The Magic of the Shrinking ETA Window

Field service and delivery businesses have invested huge amounts of money in scheduling and predictive analysis to try and meet the demand for accurate ETAs. They are as keen as customers to reduced carding and improve first time delivery  – failed deliveries and failed jobs are expensive. So why are so many service and delivery businesses still struggling to get it right on the day of service?

Prediction vs Reality

One of the challenges with a prediction approach is that it is based on assumptions of what will happen in the future - it does not take into account the reality of what is happening on the day.

crystal ball

Businesses often falsely assume that customers want an accurate small window ETA days ahead of arrival – when in reality what customers need is transparency of what is really happening on the day and to be updated in time to be available for the delivery.

As customers ourselves, we know what the experience is like from that perspective. Say, for example, I have been told by our energy provider that someone is coming out to install a new smart meter in my home. I book it in and put the appointment in my diary in a week’s time when I have been told they will visit. Then I forget about it. Between now and that day – there are literally hundreds of other things that happen and that are on my mind.

What is useful to me in this scenario? Well – if the business can provide a small ETA window, of say an hour – I can arrange my day to be there for that time.

The challenge with this approach is – most businesses struggle to provide an hour window ETA a week ahead. 


Why prediction is hard for field service businesses

Businesses have their own challenges. They have to manage resources to fit in all the jobs they have on. Between now and the day of service, the jobs booked in for that day may change many times. They may have a resource plan, then on the day of service several people call in sick, or there is a weather event, or a truck breaks down – there are so many variables to juggle.

circus juggle

What is not useful to me as a customer? The worst scenario for me as a customer is to be given an estimated ETA – and then for that to be wrong on the day. If I have arranged my day to be there between 11 and 12 – and my service person arrives at 3pm – I will be one  seriously unhappy customer.

So what to do?

Tell the customer what you know. That is: the truth of the reality right now. Update them when you know more.


Communicate the reality of what you know

The magic of the shrinking window is communicating what you know, and then updating them when you know more.  

Step 1: Booking confirmation 

When the customer confirms the booking, tell them, for example, that on Tuesday next week a service person will be arriving between 9 am and 12 pm.  At this time also tell them:

  • you will update them that morning of the estimated time of your job
  • when the service person is on their way, they will get an SMS with an estimated 15 minute window arrival time.

This step will stop a lot of calls to the contact centre, by letting customers know when to expect the next communication. They can rest easy knowing that they will be updated as things get closer.

Step 2: Reminder

The day before or on the day of service, send the customer a reminder. Let them know: 

  • the current 1 hour window of when they can expect their service
  • who the service person will be, with a photo
  • when the service person is on their way, they will get an SMS with an estimated 15 minute window arrival time.
This stops calls to the contact centre on the day of service and enables customers to plan their day. 

Step 3: On My Way

When the driver is on the way, trigger a message to the customer with the accurate ETA. By including a real-time map that enables them to track the arrival, Uber-style, customers have trust in the ETA and their anxiety is reduced while they are waiting.


At this point, it is also good to give the customer the ability to reply with updated information about their availability for the delivery, or to reschedule entirely if required. 

Research has shown that many people have all sorts of anxiety around a service or delivery arriving at their home. They know if they have time to duck to the loo - and will be ready when the driver arrives. 


Step 4: Arrival

When the driver arrives, you can send an ‘I’m arriving’ message if you wish. The customer will be ready, waiting for the arrival and you will get a fast first-time delivery. 

Step 5: Feedback

Prompt feedback as the driver leaves to get immediate feedback. You will get an accurate picture of what is happening in the field real-time and be able to see more accurately if any changes need to be made to ensure a better customer experience. 


Commonsense human-based approach

In the end, a commonsense human-based approach is best. People are generally happiest if you treat them with respect as an individual. Be honest about what you can commit to and use good real-time location technology to update them with what is really happening on the day of service.  

Want to know more about how you can adapt your ETA window? Download our whitepaper on the Radical Age of Uberization...

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Posted by Nimmity Zappert - VP of APAC

| LinkedIn

Collection   Delivery   customer expectations   product culture   Uberization

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