incubator

A customer of HappiLabs recently moved out of an incubator and into their own space (a big milestone for biotech startups). They hired a Virtual Lab Manager to manage the process of ordering new equipment (since incubators have a lot of shared equipment).

This case study summarizes the cost and time of shopping for, negotiating, and buying all the equipment, along with lessons we learned in the process.

 

Moving A Lab case study (HappiLabs)

If you want a PDF to print and show to your boss: Moving A Lab case study (HappiLabs)

If you want help moving or managing your lab, call HappiLabs!

3 Suppliers and What we love about them

suppliers we love for happy scientists

A virtual lab manager spends about 4 hours of their day navigating supplier websites. Placing orders, checking prices, hunting for tracking numbers, comparing product specs. The efficiency of a website influences decisions about which suppliers we do business with.

Many suppliers have brain cramping UX, but a few have done a great job with optimizing the user experience. Here’s what they do well.

3 Suppliers and What we love about them

1. Automatic email updates

New England BioLabs. Well known as @NEB. We love your automatic email updates for order confirmations, shipping updates, and invoices. Thank you for making our life easier.

McMaster also gets a shoutout for automatic email updates.

2. Online chat

Integrated DNA Technologies. Well known as @IDT. Your online chat has been very helpful recently with customer service. Quicker than a phone call. Friendly.

@P212121 also gets a shoutout for online chat.

3. Easy returns

Amazon. Well known as Amazon. We heart you for many things. But you are miles ahead of the competition when it comes to returns. Hassle free. Costless. Thank you for making it easy to receive a shipping label.

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If you want help with managing your lab, contact us…

Lab Save of the Week: Gel spatula, $8.55 or $74.95?

Recently, one of our Virtual Lab Managers received a request for a spatula to open gel cassettes and transfer gels from one location to another. The customer found this product through Invitrogen for $45 plus $29.95 for shipping.

putty knifeBefore we place orders, we always check prices and products at other sites. We were able to track down a similar product–a putty knife–on Amazon for $8.55 with free shipping, a $66.40 save for customer. Yay!

Invitrogen- Gel Knife, Catalog #EI9010, $45.00 (+$29.95 shipping)
Amazon- Harris Premier chisel tool, $8.55 (free shipping)

What would you do with $66.40?

By paying attention to your lab spending, you can avoid overpaying for products.