Innovation Opportunities in Shipping Industry

Innovation Opportunities in Shipping IndustryIn fairness, this issue isn’t limited to UPS, that just happens to be the source of my most recent bad experience with this.

What’s the shipping dinosaur? SIGNATURE REQUIRED.

When you ship something to your workplace, it’s no big pain. The delivery person seems completely disinterested in who signs as long as they get a scribble on the wireless device they use to document receipt. I get that, but it’s not really a very useful step in the process when anyone in your office can sign for something, whether they are your boss or a temporary worker you don’t really even know.

At home it’s an entirely different story.

I recently ordered a birthday present for my son who will be ten next month. The shipping organization chose to send the package “signature required” and didn’t give me any other alternative. So when it shipped, I went online to track the package and checked every box there was to check to have them notify me via email when the package got closer to delivery. In my limited experience, FedEx does a decent job of this going so far as to tell you when it’s on the truck to give you some idea of at least what day it will arrive. In the case of the birthday present for my son, I got one alert, notifying me that it had left Hong Kong. Not very helpful.

So the next day I get home from work and there’s a sticker on my door that they tried to deliver it and that they would be back the next day before 10:30 AM. It just so happened that I had very important meeting at 9:00 AM that day and there was no way for me to be home at that time. I called family, friends, and neighbors and that time was bad for everyone.

So why is this such a dinosaur?

In this day and age, when shipping organizations have satellites circling the globe, and we now have very mature GPS tracking technology, it seems that there ought to be a much better way for the shipping organizations to ask us if there are some preferred times to receive the package (the birthday is still three weeks away, so I was in no rush at all) and do a much better job of sending me messages about projected arrival time. Moreover, even though I am not a huge fan of going to the UPS customer service building in South Seattle, I certainly would have preferred just going to pick it up there when it got to Seattle than work on blocking a two and a half hour delivery window that UPS was proposing. After three failed delivery attempts they would have to sent it back to the shipping organization and that gave me some stress.

To be fair, this isn’t limited to the signature required world. Sometimes people order perishable things in the mail so it’s vital to not have a failed delivery attempt. And this isn’t just FedEx, UPS, DHL and that crowd, this applies to the USPS as well. The USPS comes to our houses six times a week. That’s nutty if you stop and think about little of the mail we want (never mind the junk mail we don’t want) is really urgent in the first place. The folks at doxo have figured that out, but when you realize that there are probably a healthy percentage of people like me who are willing to go pick things up at UPS, and sometimes at the USPS, given the cost of gas and scheduling and resources, it’s a little hard to believe we haven’t already seen more rethinking in this area.

I did get the package for my son in time.

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Ric Merrifield is known at the “Business Scientist” at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, WA and is the author of Rethink and the upcoming Surviving Business Earthquakes. He blogs about ways to rethink through getting out of what he calls “the ‘how’ trap”.

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Ric Merrifield




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No Comments

  1. Calli on May 10, 2011 at 8:40 am

    The rising trend of online shopping and subsequent shipping is becoming a logistical nightmare. Delivery companies handle literally hundreds of thousands of parcels overnight for next day delivery. The degree of consolidation in many delivery points allows for some degree of drop density, however the profile that is emerging with online shopping is for home delivery.
    This is more difficult than business deliveries due to the very nature of actually finding someone home to sign for proof of receipt of the parcel.
    The main reason the company offered the window of delivery, will be because the van will be in that vicinity at the same time daily. Delivery drivers have onboard hundred or so parcels for delivery – it’s a busy job!
    It does sound as though the communication was not good in your case, it should be easy enough to re arrange delivery or even to give permission to leave the parcel somewhere secure.

    Off to ebay for daughters#’s birthday on Friday lol

  2. Lou on February 17, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Mr. Merrifield, possibly in response to your article and or other complaints UPS has since created an Online Service called UPS My Choice that every individual can sign up for and delay or redirect packages being sent to them. enjoy!

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