What Can You Do That Brown Doesn’t Do?

Yes, I am giving it away this week, because I want to help humanity and because, well, familiarity breeds contempt. What can I say? If you don’t deal with UPS a lot, you probably handle their customer experience roadblocks in style. I can’t deny it, these are from personal experience, through the several packages I have had delivered to my home address in the last four weeks.

1) Knock on my door.

This may seem obvious, and since the little forms they leave say “We tried to deliver…” you’d think they did in fact try to deliver in the form of knocking. I have a flexible schedule, and on one of the aforementioned delivery days I was able to be at home for the delivery. I was doing work at home, sitting at my laptop literally ten feet from the front door. I had the UPS tracking screen in the background because in the morning I had pulled it up to see if today was actually the day. Around one, I checked to see if they’d changed their minds. At four-thirty-five, I looked again. It said tried to deliver at 4:25. I looked outside. NO note on door, and of course no package. Did anyone “try” to deliver? I’ll never know.

2) Make telephone service WORK.

First idea here: Let me speak to the local UPS dispatcher. This would have made the rest of my day that day much easier. If not, make other hoops much easier to jump through. Let’s back up. I needed this package enough to stay home for it. I don’t always want things delivered to work. I barely went to the necessary all day so I wouldn’t miss the sound of someone walking up the steps. Then I get this idiot message that they “tried” ten minutes ago. This means they can’t be out of my complex yet, or if so not down the street. I call the buried customer service telephone number and explain all, that if he just turns around no gas will be wasted and he won’t have to do it all over tomorrow, and I am not staying home again, etc. She says she’ll email the local people, and someone will contact me within an HOUR. I try to save them time/money and get something like satisfaction, they shoot themselves and me in the foot with one bullet.

3) Make telephone service WORK, part two.

Sure enough, an hour-and-twenty minutes later, local person calls. Says oh geez, my driver says he tried. I explain excellent hearing, thirty years from senility at least, window I can see out where no one ever was, no potty breaks… She says he tried and left a sticky note. Aha! No sticky note, I tell her, thus wrong house (or lying driver). She: Stay put, do not move a muscle. Sorry you wanted to go out to dinner, though it is now past six, he will try to redeliver by seven, sometimes they’re a bit late, could be up to seven-thirty. And says she, next time put a note on your door telling them to leave the package if you’re not there with your signature, that will take care of this. But I was here…

4) Do what you say you’ll do, part one and part two.

I stayed until eight to be certain. NO package. The next day, I left note: <Date> UPS: Please leave package here. Thank you. <Signature>. At work, checked the tracking at noon: delivered at 11:40. I go home for lunch to keep marauding UPS-delivery trolls (see bonus tip) from discovering my box. NOT THERE. No note. Oh, no! Trolls! Or maybe he/she delivered it to the wrong place after all! I go to complex’s office to ask if they saw truck go by today. No, it didn’t go by. It stopped, right there, and gave them my package. Remember, no note.

5) No “White Fang” on the phone system.

As we were told when I worked for McDonald’s as a teenager, the guy on the other side of the counter pays your salary. You are there to make his experience pleasant, noteworthy if possible, and hassle-free at all costs. (Do they still tell employees this? I wonder.)

UPS: If I am calling you, I have a problem too large for your automated tracking, your first line of defense FAQs, or smoke signals to fix. Second delivery this month in similar vein: I left note. No need to stay home for this, and besides which I was too busy. Check tracking at noon: Unable to deliver, incorrect address. Huh? From the same company, who’s never had a address issue before? (Hindsight is 20/20: this did, actually, turn out to be an amazon.com error.)

I call UPS. This is less than two weeks since incident number one, so I have not forgotten the drill. I tell person on the other end, “I need you to email local folks and tell them to contact me, so I can explain that nothing’s wrong with my address and get the guy to come back.” “No,” she says, “we don’t do that.” “You did that eight days ago.” “No, we don’t do that. I’ll put your info in and it will be reattempted tomorrow.” “Look, eight days ago, I was on this merry-go-round, and though the results were not great, they did put in the email, I did get the call, and they never mentioned that you don’t do that.” [I did not say the merry-go-round part, I just thought it.] “I can’t do that for you. Was there anything else?” “YES. I would like to speak to your manager.” (Takes all my information as if it’s not right there on her screen: name, phone number, etc., I assume so her manager will know exactly which bozo I am when she transfers me.) Her last statement: “I will email this to the local dispatcher and they will contact you within one hour. Thank you.” As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.

