📩 The email

“I operate a shipment forwarding business in Hong Kong. Today, our business is completely manual and operates on paper and WhatsApp. I want a mobile application for my team and our customers to use.

Our customers get multiple packages, like let’s say 5 packages they purchase in Hong Kong. They’ll ship those all to our warehouse. We’ll package those into a single box or bag and then ship those to the customer wherever they live, like Canada or Australia.

It’s really time consuming to get the details of all of the customers packages like the shipping/tracking information and then make sure we have all of their packages before we consolidate and ship it out.

After we ship it out, they’re always asking us for status updates and it’s really time consuming to constantly be providing their shipping information and updates.”

🕵️‍♂️ Clarifying questions

I replied the email with some questions to get the business context and need.

About your business

1–Are you aware of any important regulations about web or software in Hong Kong that you need us to cover?

2–Can you list the main teams or areas in your company that will have access to this app?

3–What are the tasks they normally do that you want to get into the system/app?

4–How many customers (rough approximation) will use it every day?

5–Who do you see as your main competitors and why do people prefer doing business with you?

About the project

1–Do you have any specific schedule or deadline for business or legal purposes?

2–Have you established a budget or range of investment for this initiative?

3–In the following days, are you ok with us contacting your most frequent customers and some people in your company so we can validate pain points and refine requirements?

About the new app or system

1–Have you seen a similar app or system that you have in mind as an expectation?

2–Do you have any technical limitations, constraints, or special preferences about this new app?

3–Why are you using WhatsApp instead of other apps or services?

4–Do you have a goal or metric in mind when you think about the efficiency of this new app? How will you say this app is or is not working?

5–Do you have technical people in your team that will manage the app in the future?

I received a Loom link to a 5-min video answer. Here's the script:

Customer's answer

0:01 Hey Antonio, let me send you just a quick video here about the questions you asked. Are you aware of any important regulations?
0:10 There are no regulations related to our business or this software product. Can I enlist teams and areas of the company that will have access to the app?
0:23 Great question. It is mostly our customer service team and our operations team. So the customer service team, and this goes into the second one the customer service team just needs to be able to see a list of all the orders, statuses typical things that customers ask for.
0:43 And our operations team needs to be able to document when we receive a part of a total package. They need to be able to create an outgoing shipment which will have like a series of packages consolidated and add a tracking number to that.
1:04 That and then the customer should get like a notification when they when that is created. And also probably when we receive each package.
1:18 So if they have five packages coming in, we should probably let them know like hey, we received package one, we received package two, we received package three.
1:26 And then when we send out a package, we should send them a notification saying okay, we shipped out these four or five things, whatever it is.
1:35 Here's the tracking number, here's all the information that that customer needs. How many customers will use it every day? Let's say on any given day, probably 10 to 20 customers would be using the application.
1:52 In total, at any given time, we probably are tracking about 500 orders, but on any given day, about 10 to 20 customers would probably be really using the app.
2:05 Uhm, who do you see as your main competitors and why do you put people? Prefer doing business with you, uhm people prefer doing business with us because it's really easy to work with us and uhm we have a long history of making sure that we send packages out in a timely manner.
2:28 Specific schedule or deadline for business or legal purposes? No, just ASAP. Do we have a budget or range of investment for this initiative?
2:39 No. I really would like you to come back with some ideas for me. I don't know what it would cost.
2:46 In the following days, are you okay with us contacting some of your most frequent customers and people in your company so we can validate pain points and refined requirements?
2:56 I can put you in contact with the head of our customer service and head of our operations team so you could ask them if uhm if you need more information about their processes but you cannot talk to any customers.
3:12 You seen a similar app or system that you have in mind as an expectation? No uhm I I haven't really seen anything but I would expect that our tracking system looks like the tracking system if you use FedEx or.
3:28 DHL or any other tracking service. Do you have any technical limitations, constraints, or special preferences about this new app? No, I think that maybe we'd want to see the potential to have multiple languages in the application.
3:43 Uhm. Some of our clientele speak Mandarin Chinese, uhm, some prefer English, some might prefer other languages, uhm, but that's it.
3:59 Why are you using WhatsApp? Do you have a specific goal in mind for efficiency? I don't have a goal, but what I would expect, I would expect a few things to happen.
4:24 One is I'd like us to be better organized about what we're expecting in terms of shipments coming in and going out.
4:31 Uhm. So we can have better tracking of all of that and I would expect that customers will contact us less for updates and so instead of them messaging us, hey, this package is going to arrive today.
4:45 Did you get it? We should be able to show them that status. Uhm, and you know, instead of them asking for tracking numbers or if we ship their stuff, they should also be able to see that.
4:56 So in general, I would expect customer service to decrease. Do you have technical people in your team that will manage the app in the future?
5:12 No we don't, so you might need to help us with that, but I think that the app hopefully can run on its own, but we might need some support.
5:20 Thank you.

