Mailing and shipping is a task that small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) handle on a daily basis. Whether in small or large quantities, it is important that products and correspondence get out in a timely fashion, and that the process is smooth and simple.
Several vendors in the shipping and mailing space have taken steps to better serve the SMB, providing extended hours, courier pickups, online services, and mobile technology to make shipping easy for small offices.
DHL Offers Assurance and New Portal
International shipping is a specialty for DHL International, which operates in over 220 countries and territories worldwide, with 4,100 facilities including offices, hubs, and terminals, and 31,000 service points—retail stores where customers may send and collect shipments.
Telephone accessibility at DHL call centers is measured via a grade of service target, which is for 90 percent of calls to be answered within ten seconds. Quick access to support is a great feature for small offices sending important shipments.
Worry-Free Shipping and Tracking
DHL service points are basically retail outlets where customers usually send or collect shipments, handing it to a DHL representative behind the counter. Customers may also order a courier pickup, or make an inquiry via telephone to a DHL call center or the Internet.
In some markets, for instance, parts of Germany, the U.K., and the U.S., DHL offers a 24 hour service. In other regions there are limited operating hours. Even within the same city, different offices may have different operating hours, which vary depending on the location and the demands of each market. While 24 hour access is ideal, shipments are limited by factors such as international timelines. “Many customers see no advantage to visiting a DHL office in the middle of the night when their shipment will only leave the following evening. It may be more convenient for them to order a courier to come and pick the shipment up,” explains Daniel McGrath, DHL Express spokesperson, global media relations, corporate communications, DHL.
When a shipment booking is made, details are entered into DHL’s dispatch system. The optimal courier is selected to pick up the shipment based on the address, time of order, characteristics of the shipment, and other factors. The pickup address is added to the courier’s route—business owners need not worry about the rest.
Shipments traveling through the DHL network pass through a number of checkpoints on the way to their destination, which reflect different steps or processes in the shipment’s journey. “This allows DHL to manage and measure the movement of shipments through its network, and gives the customer visibility on a shipment’s journey via track and trace tools,” says McGrath.
Shipping rates vary by country. McGrath notes that DHL customers do not usually look at price as the most critical factor when considering shipping services. “Earlier delivery times and increased reliability in delivery means that customers see a value in reducing the delivery time span. This might be because the customer can charge a premium for their own services thanks to higher service levels, or that they can reduce costly inventory by shortening the time between design/production and delivery of their goods to market,” he shares.
Online Portal for SMBs
In June 2012, DHL launched a new portal targeted at SMBs. MyDHL provides customers with a single platform with one login and password, where they can access DHL’s suite of online shipping tools. “These tools make it easier and more efficient for customers to process documentation for transportation, place bookings, track shipments, and produce reports,” says McGrath. “It should be of particular benefit to SMBs that don’t have a large logistics department.” A dedicated small and medium enterprise section on the DHL site provides practical tips, information resources, and useful tools for smaller businesses that are looking to tap into international markets.
UPS Provides Peace of Mind
The United Parcel Service of America, Inc. (UPS) Store franchisees know firsthand what it takes to run a small business since all locations are individually owned and operated. These locations are a great resource for small businesses in need of professional printing, direct mail, mailbox, packing, and shipping services.
With more than 4,300 locations in Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S., there is almost always a location nearby. “The UPS Store is very accessible to consumers,” says Brandon Olson, public relations supervisor, The UPS Store. “80 percent of U.S. residents live within ten miles of a UPS Store location,” he adds. Pricing and hours of operation may vary by location since each store is independently owned and operated by licensed franchisees. Most locations are open Monday through Sunday. Customers can find locations and hours of operation online.
Packing with Care
SMB owners and employees may drop off prepaid packages at a UPS Store, or bring items to a location and a certified packing expert helps pack it. “We offer the Pack & Ship Promise, which basically means if a participating location packs your item, ships it via UPS, and the item is damaged or lost in transit, you are reimbursed for the item’s value subject to the lesser of actual value, replacement or repair cost per the UPS Tariff/Terms and Conditions of Service, the full retail price paid for packaging materials and services, and the cost for shipping excluding Declared Value charges,” explains Olson.
Direct Mail Services
The UPS Store now offers Every Door Direct Mail—a retail service through the United States Postal Service (USPS). “This service allows SMBs to easily reach customers through direct mail. No addresses or names are needed, and there is no postage permit to worry about,” shares Olson. “Users choose an area in which they want to advertise, and The UPS Store handles the rest.” This is an affordable option for many SMBs at 14.5 cents per piece.
Shipping for any Speed
The UPS Store offers a variety of shipping options, including UPS Next Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 3 Day Select, and UPS Ground. It also offers postal services through the USPS. The cost to ship varies based on the provider as well as variables such as destination, weight, dimensions, and delivery date. “Shipping an item across the country costs more than shipping that same item locally. Also, the heavier and larger an item is, the more expensive it will be to ship. And the faster you want it to arrive, the more expensive it is,” says Olson. Customers can use the online cost calculator to enact scenarios.
As far as arranging UPS drop offs and pickups, each UPS Store location works with a UPS business manager to determine times. Most locations offer a morning and afternoon pickup.
USPS Offers Access and Automation
The USPS has taken steps over the years to better serve SMBs, and plans to do even more with mobile technology in 2012.
The USPS has nearly 32,000 postal retail locations around the country, as well as 70,000 non-postal locations selling postage stamps, which is the top retail product.
“Almost 40 percent of postal retail revenue comes from expanded access locations such as grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores, ATMs, kiosks—automated postal centers (APCs)—and usps.com,” shares Darleen Reid, senior public relations representative, USPS. “Many of which are available 24/7 and are places that customers frequent on a regular basis.”
There are 2,492 APCs and they provide customer access to the most frequently purchased postal products and services. APCs generated $544 million in revenue last year. “The average APC exceeds $240,000 in revenue, which is more revenue than from 18,000 individual Post Offices,” notes Reid.
In addition, there are more than 3,800 independently managed contract postal units branded with the Postal Service logo selling postal products and services.
Post Office buildings have varying office hours, but most are open nationwide Monday through Friday regular business hours, and on Saturdays from eight or nine a.m. to at least noon. Customers are able to look up locations and store hours online.
24 hour access online is available at usps.com. Click-N-Ship allows customers to print shipping labels with postage for priority mail, express mail, global express guaranteed, priority mail international, and express mail international.
In addition, CardStore, premium postcards, and Click2Mail allow customers to create and send customized mailings from the convenience of a personal computer. Customers can even reserve and renew a Post Office Box online. With so much online access, it is possible for SMBs to conduct most shipping needs without leaving the office.
For business owners on the go, the ability to perform shipping tasks from a mobile device is an attractive benefit. “USPS Mobile on the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch is frequently rated in the top ten for free business applications (apps) on iTunes,” says Reid. This app enables customers to do a number of tasks including track packages via a tracking number or barcode scan; find a post office location, collection box, or APC; look up a ZIP code; order free shipping supplies; request a package pickup; and calculate prices.
New for 2012, USPS Mobile enhancements include adding hold mail service. The USPS App for Android will also be upgraded to match the current services available on the iPhone.