Business, Tech, Transport

Keeping Track

Parcel

Image by Harry Strauss from Pixabay

I wrote a number of posts a few years back about parcel deliveries in this country, but I’m pleased to see that now things have improved immensely.

One area that is impressive is how parcels can now be tracked more precisely than ever. I recently bought some sunglasses that fit over my normal glasses and the only ones that suited were located in the United States. I ordered them and the cost in total including shipping was just under £12, for that this item would travel part way across the US, then the Atlantic and finally up the UK to me. Monitoring the tracking the item moved around the postal network until it popped up in Illinois, finally arriving at Chicago before being loaded onto a plane for an overnight flight to London where it met our postal system.

Even more precise is the system used by Amazon for example that allows, via their phone app, notifications of how near the driver is away from you on a map, so you know that they’re five stops away, on a nearby street so you know not to go out or go in the bath, or to dash back to your house when you’ve just nipped out to the corner shop – maybe the app should have a button that says “just tell the driver to hang on two minutes…”

All this of course is made possible by GPS location tracking and handheld scanners that can communicate with the company so they know in real time where the vans are, and on what van your parcel is sitting. One strange aspect to this is another courier whose drivers are not allowed to deliver a parcel too early, though I’m sure there’s a good reason for this, something to do with them giving customers time slots for delivery. In business knowing when a parcel is going to arrive to within a specific one-hour time slot can help schedule work.

I do find myself occasionally saying, when I get a message from the same tracking system to inform me that the parcel’s been delivered, “I know, I received it, it’s in my hand.”  Still useful to know if you’re not home though.

All this tracking and technology has been helpful in these days of social distancing and contactless delivery where the courier doesn’t take a signature but uses the handset’s camera to show it where they left it on the doorstep instead, usually with your feet in the background – “we know you received the parcel, are those or are those not your socks?”

I’m rarely in a hurry for items, I remember the days of “please allow 28 days for delivery” so next day is a luxury, but it’s still interesting to see the data, to see where it’s been and I suppose it’s still exciting when it’s something nice or frivolous rather than functional to see when it’s close to being delivered.

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Psychology, Society, Uncategorized

Parcel Impatience

English: "Royal Mail" sign, Belfast ...

English: “Royal Mail” sign, Belfast The “Royal Mail” sign on the top of Tomb Street sorting office 322800. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I work in a place opposite a Royal Mail sorting office where people who have been left the little “We tried to deliver an item to you but you were otherwise occupied…” or whatever it says card come to collect their boxes and envelopes.  At break times you can see dozens of people wandering up the drive with their packages to their cars (often parked without permission on our car park, but that’s another story) while doing something curious.

Like kids on Christmas morning they’re tearing into the paper and cardboard, risking spilling the contents onto the road (and often doing so) just because they can’t wait until they get home to see what they’ve been sent.

More often than not it’s likely to be something they’ve ordered so it’s not as if they’re thinking “what on Earth can it possibly be, I’d better open it now in case it’s something I’d rather not take home.”  If it is something they’d rather not take home I’d rather they didn’t open it outside my shop.  They can’t be checking if it’s the right thing, after all it’s not like they can stride back to the sorting office and say “please send this back to Amazon for me, it’s not the right colour.”

The other day I even saw a man with a motorbike, clad in the full leather jacket and so on, unwrap a new soft-shell jacket and inspect it while standing next to his bike, risking oil and grime stains, before then stuffing it back in the envelope and lodging it in his jacket.

The best ones are the rare people who both park in our car park, without permission, collect a parcel and then sit in their car and inspect it for ten minutes before leaving.  I’m thinking of offering to sell them a coffee and biscuits to complete the experience.

 

 

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Business, Society, Transport, Uncategorized

Out of The Loop?

Call Centre

Call Centre (Photo credit: The Poss)

The term “Jobsworth” was coined long ago and people who are inflexible in their decision-making at work when they really could be are everywhere but today’s nationwide and worldwide companies are making it worse by making it institutionalised.  The problem with centralised customer services and computerised operations and logistics systems is that a person cannot make an on-the-spot decision to make things easier.

This is true of many things including transport, the prices of goods – where once staff have to jump through hoops to give a bit of a discount for a slightly damaged item for example, or loans where decisions are mostly made by computers based on credit scores.

There can’t be a grey area, decisions are yes, or often as the Little Britain sketch goes “computer says nooo”.  I have another parcel on a courier (Yodel) and they tried to deliver it while I was at work twice and then according to their website the only option then was to collect it from their depot, twenty miles away, that’s only open when I’m at work.  I rang them and the customer service person gave me the option to have it redelivered – when I’m at work.  I had to ring Amazon to change the delivery address to my work one – Catherine at Amazon was very nice and helpful.  What happened next was that I looked at Yodel’s site on the Saturday and the parcel was out for delivery – on a day that, according to their site and the customer service man, wasn’t  even an option; he was only able to look at the same data I had access to.  I was at home, I didn’t know whether Amazon’s request had gone though, whether they were delivering to my home or the work address I wasn’t at.  My parcel was in danger of travelling around more than January’s camera.

This inconvenienced me but it shouldn’t have; if I were able to call the local depot, talk to a person who has the parcel in front of them, someone who could say “we do actually deliver on Saturday, will you be at home then?”  I’d say yes and they’d schedule one more delivery attempt, I wouldn’t have had to ring Amazon.  I had stuff to do but I couldn’t because now I’ve got to wait in, if I’d known I could have done these things the day before as, being Good Friday I was off work – as were Yodel.

This reliance on computer systems is fine if the person accessing them has all the relevant data they need but often they don’t and these systems don’t often allow any flexibility whatsoever in the decision-making process.  “The computer says Tuesday so Tuesday it is, except it could be Saturday but because I’m two hundred miles away from the depot I don’t know that they have a van going out on Saturday and I wouldn’t have the authority to ask them to deliver on Saturday if I did anyway, and they might even just try again on Saturday even though the computer says you’ve got to fetch it yourself.”

Our company, and other small firms we work with have that flexibility, we can slot extra jobs in dynamically because not everything is set in stone.  Admittedly that can work the other way and things have to be rearranged.  It’s not just computers though that cause the problems, so many companies have inflexible rules that don’t allow people to give a little to provide good service.

If you can say to a customer who’s not got quite enough money with them “it’s only 20p difference, I’ll take what you’ve got there” or give them a little something for free whether it’s a bookmark, a pen, a handful of tacks or whatever it makes them feel that you’re doing something to help them, it gives them a warm feeling inside and makes them more likely to come back.  Not being able to bypass a rigid system, or not having the right information because of rules or “yes and no” computers makes the customer feel like they’re fighting a battle to get what they want.

Sometimes there’s no choice, as I’ve said before about warranties and the time it takes to make things but where a little flexibility is possible it shouldn’t be held back but allowed to make everyone’s life a bit more pleasant.

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Business, Meta, Society, Tech, Transport, Uncategorized

And Now a Travelling Keyboard

Option key on a third-party keyboard (Logitech...

Option key on a third-party keyboard (Logitech) designed for use with Apple computers. 22x20px|border Deutsch: Wahltaste auf einer für Apple-Computer konzipierten Dritthersteller-Tastatur (Logitech). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I promise that this won’t become a blog about parcels, but here’s one more post.  Ba dum tish!

I’m typing this entry using its subject.  Last week I wanted a new keyboard as the one I was using kept missing large chunks of what I was typing and for some reason I’ve never been able to type properly with it anyway so I went to my local Currys (the UK equivalent of Best Buy) to buy a good, low-cost Logitech wired keyboard…

I had looked on the websites of a couple of local retailers, they were the cheapest, they appeared to have it in stock so I visited on my way home from work.  I couldn’t see any of the basic Logitech keyboards only the more expensive ones so I had to ask someone.  It turned out that it wasn’t “reserve and collect” that was available but “pay and collect” which means ordering it for delivery to my local store.  So I went home, got out the credit card and ordered it.  The confirmation email said it would be three to five working days, definitely available by 29th January.  My fingers would soon no longer be numbed by a lousy keyboard, it was worth the wait.

Three days passed, on the fourth day I checked my emails – no notification that it was ready to collect.  Fifth day, five PM, still nothing so I went to the store again on the way home – it was actually there but they’d had computer problems, I was told, so I hadn’t been sent an email.  So all was okay, I had my keyboard.

This wouldn’t seem preposterous if it wasn’t for where I live.  You see on the outskirts of this town is one of the largest distribution warehouses in the country, in Europe in fact.  It was built a few years back in two parts and belongs to DSG – the parent company of the Currys store I ordered the keyboard from.  Knowing that it would have come from that warehouse and being naturally inquisitive (read cynical) I looked up the package’s tracking number on the courier’s website and found the full details of its travels.

It left Newark, went to the courier’s hub in Birmingham before coming back to Newark.  Using normal roads between the warehouse and the store (it’s effectively a straight line, along the ancient Fosse Way) it’s 1.5 miles, taking about five minutes.  The parcel travelled around 163 miles over about 3 hours total on the road.

In the old days they’d order one in from the warehouse, it would be allocated to the store, as it’s just literally minutes down the road a local van could have brought it down but it seems that in these days of complicated “logistics” that’s perhaps just too easy.

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