Delivery not so special

This holiday season express package delivery services had quite a learning experience, thanks to United Parcel Service, and the fallout from that experience – at least for UPS – is destined to continue for some time.

UPS’ Christmas delivery debacle this week will have executives of all other such services putting their operations under a microscope to ensure that what happened at UPS never happens to them.

This week, UPS’ Facebook page and the Internet exploded with complaints targeted at the company, many of those complaints likely not printable in a family newspaper, as people faced the reality that many anticipated gifts would not be under their Christmas tree in time.

Some gift recipients still were waiting for their packages to be delivered as noon approached on Thursday.

To UPS’ credit, its representatives did respond to some angry customers by way of Twitter and Facebook. But the tone of some responses did nothing to quell the ill feelings.

Recounted one angry customer: “The lady on the phone said to get a picture and the kids can do cutouts?”

For UPS and other delivery companies, the obvious lesson to be learned by the Christmas 2013 debacle is not to accept business for which the company doesn’t have the capacity to meet its obligation.

UPS delivered the excuse on Tuesday that “the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas.”

UPS needs to investigate whether there was any intentional slowdown or too much “illness” by employees within the company’s system.

Depending on how UPS otherwise responds to customers regarding the mess, the problem could have long-term ramifications for the company. It’s safe to surmise that some customers’ confidence in UPS, shaken this holiday season, will extend to future Christmases.

The company’s future profit picture is therefore likely to suffer.

At least one big-volume company victimized by the debacle – Amazon – told some customers who didn’t get their packages that were guaranteed to be delivered by Christmas that the customers’ shipping charges would be refunded and that they would be receiving gift cards as another form of compensation for their inconvenience.

Thus, Amazon and other companies that depended on UPS will experience negative financial impacts from this UPS failure.

It’s unlikely that any apology or excuse offered by UPS will allay many corporate customers’ and package recipients’ disappointment regarding the company’s Christmas performance.

UPS could have compiled public-relations points if it had worked harder to resolve the problem on Christmas Day. Instead, on Wednesday, UPS held fast to a decision not to call in drivers to make emergency deliveries.

Fortunately, in his planning and performance for the holiday, Santa was much more adept.