Anita Campbell: Well hello, and welcome to the show! I’m Anita Campbell, the host of Small Business Trends Radio. With the holiday season coming up, we have a very special show today. Because we know many of you may be shipping goods for the holiday season, whether it’s gifts or it’s packages or it’s orders, whatever it is, shipping definitely jumps up around the holiday season.
We want to make sure that you can ship in the best way possible, most cost efficiently, and to make sure there are no snafus that can be avoided.
Today my guest will be Tom Langa of UPS Small Business. He’s going to offer shipping tips for the approaching holiday season. We want to make sure, as I said, that this is a very successful holiday season for you and that you don’t run into problems with that shipping.
With that, let me welcome Tom to the show. Welcome, Tom!
Tom Langa: Thanks so much, Anita. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you and your listeners today.
Anita Campbell: OK, well, great! Well Tom, we’d like to start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. What did you start out in life doing in your career and how did you end up at UPS?
Tom Langa: Sure, I’ve been with UPS for 24 years. I came to UPS fresh out of college with a degree in Industrial Engineering. Like so many other UPS employees, I spent my first years with the firm learning the business from the inside out. Unloading, sorting and loading packages, washing vehicles, working at the customer counter, working as a delivery driver, and then as a driver supervisor, before putting my engineering background to work.
Then I worked as an industrial engineer for about eight years before moving into marketing, where I worked in a number of different disciplines and capacities. I’m currently part of our Small Business Segment Marketing Team. We’re responsible for delivering solutions that meet the needs of small businesses like your listeners.
On a personal note, I’ve been married just a little longer than my career. Just had my 25th wedding anniversary and have two sons, a college sophomore and a high school junior.
Anita Campbell: Well, that’s great, congratulations! That’s good to hear. Congratulations on your career at UPS and on your lengthy marriage. That’s wonderful.
Let’s talk about how small businesses can prepare for this holiday rush. We, every year, it seems like things start earlier and earlier. Here we are, it’s late October, we haven’t even yet hit Halloween, but in the stores, already, you can see Christmas merchandise. People are already preparing, if they’re smart, for this holiday rush season.
What should we be doing, Tom?
Tom Langa: Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head about preparation. I would offer two pieces of advice.
First, plan ahead. It’s important, when it comes to shipping, that you anticipate what your holiday demand is going to be as accurately as possible, so that you can have adequate inventory on hand, as well as staffing. Now, those plans may not be as precise as you’d like them to be at the end of the day, but having gone through that planning process, you’ll be that much better prepared to deal with your holiday demand. It’s kind of like, remember what George Patton said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is essential.”
Secondly, I would tell small business shippers, manage your customers’ expectations. Make sure that they know how quickly you can fulfill an order, so they know how early they need to place the order. Don’t forget to include the time it takes to ship your product from point A to point B, which is one place UPS can help.
We have a number of different service levels, ranging from Guaranteed Day of Delivery Ground to Next Day Air Early AM, which delivers by 8:30 am to most major metros, and five other service levels in between. Regardless of whatever your need and your budget is, there’s a delivery solution for you.
Anita Campbell: Does this mean that, are UPS drivers are up all night? How do you guys do that and get things to another city by 8:30 am in the morning?
Tom Langa: Well, it really is a well oiled machine. Our recent advertising campaign is all around the power of logistics. Getting your goods to where they need to be in the time that they need to be there, with no missteps along the way. It takes a network of tremendously dedicated people and really, incredibly integrated technologies to make those kinds of solutions possible.
Anita Campbell: Let’s talk about some specific shipping tips. We know that there, the preparation is important. But specifically, what do you recommend that we do when it comes to shipping? How do we get prepared, exactly? How do we carry out that preparation?
Tom Langa: One of the first things I would tell any shipper is to avoid the rush and ship as early as possible. The holiday season, I think you mentioned, it kicks off on Black Friday, which is November 25th.
Believe it or not, after that, there are only 20 regular delivery days before Christmas. To the degree that your listeners can, avoid the rush. Ship as early as possible. Now, when you are ready to ship, there are some basic packing tips that are worth repeating.
First, don’t use old boxes or gift boxes for shipping. More than likely, they’re not going to provide adequate protection to your product. Whenever possible, use a new box.
Also, only use approved packing materials like foam packing peanuts, bubble cushioning, and packing tape. Steer clear of the masking tape, the twine, and newspaper to cushion your items.
Also, a good tip is to include a label on the inside of the package, including both the destination and the return address, just in case the label on the outside is somehow damaged.
Finally, something that your listeners should take advantage of, is proactive shipment notification. We have a product called UPS Quantum View Notify which is provided free of charge and, basically, proactively sends email notification to your customer, alerting them that their shipment is on its way. It also includes a tracking number, so they as well as you can track the shipment as it progresses from door to door.
