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UK Parcel Delivery – How experience design can help

In my spare time I help organise a large running event in The Peak District to raise money for our local school. It’s an off-road event over 21 miles, so we use electronic equipment to record the participants times and also to ensure that everyone runs the course as designed. The rented equipment to manage this usually arrives only a few days before the event itself, we then quickly configure it (it’s mostly pre-configured by the equipment owners) and get it out on the course and setup at the registration venue for the race day.

This year that equipment was part lost (1 of 2 parcels) by the parcel delivery service used to get it to us under those tight time restrictions. By coincidence at the same time another parcel delivery service was also unable to deliver a far less important parcel to my home (a bottle of whisky) and had returned the item to their delivery depot. It’s at times like this when your experience of a brand and the service that they offer comes under intense scrutiny.

Initially I was unaware that one of the parcels was missing, there was no notification that the parcel had not been delivered. It wasn’t until we unpacked the other parcel that evening that we realised we were missing another parcel. This prompted me to visit the service providers website, where I established that we’d had a part delivery. On the website there was no other details available that might have given me further insight into what had happened. I notified the sender that this had occurred to ensure that the other parcel had been collected okay from them, they started their own investigation. A journey of frustration started.

I call my local delivery depot for the service provider first thing in the morning. They are helpful, confirming that they can see that we’ve had a part delivery and that the last time the parcel had been seen was at the depot in Carlisle. They call me back with other pieces of information, which gradually concludes that the parcel has seemingly been lost. I try finding a number online for the depot in Carlisle, but all of the information I find online is for telephone numbers no longer in service, with no further contact details I reach a dead end. I then speak to the sender to see if they’ve managed to establish any further information, the sender has a good relationship with the service provider and has a direct contact at the Carlisle depot, he speaks to the driver who confirms he remembers dropping it at the depot, but then is unable to establish any further information. He also provides a description of the parcel to the depot and they perform a search but to no avail.

If you haven’t guessed by now, this is going to be a long story. If you’ve got the gist and you just want to jump to the conclusion, then go ahead jump.

I decide to call the national helpline number for the service provider. I eventually get through after waiting for a while on hold, the operator quickly confirms what we already know, the parcel was last seen at Carlisle and is seemingly lost. The conversation literally finishes with the operator say “It looks like the parcel is lost”, there was no sense of responsibility, or really an apology, nor some sort of solution or move towards a sense of compensation or next steps. I left the call realising this avenue of enquiry was now effectively closed.

I call the sender, taking him through what I’d learnt, we decide between ourselves that we’re going to need an alternative box of equipment delivered using our own transportation, we agree a time and place to meet halfway between our two locations.

At this point I returned to my other delivery. I go online to see if I can rearrange for the parcel to be delivered on another day and to my work address rather than home. There’s an easy to use “track your parcel” tool on the website home page, I enter the postcode and tracking code, it takes me to the next page. I can’t see where I can change the address, but I can change the delivery date. I can also choose to collect the parcel from one of their depots, but not until a day later, I’m starting to think I might pick this parcel up when I set off to get the other parcel. I try to enter a message in the comment field to ask if I can get it delivered elsewhere (my workplace), but then find that the comment field only has space for about 100 characters. That’s about enough space to fit this sentence in, not much use really. Frustration builds further.

I ring their national helpline number and establish that I’ll only be able to change the delivery address if I contact the sender, I’d ordered via Amazon, so as most know finding contact details for a reseller on Amazon is often challenging.

I turn to social media. I drop both providers a tweet to see what the response is like. Both follow the same tactic (which I’m fine with), which is to ask me to follow them and then move to private messages.

The firm I use for the whisky delivery tells that I won’t be able to change delivery address without contacting the sender, but they offer to contact the local depot and see I can collect the parcel today. They come back and confirm that I can collect from the depot, good news. I visit their website to get the depot address, no address, present. I find it via Google maps, but without a postcode for navigation. I drop a note back to someone on Twitter private messages and they come back with the postcode. I find the depot on my way to collect the other parcel and get my hands on the whisky parcel without much issue. I then receive what seems like a personal message from the advisor on social asking me to help “impress their boss” by tweeting a thanks if I found them useful, which I thought was a nice touch until I received exactly the same message on the Monday morning after the weekend, making me realise that it was effectively an auto-response.

