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Timeliness and Customer Satisfaction


By Bart Allen Berry


As the world continues to speed up, customers have less time than ever to deal with suppliers of products and services.  Customers want what they want and they want it fast. Customers want product and service delivery to take the minimum amount of time possible. As the complexities in the modern life of customers increase, the corresponding demand for precision from suppliers requires that products and services be delivered on or before the agreed upon time. Customers want suppliers they can depend upon, who can deliver when they say they will.  Customers don’t like to wait, and have little patience for suppliers that make them do so.


Suppliers are under pressure as well and often don’t give customers all the time required to adequately understand their needs and insure that their needs are fulfilled. Timeliness concerns strike at the heart of the customer supplier relationship.  When customers are forced to wait, they feel disrespected in the relationship. Customers require your undivided attention and concentration on them, as long as it takes to produce fulfillment of their needs.  Suppliers who try to serve everyone at once end up serving no one well.


If customer satisfaction is the supplier’s goal then the supplier must understand that timeliness is one of the heaviest weighted factors in the customer supplier relationship. Suppliers must strive to improve every aspect of timeliness within their capability.  The first step for improving timeliness is the simple process of putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.  Actually walk through the process the customer experiences and identify where the timeliness issues show up and where the customer’s time is wasted.


A simple flow chart is a great tool to see the interrelationships in the process and where unnecessary steps might be eliminated to make it go faster.  Some steps might be run in parallel or re-arranged for the customer’s convenience.  Don’t forget to look at the internal supporting relationships within your own delivery systems.  Warehouse storage procedures affect product shipping.  Sales reporting affects order fulfillment.  Credit approval affects speed of order processing.  There are potential improvements in timeliness everywhere.


A second area to examine to improve timeliness is with your competitors.  What are the current timeliness benchmarks for your industry? Are your competitors delivering products and services faster than you?  How do they do it? Are there unrelated industries where faster techniques are employed that you can imitate?  The message is: Don’t be complacent.  Aggressively attack timeliness as an organizational imperative.


The third option for speeding product and service delivery for customer satisfaction is to look to your own front line personnel.  They see these processes every day and have intimate knowledge of how things really work.  Front line employees who interact most with customers will have many good ideas for improvement if they are properly involved in the improvement process.  In most cases they would love to help make these improvements to make customers more satisfied.


The fourth and perhaps best option is to involve a qualified outside consulting company.  The combination of internal audits of customer satisfaction processes and well designed external customer surveys will help prioritize what needs to be fixed to have the biggest impact on overall customer satisfaction.  Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees, and the act of utilizing outside expertise will usually improve your focus dramatically.


Timeliness is not a customer satisfaction issue that can be swept under the rug.  It is commonly weighted as one of the most important factors to the customer.  Organizations who are serious about being known as the best and building their return and recommend rate will spend enough time, focusing on timeliness.




Bart Allen Berry is a veteran management consultant and customer satisfaction expert who has worked with the world’s finest companies for more than 30 years. 


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