By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO

Reprinted from Course and Direction April 2007

Robert Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert Robert Bradford

“Time is money”. We’ve all heard that, right? But does your company operate that way? Many times, I’ve seen companies succeed wildly simply because they do things faster than their competitors – usually, a LOT faster. This works simply because all of us, as consumers, would prefer to have whatever we want whenever we want it. In many cases, we are prepared to pay a huge premium to someone who can save us just a little time – sometimes even paying this premium for a product or service of inferior quality.

How can you use this? First, you need to understand the time performance standards of your industry. Do 90% of your competitors turn around a customer order in a week? A day? An hour? Obviously, this can vary a lot, depending on the business you are in. But, whatever that standard is, you need to ask the question, “Are there many customers who would find it valuable to be served in half the time?”. Usually – but not always – the answer is yes. In many cases, customers will be willing to pay a premium of 10-20% to get the same product or service in half the time.

It can pay to understand exactly WHY customers will pay a premium to avoid waiting. Is the premium simply to avoid wasting their time? Do they get a lot of rush orders from their customers? Is there a high cost of inventory? Or does a quick turnaround help your customers assure that their products are the most current and salable in a market driven by rapidly changing fashions? Any of these can lead a customer to put a high value on rapid delivery — but some might lead you to creative solutions that will help you create value for your customers. For example, market research at Disney World indicated that most customers hated waiting in the long lines that form for their most desirable attractions. So, Disney developed the “Fast Pass” system, which allows customers to arrive at their choice of attractions at a pre-determined time, with a minimal wait. In reality, the customer still waits a long time to ride on that attraction — often an hour or more — but, because the “Fast Pass” allows him or her to go do something else while waiting, it actually reduces the time spent waiting in line — which was the customers’ main complaint.

Knowing that your customers will pay a premium for faster service is only half the battle. Naturally, you actually have to deliver on this – and make sure the customer knows you deliver. A simple time-flowchart can help you to identify where your customers’ time is spent in your operation, and give you some ideas about how to cut that time down. Here are the top five time wasting places I’ve found in various industries over the years:

  1. Credit approval
  2. Waiting for engineering or some other operational bottleneck
  3. Communicating the order slowly
  4. Packaging for delivery
  5. Waiting to be delivered

Granted, these are more applicable to products than services, but service examples tend to be very industry-centric (i.e. an airline wastes time in different places from a restaurant). Anyway, try doing a little flowchart of your own operation and see if you can’t find some treasure for your customers – chances are, they will be glad to pay you for it!

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at .

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