The Importance of Timeliness in Customer Service

April 14, 2016

in Staff + Space

Authored by Brad Bortone

The Importance of Timeliness in Customer Service

As the eCommerce world continues to speed up, customers have higher expectations of companies and suppliers. Customers want product and service delivery to take the minimum amount of time possible.

Customers want suppliers they can depend upon, who can deliver when they say they will. They don’t like to wait, and have little patience for companies 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 ensure that the needs are fulfilled. Timeliness concerns strike at the heart of the customer-supplier relationship. When customers are forced to wait, they will often lose patience and interest, and are unlikely to shop at the same place twice.

When customer satisfaction is the goal, timeliness is one of the most heavily weighted factors in the company-customer relationship. Companies must strive to improve every aspect of timeliness within their capabilities.

Keep in mind these helpful tips:

1. Put yourself in customers’ shoes

The first step for improving timeliness is the simple process of putting yourself in the customer’s mindset. This means walking through the process a customer experiences, and identifying where timeliness issues show up, and where the customer’s time is wasted.

Don’t forget to look at the internal factors 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 always potential improvements to be made in timeliness throughout your company.

Customer interactions are emotional exchanges as well as factual ones, so give your employees the tools to share a happy customer’s enthusiasm or reduce a frustrated customer’s tension. To your customers, any member of your staff becomes the “face of your company.” When your employees have the power to please customers, they better reflect your entire organization.

Instead of focusing on speed and productivity, give your frontline employees permission to take the time they need to make each customer feel valued. When your staff members make customers feel truly appreciated, and not just “heard,” customer satisfaction rises.

Additionally, you should look to your competition (before your customers do). 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 integrate into your own efforts?

Don’t be complacent. Aggressively target timeliness as an organizational goal.

2. Check yourself

Your employees know each step of the fulfillment process, and have intimate knowledge of how things really work. If there are gaps in the supply chain or hiccups in the packaging and shipping departments, they are the ones who can pinpoint problem areas before they seriously affect your business.

When everyone in your company can act as support, customers can get their questions answered promptly. Saving your customers additional calls to the help desk goes a long way toward making them happy.

In turn, 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 welcome the chance to make these improvements and make customers more satisfied.

Offering live chat support on your website allows for more collaboration behind the scenes. Additionally, it is beneficial to offer ticket tracking, streamlined self-help options on your website, and call-backs instead of lengthy hold times.

Customers perceive the ability to look up a tracking number or read frequently asked questions as less effort than calling a customer care center, so offering these options also increases customer satisfaction.

3. Deliver on your promises (and apologize when you can’t!)

Every package that arrives on time or product that works as intended reinforces your customers’ trust in you. Customers don’t need you to promise them the moon, as much as they want you to deliver it on time.

Apologize quickly and sincerely if you’re unable to meet your promises for any reason. Make the apology personal and not just a form letter.

Setting things right quickly for your customer will go a long way toward restoring that low-effort experience your clientele prefers.

If you give your customers the most effortless experience, they’ll choose you over the competition more often than not.

4. Seek outside help when customer service lags

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. Companies that are serious about being market leaders and building their reputations will spend ample time focusing on timeliness.

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