I’m now in the car driving to a destination that I’ve agreed with the sender of the other parcel that’s halfway between our two locations, it’s about a 2-3hr drive, not ideal with all I have on over the next few days. Prior to setting off I’d dropped them a note on a private message on Twitter to see if I can get any further resolution. There seems to be no Customer Management System that lets the staff who are dealing with customers on Twitter see what previous conversations might have been had on other channels. I briefly explain the predicament, I confirm some details for information security, I also tell them that whilst I arranged the delivery I’ve asked for it to be delivered to our village school for convenience (we’re out usually during the day at home). This causes some confusion, but we resolve it, but the tone of the messages is very dry and no sense of apology in the offing. I then get a message back telling me that the goods have been delivered . . . really? I drop them a note back telling them it was a partial delivery and one parcel is missing still. I get one last note back asking for a description and they will arrange a depot search. Still no apology. I’m back to where I was with other lines of enquiry, I leave social.

I’ve now collected the parcel from the sender, we have a brief chat about how infuriated we both are and then set off on our merry ways back to our destinations.


How can Experience Design help?

This is a relatively long story and you might ask what it has to do with what we do here at Beautiful Everything, well it has everything to do with experience. I left the day feeling slightly jaded about one delivery service/brand and unquestionably never using another service/brand again.

There were several easy fixes that would have improved my experience of working with these brands that could be identified by simply mapping out the customer experience as they engage with the service. This is where we like to start, we use a hybrid experience map that we’ve adapted for our needs to help us map what a customer might experience with a particular service.

We’ve mapped out my experience below using a cut down version of our template. Normally we map the customer experience in full to identify not just issues, but also opportunities to really improve a service/experience with a brand.

Experience Map 1

Parcel Delivery Firm 1 Experience Improvements

  • Simple fix to web form to allow more characters in the comment field
  • Have an option to speak to an operator on the automated telephone service
  • Have a find a depot tool on the site
  • Allow you to change delivery address online
  • Quality control over automated social feedback response or even better keep it personal


Experience Map 2

Parcel Delivery Firm 2 Experience Improvements

  • Track my parcel tool to actually display where the parcel is rather than “on route”
  • Customer contact to have access to all communication channels to ensure they are informed about previous conversations
  • Customer contact to be able to see status of parcel to ensure misinformation isn’t passed on

All of these points are from a customer view perspective, but their b2b tools might also include a better inventory/parcel management to ensure parcels “can’t” get lost at depots.

I’ve used DPD recently and their parcel tracking is second to none and my impression of them as a service as a result is very positive. Their “track my parcel” app is a wonder of experience design, offering features such as:

  • Changing delivery address whilst the parcel is in motion
  • Text and e-mail notification of when your parcel is expected to be with you at the beginning of the delivery day to the minute
  • Updates through the day to inform you of any issues
  • Live tracking to show where your parcel is at the moment and when it’s expected to be with you

But then if I’m fair you don’t have to use their website for too long before you find some UX issues there too.

However with all three, it’s not until you try to view the experience of either brand/service as a whole do you identify the issues that a customer could have with the experience when they engage it. Using experience design to look at a business can identify opportunities to improve the experience tactically rather than defaulting to the usual channels, i.e. we need a new website, we should use Twitter etc without working out how they work in combination and how a user might move through the service as they experience your brand. One of the issues above is a likely a 5 minute code update to the brand’s website, but might never be discovered unless someone takes themselves through the full experience (to be fair it should have been picked up in user testing on the site).

Using experience design at Beautiful Everything we aim to help businesses/brands to discover existing experience issues that they may be unaware of themselves and/or opportunities that they may not have considered previously to improve their current service/experience delivery using technology. We aim to run experience mapping workshops with key stakeholders from across the business to ensure we get the full service delivery view, rather than the narrower view you get if you work only with specific teams.

Interested in how experience design could improve your customers experience of your brand and service then get in touch.

Photo credit from Flickr – Lydia