One of my newsletter subscribers sent me a customer service measurement I believe has a lot of merit. He picked up the measurement when visiting a non-competing company. It is called "On Time and In Full."

What percentage of your total deliveries arrive at the customer location on time and complete with no backorders? I guess another way of putting it would be to ask what your company's track record is of getting it right the first time rather than having to correct a customer service problem after the fact?

While fixing mistakes ASAP is admirable, avoiding mistakes is an even greater competitive edge. One of the exercises I suggest in several of my seminar presentations is this: I ask the audience to list the complaints their company most often receives; that is, recurring customer service complaints.

My point in asking the audience to complete this exercise is not to compare notes or to point fingers at operations, but to identify recurring complaints that need to be fixed. After all, most of us are far more adept at putting out fires than we are at preventing fires.

As you enter the new year, I suggest that you challenge your sales and operational personnel by asking them to come to you with a list of a dozen customer complaints they believe to be the most frequently recurring. By tabulating which complaints are most frequently named, you have the beginning of a marketing advantage.

All you have to do now is figure out how to modify your company's systems and procedures to reduce the number of times your people are guilty of making the same mistake.

I hope you enjoyed my electronic newsletters in 2011. I wish each of you a healthy and prosperous 2012.

Bill Lee is a business consultant, columnist, speaker, and seminar leader who works extensively throughout North America. He also is affiliated with Lee Resources, a Greenville, S.C.-based consulting, training and publishing organization. This article originally appeared in the Dec. 27 edition of his business management newsletter.