You can guess what happened next: no one ever called. Not that I sat around waiting, because (a) my time is far more valuable than all this runaround would make it seem, and (b) I guessed the ending, too. She made typing noises to make me think something would happen, delivered nothing to a manager, nothing to a dispatcher, and had a good laugh. Contrary to my own personal rule, I even forgot to get her name, so I couldn’t call back to complain by name even if I wanted to. By then I was exhausted from the whole thing, and gave up in disgust.

6) Do what you say you’ll do, part three.

“Leave a note,” it says on UPS’ website. I was told this on the phone, also. For delivery number three, I did this, as I had before: <Date> UPS: Please leave package here. Thank you. <Signature>. By now I really am wondering if getting personal deliveries at home so I’ll set a good example is worth it. Check tracking at noon: delivered a few minutes earlier. Go home for lunch to pick up package. My note is still on the door, with a UPS sticky note on top: Delivered to office. This is not as monumental an issue as the first five, but (a) I left the note so it would be delivered appropriately, (b) suppose I’m not that keen on the office knowing my business, (c) suppose I didn’t come home at lunch, but after work at six or seven? The office would be closed, and then what? Shorten my work day tomorrow so I can be there when the office is open? (d) if I knew it was at the office, where no trolls could get at it, I wouldn’t have need to drive home at lunch time at all, I could have just made sure I was home before the office closed.

7) Make it all happen online.

UPS’ first priority has got to be their interactive experiences. At VisionPoints we continually explain how a consciously designed human-to-human experience is essential to Maximum Customer Experience. From the drivers to the telephone operators to the dispatch, this is clearly more important than anything else for UPS at this time.

However, before it became clear this month how many breaks there were in their experience, my first thought was “I wish when tracking, there was a checkbox to tell them to deliver without a signature… Like a virtual signature. That would really help me, the customer, out.” If later in the month, there had also been someplace to directly fix the address problem and get that straight to dispatch, who evidently can communicate with their drivers, think how many man-hours we all could have saved.


Two bonus tips for amazon.com, the source of these several deliveries:

1) If we must deal with UPS, who won’t (or maybe aren’t allowed, I don’t know) go to a P.O. Box where packages can safely be left, GIVE US A BOX we can check to say “No signature required,” then pass that on to UPS. Need a thousand disclaimers about marauding UPS-delivery trolls? Okay. I can choose to take my chances. But lots of folks plan their day around the silly delivery, then have to go out for food for poor, yowling Fluffy, for just two seconds, and (you know it’s true) that’s exactly when the UPS folks will show up. If I had said No sig., then when I got back my paperback would be right on the doormat. No, I don’t have a cat, but one of the unfortunate missed chances was similar.

2) If we must deal with UPS and have multiple crappy experiences, ask for feedback. Lots of companies email me and ask how the experience was. I tell them, for good or for bad, because I’m a professional buttinsky and because I know what response rates can be like. Amazon does not ask. Does this mean the highly touted gods of online everything do not care about little old me? If amazon emails me now, I guess I’ll just link to this blog.   :)


As I await a delivery today, I wonder which variants of the above will conspire to make this experience crummy. Is that what you want your customers thinking?

Is your Customer Service serving the customer? Or are you putting up Maximum Customer Experience roadblocks? Where are your human interactions flawed? Try fixing your one most important human-interactive experience this week.

Remember: The guy on the other side of the (counter, telephone, web interface) pays your salary. Treat your boss accordingly.


Follow-up, one month later: I have (nearly) stopped dealing with anyone who insists on using UPS because these issues continued after the above posting. The other day I had to get a package from a firm that uses no one else, so I tried again. All the worst variants of the above occurred, and in the end I had to drive about 45 minutes round-trip to go get my package from their “local” hub. When I got there a manager retrieved the package for me and with someone in charge to speak to, finally, I asked the big question: Why can’t I get any deliveries from you guys even with dated notes, signatures, etc.?

His response: Our policy is we don’t leave deliveries at apartment buildings, period. It’s not safe.

My apartment building is safe, I said, insulted. Five quiet families live in it.

We don’t do it, he said, and walked away.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


UPDATE Jul 2008: I’ve heard from a lot of folks with similar issues in the months since I wrote this post. UPS has given their worst to Seth Godin, now, and he’s as astonished as anyone. Have a read: What Do You Do When Your Systems Break?