ASAP's Fables

  |  August 7, 2003   |  Comments

How long is 'as soon as possible'? Defining, and meeting, customer deadlines.

"As soon as possible" (ASAP) is not as nebulous as you might think. Customers are innately aware of what an acceptable timeframe is for certain interactions. These expectations are generally based on the status quo, available information reporting, and communications medium. ASAP is measured quite differently than it once was. Efficiency when dealing with customers is a strong loyalty builder -- or breaker.

Optimize User Paths

A family member ordered a ring from her favorite online store last week. The Web site was easy to navigate; she found the ring she wanted and easily located all the information she needed to make the purchase. Checkout was speedy, and the product arrived in only a few days. Unfortunately, the ring was the wrong size. Although it was returned via overnight delivery, an automated email confirming receipt of the package said it would take 15 days to process the exchange.

There are two basic problems here, both involving customer expectations. The first: Companies have spent all their time optimizing the purchase path for customers. Is this actually a problem? Of course not. But it becomes painfully obvious to users the same optimizations haven't been considered for other customer paths, including returns and exchanges. In the above case, order path and delivery were optimized, but exchange wasn't. Fifteen days! It would have been quicker to buy a new ring and return the first one, rather than exchange the ring for a new one. In this scenario, ASAP for product delivery is measured depending on why the product is delivered. Purchase ASAP is measured in days. Exchange ASAP is measured in weeks.

Real-Time Tracking Measures ASAP by the Minute

The ante has been raised, and that's the second problem. This holds especially true for package delivery. Now that UPS and FedEx offer real-time tracking, customers are more keenly aware of the time it takes (or the time they believe it should take) for packages to arrive. They're irritated with carriers that don't offer detailed, real-time tracking.

I remember becoming upset when the carrier that delivered packages within Manhattan didn't offer the same level of tracking other carriers did. I wanted to be home for delivery. FedEx and UPS let me see when my packages are on the delivery truck. This carrier couldn't even accept a tracking number until after delivery.

What's worse, not knowing anything about your shipment or knowing too much? The more detail you have, the more detail you have to think about (does it really take that that long to haul a package from the New Jersey loading dock to the Manhattan distribution center?). Also, you'll have more to worry about. Remember when you knew only that a package would arrive "sometime this week"? There was a time when we never worried about how long it took for a package to fly from Arizona to New York. Who cared?

Now that we have access to that level of information, we expect the same details from everyone. If we measure package delivery by the minute at FedEx and UPS, it's frustrating when we can't measure other delivery services (such as USPS) by the same increment.

E-Mail: ASAP Communication, Right?

Like you, I email constantly. When I wrote letters, I didn't expect an immediate response. How could I? Letters took a good amount of time to write and days to arrive. A response took equally long to write and to arrive. (Do kids still know what a pen pal is, or why they're called "pen" pals? Do they still use pens?)

E-mail is different. I compose email messages quickly. As soon as I press "send," the message is waiting to be read. E-mail is an ASAP technology. When companies (or people) don't respond immediately, it riles me. I might as well have written a letter if I didn't want to hear back for a week. Compounding this are online customer service forms that read, "E-mail us. We'll respond as soon as possible."

If I write a letter, I measure ASAP in terms of days, even weeks. I measure ASAP for email in terms of minutes. With instant messaging (IM), I measure ASAP in seconds.

What Does ASAP Mean to Your Business?

ASAP is a variable. It's measured depending on the medium. Look closely at your business processes and how long they take. Then, consider the medium through which you communicate during these processes. You should be able to benchmark an acceptable range of time based on those two criteria. Remember, there are different user expectations for what amount of time is considered ASAP. If you don't meet these expectations, you sacrifice customer loyalty.

Agree, disagree? Let me know!

Until next time...


ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!*
*Early Bird Rates expire April 17.


Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Analytics newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?


    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora,, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...