Companies which make their customers wait longer than expected for an engineer to turn up to fix an appliance or machine are paying a high price for their inefficiency, a recent survey has shown.
Taking customers for granted can have a serious impact on their bottom line: around one in eight people in the UK have simply cancelled an order when goods or services didn't turn up in time.
It is estimated that businesses are losing a staggering 755 million a year in cancelled goods and services alone, as well as missing out on future business because of the damage to their reputation.
With the advent of social media, word spreads fast and nearly one in 10 disgruntled customers now spread the word about their bad experiences online and more than one-third grumble to friends and colleagues.
"Turning up late for appointments is a great way to lose customers," said Stuart Miller, Chief Executive and co-founder of ByBox, the UK market leader in field service solutions. "Busy people hate to be kept waiting.
"If they are promised an engineer by 2pm, they don't want one to arrive at 4pm without the right part. Punctuality is one of the pillars of great customer service and companies ignore that at their peril.
"This survey revealed that the single most important factor which would influence customers to recommend a company to others was whether or not the goods or services turned up on time.
"Companies need to take all the steps they can to ensure their engineers turn up on time and ByBox can help them by delivering parts in-night to drop boxes."
ByBox has transformed the field services market with its model of delivering pre-8am to its network of 18,000 drop boxes at 1,400 locations in the UK, ready for an engineer to collect before the start of a day's work.
The company's unique Thinventory software platform keeps track of parts at all times even when in an engineer's van so it is easy to pinpoint exactly where a required part is and move it to the box nearest to the appropriate engineer.
Operating 365 days a year, including Christmas Day and New Year's Day, ByBox has attracted a host of blue chip clients, including Coca Cola, Konica Minolta, Fujitsu and Bunzl, and won a string of awards.
The survey, carried out for TOA Technologies, painted a vivid picture of how aggravated people get with late deliveries and appointments and how this impacts on their perception of that particular business after a bad experience.
Punctuality had a huge impact. More than six out of ten customers would recommend a company that turned up on time. However, keep them waiting just half an hour and that falls to just over one in ten.
Stuart Miller continued: "Clearly what this survey has revealed is that time is critical and consumers are being increasingly intolerant. Indeed this is a sentiment which will continue to become even more prevalent as consumers become more accustomed to timed delivery slots, ETA's etc. Leaving a customer waiting potentially means lost business and quite simply if you want to have a winning business, you have to be on time."
Significantly, people who were kept waiting had little time for excuses. Nearly one-third of them were left with the impression that "companies don't care about my time" and more than one-fifth thought that companies took advantage of customers' willingness to wait in. Only one in 20 put delays down to the weather or traffic conditions.
The survey was carried out over 1,000 adults in the UK who were asked about their experiences of deliveries and appointments for a range of services including utility, internet, telephone, satellite TV, online grocery, furniture and white goods, computer repair and home healthcare workers.