Igniting Growth through Customer-Centric Services
Many organizations today are working through how to deal with technological disruption. For UPS this is not a new challenge. Over its 111-year history, UPS has rarely made it through a market cycle without encountering a significant form of technology disruption. UPS started as a messenger service, but quickly had to contend with telegraphs and telephones, which eventually led the company to launch a home delivery package service. The nature of home delivery has also changed dramatically over the years. UPS delivery was originally a part of life in major cities. UPS handlers typically made many short trips throughout cities, delivering to and from stores. But as people moved to the suburbs, they expected the same level of service— even in far-flung subdivisions. So, UPS expanded again, eventually evolving into the global logistics service most people are familiar with today. At the core of this growth is the customer. As people have changed their lifestyles and consumer habits, the one constant is the expectation that a person in a brown uniform will deliver whatever it is they’ve ordered on time and without fail.
However, managing customer-centric growth has not been easy. UPS has had to find ways to differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded logistics market. To do this effectively, UPS relies on a combination of new technology and borrowing ideas from other industries. In the 70s as the demand for global logistics grew, UPS decided to build its own airline. Historically, shipping companies paid domestic airlines for space in the cargo hold to ship a few boxes quickly. When the company decided to add overnight domestic and global shipping as products, it made sense to start flying its own planes. Now, UPS operates the seventh largest airline in the world. The only people on those planes are the flight crew.
Other innovations, like the use of online tracking, are designed with customers in mind. When someone places an order and UPS is the carrier, consumers can track the package in real time as it makes its way to their door. It may sound simple, intuitive even, to move the tracking process online, but internally it meant a huge culture shift for package handlers. Handlers were accustomed to managing their deliveries through the use of paper clipboards, forms, and receipts. But customers expect online tracking, and over time, handlers realized that electronic tracking also helped them manage their deliveries better and improve reliability.