Delivery Tracking and Managing Expectations

I love getting stuff in the mail. I always have. And with the pandemic, I (probably like you) have ordered way more online that usual. With all of the packages I’m getting, I use a fantastic app called Deliveries, which allows me to track packages easily. This app is invaluable to me.

However, with having the most up-to-date info on where my orders are, I’ve noticed something interesting: if a package doesn’t get to me by the stated time, I’m more frustrated than if I think it’s going to take a long time to get to me.

Looking at Different Delivery Services

I’m going to pick on FedEx a lot in this post because I’ve had the worst service with them since March. I know this is different for people depending on where they are, but if I had to rank services, I’d say as far as delivering when they say they will, it goes (from best to worst):

  1. Amazon
  2. UPS
  3. USPS
  4. FedEx

I had some very frustrate moments a few weeks ago with USPS -apparently my PO is short-staffed – but since then things have gotten better. It’s likely I don’t fully understand how it works from label to delivered when it comes to USPS anyway.

For example, if a vendor creates the label using say,, but they don’t give it to USPS for 3 days, I have a tracking number that has seen 0 movement for 3 days. So, I try not to judge those labels until it’s been “accepted by USPS.” But this is less about logistics than it is about managing expectations

A FedEx Story

Recently I ordered a laptop from I had it customized which means it’s shipping from their plant in China. Apple estimated a September 9th delivery. That felt like a long time in an Amazon Prime world, but they are actually building the machine and shipping it from China.

We’d be on vacation, so I asked my neighbor to get it for me.

Well, Apple finished it making the machine in 2 days and a FedEx tracking number was generated. Once FedEx picked it up, they estimated to get to me by September 4th. 5 days early AND before we left for vacation, so my neighbor was off the hook.

Then it arrived in Memphis and FedEx changed the date to September 9th again. That’s when I became frustrated. Before it got to the USA you told me the 4th, now it’s the 9th again! FedEx gave, and then took away.

However, in a shocking Pepsi Twist, it made it to Philly on September 2. I was optimistic I’d have it by the 4th, and then FedEx sent this fantastic updated: Delivered by September 3 at 10:30am.

That’s a full day earlier than their best estimate, and 6 days earlier than the original! That’s SUPER exciting.

But when 10:30 rolled around, it still wasn’t there. As an aside, I waited on my porch for the delivery because my FedEx guy likes to throw packages instead of walking up the 3 steps.

While it still made it on the 3rd (at 3:00pm give or take a few minutes), I was still a little frustrated, because I planned for a specific time, on an expensive package.

I should mention here that if it wasn’t a laptop that I was worried would get tossed around, I’d be less concerned.

Overestimate, Don’t Underestimate

The moral of the story here is FedEx could have avoided all of this by keeping the original delivery date until it was on the truck, on the way to my house. Then instead of a specific time, a generous time window. 3pm is perfectly acceptable for a delivery, but they told me I’d have it well before then.

Your goal is to surprise and delight. That won't work if you set unreasonable expectations to make someone happy on the frontend. Click To Tweet

This is precisely what Amazon does. For items they are uncertain about, they’ll give a 2 week window. THEN when the package is actually on the way to my house, they tell me it’s out for delivery, and I’m surprised and delighted that what I ordered is very early.

Disney does the same thing with wait times. It’s rare, in my experience, to wait the full estimated time to get on an attraction. Instead, they get a close estimate and add some time to it. It’s only in unforeseen circumstances (like the ride breaking down) that they wait time exceeds the estimate.

It’s About Managing Expectations

Look, I know that with everything going on (weather, pandemic, civil unrest), things happen and packages get delayed. BUT with FedEx (and the USPS to an extent), it would be better to just overestimate in the first place, to take delayed into account.

Manage expectations by overestimating. That way when you come in under your deadline, your client is happier. Click To Tweet

When you offer any service, or product for that matter, you should do your best to clearly communicate and manage expectations. That goes for making a website, creating an online course, or delivering a package.

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