A Surprisingly Simple Competitive Advantage

My flight landed in Norfolk, Va., 45 minutes late. On that bright and sunny day, I’m told by the airline it was “Due to a delay from the inbound aircraft.” Oh thanks, that made me feel much better.

Anyway, I had a car service scheduled to meet me at baggage claim. They knew I was coming, could easily track my inbound aircraft, and yet … they don’t bother to show up for 20 minutes. Next, I’m scolded for having the nerve to even ask why they’re running late.

The next day, on a flight from Atlanta, we board on time and taxi to our takeoff position. Just before liftoff, the captain announces, “Folks, sorry about this but we need to go back to the gate to pick up some VIP crew members. Orders from the company.”

By the time we go back to pick up two pilots and get back to the runway, we waste a full hour. That’s right, this major airline wasted an hour of 234 paying customers’ time so they could reposition their own crew. The kicker? There was another flight leaving to the same destination that ended up arriving less than 10 minutes later than our delayed journey.

Think about the impact that wasting time has on customer preference and loyalty. I’m sure you’ve had dozens of moments when your blood boils as organizations that you patronize waste your precious time. Money is a replaceable asset, but you can’t earn more time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Which makes the offense of wasting time all the more offensive.

We’re all looking to get ahead in our companies and careers. We seek out new ideas to gain competitive advantage; to produce better results. Here’s a simple approach to consider — deeply connect with the value of your customers’ time, and direct your energies toward preserving it. While it sounds stunningly obvious, common sense is not always common practice.

The question of “How can I save my customers time?” should remain front and center, whether you’re a grocery store, airline or accountant. Can you shorten lines? Reduce the number of online clicks when placing an order? Shorten customer service wait times? Get your customers back to their families faster? Cut down waiting room times in your medical practice?

In an era where we look for fancy ways to leverage technology or craft complex algorithms to influence buying patterns, let’s get back to good old-fashioned caring about our customers. If you think of your job not only as your functional role but also as the steward of your customer’s time, you’ll drive better outcomes for both of you.

The simple opportunity to win and keep customers: speed things up and demonstrate respect for the one thing they can never replenish — time.