Anita Campbell: Let’s go back to some of these tips that you gave about boxing things up, and what kind of materials you should use. I know these may be, these may seem obvious to you, but if someone is not used to wrapping things to ship, it may not be so obvious.
For instance, you mentioned, don’t use masking tape, don’t use newspaper. Could you just explain why not to use those? I mean, just so people know the importance of actually getting the right materials to pack?
Tom Langa: Sure. You alluded earlier about the ability to get a package from, potentially, one end of the country, overnight by 8:30 in the morning. For that to happen, that package is going through a number of processes, some of them automated, some of them manual.
But one thing’s for certain, is that package is getting moved around an awful lot. We like to view every package as a paying customer at UPS, so we want to make sure that they have the best, most comfortable ride possible. By that we mean, make sure that the contents are adequately cushioned. Make sure that it doesn’t rattle, it can’t be shifted, and that the exterior is safe, as well. Make certain that every seam on your carton is well taped.
Again, make sure that you’re using a new cardboard container. We know that recycled cardboard or used boxes tend to break down pretty rapidly. To give your package the best chance of arriving unharmed, it’s best to use approved packing materials and a new container.
Anita Campbell: That’s really very good. Now, you mentioned a product or an offering that UPS has was to track shipping. Tell us more about that and tell us about creating an account with UPS.
Tom Langa: Let’s start with creating the account, which is really simple. Your listeners can go to ups.com and on the main menu click on support and then getting started and then just follow the prompts from there.
Alternatively, customers can set up an account by calling 1 800 PICK UPS. With either way, online or on the phone, you can schedule a pickup as early as today so you can start shipping immediately.
Now, to back up and talk a little bit more about Quantum View Notify, it’s a service provided free of charge which your listeners can access when they ship on UPS Internet shipping which is at ups.com. Again, it allows you to identify the receiver’s email address and notification is automatically sent letting that receiver know that their package is on its way.
Because it also includes the tracking number, at any further time that receiver can go out and track the package to see where it is in the UPS system prior to delivery.
Anita Campbell: I’m going to get back and ask you what may seem like an obvious question but if you’re not used to shipping, trust me it isn’t obvious. What is the advantage to having an account with UPS? Is it that you don’t have to sit there and input credit card information or fill out a form each time you’re trying to ship something, or are there other advantages? Can you describe what do you get that helps you as a small business by having an account?
Tom Langa: A couple of things. Let me first distinguish between having a UPS account and registering on UPS.com. When you register at UPS.com it makes a wide variety of tools available to you for shipping online.
For instance, you can save and access an address book, you can create shipping templates which include box sizes and weights for example, you can compare time and cost options for different UPS services, create return labels, even store credit card information so that when you do ship it’s automatically charged to your credit card. Ups allows shippers to ship with as few strokes as possible which adds up to big time savings for the small business user.
Now, having a UPS account allows the small business shipper to also arrange for pickup, order suppliers, review charges and pay their bill online which adds even more to their time savings.
Anita Campbell: These are efficiency tools. These are things that you get as a benefit as a result of using both the site and also having an account with UPS?
Tom Langa: Absolutely.
Anita Campbell: Let’s say you have a lot of shipping volume. Let’s say we’ve started a business here over the summer. We’ve been mailing out a lot of things using the postal service but we’ve got a lot of volume.
It’s been really challenging to get all this stuff together and get to the post office before the post office closes and deal with disgruntled people who are unhappy because you have a large load of things standing there in line. They know you’re going to hold them up and so on and so forth.
How does UPS, for example, help you in that type of situation?
Tom Langa: It all comes back to technology. I think I mentioned early on what a critical role technology plays in our network in not only getting packages from point A to point B, but also getting information to both the shipper and the receiver as well as managing the transfer of funds.
Technology is critical. It’s really the backbone of a lot of our services that are relevant to the small business shipper. Again, going back to some of the resources available once you do register on ups.com, having those shipping templates, having that address book, having that credit card stored online allows repeat shipping to be completed with just a snap. You don’t have to complete multiple entries for the same destination or even for the same package size.
Technology really enables shipping automation which can help manage large shipping chores, large shipping volumes to be as simple and as easy as if you were only shipping one or two pieces.
Anita Campbell: I assume you can arrange for pickup at your place of business of all of these packages. Is that right?
Tom Langa: Absolutely. You can arrange for a pickup either online at UPS.com or, again, calling 1 800 PICK UPS. A particular pickup option that’s available that I think resonates well with the small business shipper is UPS Smart Pickup which, in essence, will only send a driver to make a pickup at your location if you process a shipment.
