"Where's my order?" is perhaps a customer's most frequently asked question. And how a company answers this question is a hallmark of its customer service. At Bay Cast, a manufacturer of specialty steel castings, in Bay City, Michigan, customers get the answer before work on an order commences.

When a job begins, each customer receives a detailed "road map" displaying the various manufacturing steps the order will take and the time it will require. "You have to check the road signs along the way," says CEO Scott Holman Sr. "At weekly production meetings we look at where in the process the order is--every single casting is discussed. Then, after the meeting, we fax customers with multiple orders a weekly update on their orders' status. Some customers may have a couple of dozen orders going through at a time, and this tracking process makes it easy for them to follow our progress."

Giving customers the "big picture" in advance allows them to rest easy, knowing what's happening between the time they place an order and the week they receive it. As a result, Bay Cast employees are able to focus on filling the order rather than managing it. The company averages an on-time delivery rate of 99% in an industry whose standard is less than 60%. This phenomenal delivery rate helped drive sales from $3 million in 1987 to $15 million in 1997.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing