Maybe the stork should deliver packages also

On Saturday morning, my wife and I returned from errands to find a huge package on our front porch. The package contained a crib.

Not this crib. This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Cveleglg at the Wikipedia project. This applies worldwide. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Krevetac22.JPG

No, my wife is not pregnant.

We examined the package and found the following:

  • A tag from the delivery company. I won’t name the company, but I will say that this package delivery was “off track.”
  • The true destination address for the package, which had the same street number but a different street name.
  • A message indicating that the crib was a gift.

Wrong deliveries have been a topic of conversation in my Ontario neighborhood on the NextDoor app, especially after “R” posted this:

From NextDoor. Author anonymized.

Many people did not agree with “R,” including myself.

So I tried to load the huge crib into the back seat of my car, but it was wider than the car. Since I didn’t want to drive around with an open car door, we went over to the real parents, who thankfully had a truck and picked up the crib.

But the package was delivered several days ago!

The most upsetting part of the story to me isn’t that the delivery company misdelivered the package in the first place.

The most upsetting part is that the delivery company told the parents-to-be several days ago that the package was delivered.

When it obviously wasn’t.

They had been wondering for several days where their supposedly-delivered package was, which wasn’t delivered until today…to the wrong address.

That’s really “off track.”

There’s a technology lesson here

All of the delivery companies, both the good ones and the bad ones, are incorporating package tracking technology into their operations. In theory, the technology lets you know exactly where the package is at any given time. In theory, this benefits the recipient by making sure the package is delivered to the right place at the right time.

But theory is not reality. This crib was lost in the system for several days. And I’ve previously shared the story about my business cards, which traveled from Nevada to California to Texas before returning to California.

It took longer than expected, but I finally got them.

Why do these errors happen? One reason is because the automation isn’t completely automated. Everything still depends on humans in the loop. For example, this morning’s delivery depended on a human to verify that they were delivering the package to the street name on the address label, and not some other street.

Another example that doesn’t amuse me is delivery time guarantees. Let’s say a package is promised to arrive at 10:30 am. In the real world, the package may not arrive until noon or later, but if you check the system, the system says the package was delivered at 10:29…and that many of the delivery driver’s packages coincidentally were delivered at 10:29!

But this is not a technology problem. It’s a business problem.

But it’s really a business lesson

While the delivery company strives for on-time and accurate deliveries, their actual processes to achieve this end up hurting the company. Rather than making sure that the package truly arrives correctly in the real world, the employees are incentivized to make sure the system records correct delivery of packages.

And the employees are punished (maybe fired) if the system says the package wasn’t delivered to the right place and/or at the right time.

The result? Some employee, afraid of losing their job, recorded a crib delivery several days ago to address X when the crib was really delivered today to address Y.

This is something that technology cannot solve. This can only be solved when a company focuses on delighting its customers, rather than reprimanding its employees.

What are you doing to delight your customers?

Unrestricted use from the Truman Library, part of the NARA. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Truman_pass-the-buck.jpg

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