It’s October 25. A customer, say, Bob, finds a T-shirt on your site that says, “Bob: apple bobbing champion.” Flattered and intrigued, he buys it. You promise delivery in 3-5 days so Bob waits, assuming he’ll have it by Halloween.

Come October 29, four days later, Bob still hasn’t received the T-shirt. He figures he has waited long enough. He checks your site. Nothing. All he sees is this message: “Your order has been processed.” This message doesn’t tell him any new information.

So Bob picks up the phone and calls you. Or your customer support to be more specific. They’re dealing with other calls and Bob has to wait on the line for half an hour. By the time he speaks to someone, he’s angry. “Your order is on the way, Bob,” your customer support agent assures him.

“What part of the way?” Bob asks.

“On the road.”

“I’m too old for this sh**,” Bob curses and hangs up. Immediately afterward, he cancels his order and demands a full refund. His order is indeed somewhere on the road but it’s too late. You’re out the cost of shipping it to wherever it is at the moment and the cost of shipping it back.

Even in the best-case scenario, your customer support guy will convince Bob to wait one more day, yes. Maybe Bob will even get his T-shirt in time for Halloween.

But do you think Bob will buy from you again? When he comes to your site, what does he think of? That one time he nearly missed the t-shirt he planned on wearing for Halloween. A t-shirt, that from his perspective, he would never have received on time if he hadn’t called you and torn you a new one. This bad experience will stick with him so whenever he wants something, he’ll go to someone with a better track record. Now, think of how many Bobs there are out there.

Get order tracking

A simple solution to the Bob problem is to implement order tracking for all your customers. When Bob goes to your order processing page, he can see that his T-shirt is moving up the I-95 at 40 miles per hour and should arrive at his doorstep by 11 am tomorrow.

If Bob sees that, he’s not calling your customer support, staying on the line for a frustrating half hour, or canceling his order. If the order is en route and Bob doesn’t know it, then he will think it was his call that got the package delivered even if that was always going to happen no matter what he did.

That’s what order tracking is for. Soothing those nerves, reducing the calls to your customer support teams from the Bobs of the world, and showing them that something is happening.

All the major shipping companies provide detailed order tracking for all packages. It’s just a matter of building an API that customers can access through your site. Show them where their package is and how soon it can get to them. That’s how you keep them happy and get them to buy from you again tomorrow.

Send periodic updates

Periodic updates go a long way in soothing those customer jitters. They’re usually just simple messages: “Your package has left the warehouse,” “Your package is en route,” “Your package is landing on the porch tomorrow,” or “Your package is here, Bob.”