After working on the initial assumptions, I sent to the management team an email with my overview of the customer and product, so I could ensure people and resources. Besides, I included a Draft PRD for more details to the Technical lead and work on the details later:

They basically need an app for orders tracking, customer service touchpoint and show status to their customers. They’ll need multilingual labels: EN, CN at least.
They don’t have a timeline (ASAP) nor budget. So, they may be just exploring prices. I won’t invest for deep analysis from the team, yet.
They don’t have tech people. So they’ll need us for regular maintenance and support. I can prepare a package with Sales.
I’m preparing a first proposal of scope, roadmap, timeline, costs so we can refine processes details and budget with them in a call, next Monday. (Writen on previous Thursday)

Draft PRD

App summary:

A streamlined shipment forwarding app for a Hong Kong-based business. Enhances customer service, reduces inquiries, and increases operational efficiency. Users include customer service and operations teams, plus customers. Key flows focus on order tracking and customer interactions. Multilingual support ensures accessibility. Client's goal: improved organization and decreased customer service demands.

Types of UsersCustomer Service Team:

  • Key Tasks:
    • View a list of all orders.
    • Check the status of orders.
    • Respond to customer inquiries regarding shipment status.
  • User Flow:
    • Log in to the app.
    • Access the list of orders.
    • View order details and status.
    • Respond to customer inquiries and provide updates.

Operations Team:

  • Key Tasks:
    • Document receiving parts of a total package.
    • Create outgoing shipments with a series of consolidated packages.
    • Add tracking numbers to outgoing shipments.
  • User Flow:
    • Log in to the app.
    • Document the receipt of individual packages.
    • Create outgoing shipments by consolidating packages.
    • Add tracking numbers to outgoing shipments.
    • Notify customers of received packages and outgoing shipments.

Customers / End-users:

  • Key Tasks:
    • Receive notifications for each received package.
    • Receive notifications for outgoing shipments, including tracking information.
    • View the status and details of their orders.
  • User Flow:
    • Receive notifications for each received package.
    • View real-time updates on the status of individual packages.
    • Receive notifications for outgoing shipments, including tracking details.
    • Access a dashboard with an overview of all their orders.

User Flows

  1. Order Tracking Flow:
    • Customer places an order.
    • Operations team logs the receipt of each package.
    • Operations team consolidates packages into outgoing shipments.
    • Operations team adds tracking numbers to outgoing shipments.
    • Customer receives notifications for each received package and outgoing shipments.
  2. Customer Service Interaction Flow:
    • Customer service team accesses the list of orders.
    • Customer service team checks the status of specific orders.
    • Customer service team responds to customer inquiries regarding shipment status.
  3. Customer Dashboard Flow:
    • Customer logs into the app.
    • Customer views a dashboard with an overview of all their orders.
    • Customer clicks on an order to view detailed status and tracking information.
  4. Notification Flow:
    • Automated notifications are sent to customers when a package is received.
    • Automated notifications are sent to customers when an outgoing shipment is created.
    • Customers can click on notifications to view detailed information within the app.

Tech considerations

  • Multilingual Support:
    • The application should support multiple languages to cater to clientele speaking different languages, such as Mandarin Chinese and English.
  • Efficiency Metrics:
    • Track and display efficiency metrics, as the client expects a reduction in customer service inquiries. Ensure the app provides clear insights into the expected and actual efficiency improvements.
  • User Support:
    • Since there are no technical people in the client's team, the app should be user-friendly and potentially offer support features. Consider the need for training or documentation.

🤷‍♂️ Initial assumptions

In order to create a first proposal to discuss later in a call with the customer, some assumptions were made from the email and the video answer.

The product's key interactions among users

I tried to figure out the key interactions among users and after some desktop research I drafted the user personas and their master flow.

The master flow

📑 The solution proposal

Here's the propososal presentation for a non-technical audience were I explain the thinking behind the solution to their business and customers needs. These slides include:

  • The problem
    • How to make sure we have all customer’s packages into the consolidated package?
    • How to show customers the updated information about package status and shipment progress?
  • The audience
    • Buyers, Customer service agents, and Operations specialists.
  • The solution to build
    • Information architecture
    • Wireframe
  • Next steps
    • What's included, Price tiers, and Timeline.