What Should Product Managers Tell Customers About Deliveries?

With deliveries, sometimes later is better
With deliveries, sometimes later is better
Image Credit: Javi

The good news is that your customer has ordered your product. The bad news is that they don’t have it yet. It’s going to take some time for you to get it from where you store it to their location. This means that your customer is going to have to put up with a delivery delay. As a product manager, how should you go about dealing with this delay? Do you need to inform your customer when what they have ordered will arrive? How often should you do this? How is this going to make them feel?

What Should We Tell Customers About Deliveries?

When a customer orders a product, they’d really like to have that product at the moment that they place the order. However, unless they are face-to-face in a retail store, that’s not going to happen. This means that they will now have to wait for their purchased product to arrive. This can be the hardest part for many customers. What product managers would like to be able to do is find a way to make this waiting not so hard.

The good news is that research is showing that keeping customers informed at the end of the delivery process can have more value than at the beginning, with benefits such as mitigating frustration and enhancing positive feelings toward a company. In the research that was done, the researchers analyzed roughly 12.5 million package deliveries in China originating from a variety of shippers but all serviced through the logistics arm of Alibaba, China’s e-commerce giant similar to Amazon.

Each of the deliveries featured between four to 10 alerts sent through a smartphone app to customers, giving customers the ability to check on the status of their delivery in real time. Once they received their packages, customers then rated their experiences from 1 to 5. Deliveries that were completed with low-satisfaction scores (1 to 2) showed flurries of messages were sent at the beginning of the process, with fewer toward the middle and end. The highest-satisfaction scores were given for deliveries that alerted customers frequently near the time they signed to receive their packages, even when comparing shipments that took exactly same amount of time to deliver.

What Is The Best Way To Communicate Delivery Information?

When product managers emphasize late-stage communication this allows them to exploit what psychologists like to call the “peak-end effect,” in which people judge an experience mostly by what happens at the end, rather than by the total sum. It turns out that this makes sense. In real life when we go to a firework show, the organizers make the big, exciting display the finale, because that’s what people will remember. In fact, product managers can calculate that shifting a shipment’s average alert from very early on, when the delivery is around 20% complete, to later in the process, when it is around 80% complete, will have the equivalent effect of shaving 27 hours from a 100-hour delivery cycle in terms of the level of satisfaction that will be reported by customers.

Product managers need to realize that from a customer point-of-view this is like saving a whole day on a five-day shipping schedule, even though no actual time is really saved. Product managers need to be careful because while transparency is appreciated, frequent, early alerts can set customer expectations unreasonably high. If we start the delivery process with lots of feedback it raises customer hopes and if we end with lulls in activity then we can can dash them.

It turns out that these supply-chain-management findings can be related to non-delivery situations. If product managers could restructure updates to give clients more frequent feedback toward the end of the completion of a report, that could impact overall satisfaction. Similarly, product managers could put more effort into making the “last mile” of any project happen quickly, with lots of transparency, and leave out frequent updates of nonactivity at the beginning. We need to understand that judgment usually comes after the process, not during it. This means you want to have a strong finale.

What All Of This Means For You

The goal of every product manager is to make customers want to acquire their product. When a customer orders our product, it can be easy to think that we’ve completed our task, but that’s not true. It turns out that once the customer orders our product, then the wait to have it delivered starts. How this part of the process goes can have a big impact on our customer’s impression about our product. What this means for a product manager is that we need to determine the best way to manage to keep our customers informed about the delivery of our product.

As product managers our goal is to find ways to make waiting for an ordered package to not be difficult for our customers. Research has shown that if we keep our customers informed about the status of a delivery at the end of the process, instead of at the beginning, this will make them happier. Studies that were done showed that customers who were informed about their deliveries shortly before they arrived were the happiest. The reason that this works is because people tend to remember how something ended. Informing customers at the end of a shipping process will cause them to believe that their product arrived sooner then expected. This idea can be related to any project where customers are kept informed at the end of the project and not so much at the beginning.

As a product manager, we are ultimately responsible for making our customers happy about ordering from us. This means that we need to manage the product delivery part of the purchasing process just as much as we do the selling part. Research has shown that our customers want to know when their product is just about ready to arrive. If we can minimize the amount of delivery communication that we have with them early on in the process and maximize the amount of communication that we have with towards the end, we may have found out how to keep our customers happy during the delivery of the product that they purchased.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How long before a delivery actually happens do you think that we should get in touch with our customers?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Being a product manager is a full-time job. There are a lot a parts to this job that we wish we could have someone help us with. The good news is that we are living in the 21st Century and that means that we can harness the power of algorithms to automate parts of our job. However, it can be all too easy for us to hand a job off to an algorithm and then walk away from it. Perhaps we should not do this, do we really know what the algorithms that we are using do?