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Take the Long Way Home

One of the many tools available to us through the development and application of technology is the ability to track items we have shipped to others or are having shipped to us. Knowing that an item you promised to a business connection has arrived on time or being able to plan when something on its way to you is going to arrive is always useful and sometimes essential. The postal service offers free tracking on priority mail and many vendors provide a tracking source for their shipments as well.

Like many new technologies, however, there are also some downsides to being able to track shipments. One example is the mystifying detour approach which occurs when a shipment from one city, say Atlanta, is sent hundreds of miles off in a different direction, say Chicago, from the intended destination of Washington, D.C. Needless to say, the extra distance traveled – which won’t, by the way, earn you any additional frequent flier miles – also translates to a delay in receipt. You can stare at the tracking display, wondering why that shipment went awry, and you will not only have no answers but no useful way to make your dissatisfaction felt. Of course, this activity can be entertaining as you continue to reset your anticipated receipt of the shipment further into the future as the tracking application shows the increasing distance between you and the shipment’s location.

Another example, made very clear by the reporting in the tracking application, is the not uncommon multiple day delay between the initial delivery to the carrier and any significant movement of the shipment. Many times a shipment is reported as received but then nothing happens for a couple of days before the shipment leaves the origination city and heads (hopefully) in the general direction of its destination.

Now think about how your customer or client might react if subjected to the same treatment. Wouldn’t it be natural for that customer or client to place the blame first on you, the shipper, for the unexpected detour and delay? This would be the case whether you made an error on the shipment’s direction or if it was a mistake by the carrier. Even if the latter, your customer might find your choice of carrier to be an error on your part given the result.

The point here is that the technology – perceived as a big step forward – also has the potential of showcasing an undesirable situation, in this case inexplicable delay. Care in the selection and use of a carrier (and its tracking technology) should matter to your business since it is one of many ways your customers will be judging you.

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