On the days when you do have shipping going out and you process a shipment on the approved UPS shipping technology, a driver will come by and make that pickup. On a day when you don’t have any packages going out, the driver won’t come by. It saves the shipper from having to call for a daily pickup or an on demand pickup. It’s also an environmentally sound option because drivers are only coming by on days where there’s actually packages to pickup.
Anita Campbell: Let me clarify what you just said by asking another question then. Are you saying that if you use the technology, it will automatically alert UPS to come and pick up the package? You don’t actually have to pick up a phone? Did I understand that right?
Tom Langa: Right. There’s a whole suite of pickup options that are available, depending upon the shipper’s needs. You can schedule daily pickup which means five days a week between a certain window of time a driver will come by without checking for the status of any shipments or without any kind of notification. That driver will come by all five days of the work week.
Then we also have the smart pickup feature which I just described where the driver will only come by on days where a shipment is processed. We also have on demand pickup for the infrequent shipper. If you’re only shipping maybe once a month or once every two weeks rather than going through the expense and the effort of having a daily pickup or a smart pickup, you can just call and have that one time pickup made at your location.
Anita Campbell: It’s good to know all those options. Earlier you were talking about planning ahead to make sure that your packages get to their destination on time during the very, very busy holiday season.
Is there anything else that we can do to make sure that gifts or packages arrive in time?
Tom Langa: Yeah. I think you mentioned earlier that it seems like every year, earlier and earlier, you start to see the Christmas decorations in the stores and the ads on TV, but it also seems like consumers are waiting later and later to make their holiday purchases. That can put a strain on a business of every size, especially a small business that might not have the luxury of bringing on temporary staffing.
In addition to making sure that your packages are properly packed and addressed, I would encourage your listeners to familiarize themselves with our holiday shipment calendar to make sure that their shipments arrive on time.
For example, most UPS ground packages will reach their destination within three days, although time and transit does vary from location to location.
On average it tends to take about three days. For Thanksgiving holiday orders using that three day rule, items would need to be shipped by ground service by Friday, November 18 to be delivered for Thanksgiving Day, or packages can be shipped as late as Tuesday, November 22 if they’re going next day air.
Similarly for Christmas, Christmas falls on a Sunday this year and Christmas Eve on a Saturday, so our last day for regular delivery is Friday, December 23rd. That means packages can be shipped by ground service as late as Tuesday the 21st, or by Next Day Air as late as Thursday, December 22nd.
Now, Christmas Eve delivery on Saturday is available by Next Day Air only, and for an additional fee. Again, what I would recommend is that your customers go to the UPS site and consult with our holiday shipping calendar so that they know precisely when they need to get their shipments sent so they’ll arrive in time for the holiday.
Anita Campbell: I see my UPS delivery man for this area around the holidays literally running from his truck to deliver things late into the evening. I know how hard they work, so that if you are committed to send a package in time that it actually gets there in time. That’s great to know.
You have told us that UPS has launched a new service just in time for the holidays. Tell us more about that.
Tom Langa: We’re very excited about this new product. I think your listeners would agree that, more and more, customers want options. They want control over their orders and over their deliveries. Those demands only get racheted up during the holidays.
I think we all know from past experience the anxiety of waiting on an expected delivery but not knowing exactly when it will arrive. In the event that it requires a signature, you may be stranded waiting there for your package to come. One of the best things that small businesses can do for their customers this holiday is to offer them the ability to track their packages once they’re en route.
Now, beyond typical tracking services, this year small businesses can give residential customers added control of their deliveries with UPS My Choice. UPS My Choice offers residential receivers unprecedented visibility and control over their deliveries.
Here’s how it works. Registered My Choice members can sign up to receive a text message or an email the day before a scheduled delivery. They can request a specific four hour delivery window for that package to be delivered. They will also have an option to electronically authorize the release of a package needing a signature, so no more waiting around for your packages to arrive. These services are provided free of charge to registered My Choice members. Now, for an additional $5 fee, My Choice members can reroute a package to another address or have it delivered to a local UPS Store location for pickup.
Now, there’s another level of membership for My Choice which we call Premium Membership. For a $40 annual fee, premium members can arrange a two hour delivery window.
Unlike other guaranteed services, if the package isn’t delivered in that window, then the fee is not charged. This kind of service is perfect if you’re expecting high value shipments like electronics, or jewelry, or if you’re shipping time sensitive items like food or wine.
Premium members can also request a specific location for packages to be released. For instance, on the back porch, in the garage, etc., so that you know exactly where to look for that package on its arrival.
Anita Campbell: This is something that the recipient who is in a residential situation would arrange for, is that right?
Tom Langa: That is correct. That’s something that we would recommend our small business shippers to educate and offer to their customers as receivers, again, giving them that added flexibility and that added control.
Anita Campbell: Are there links, for example, that you can put in a website where you can ask your customers to click that? How would you recommend that a small business actually alert its customers that My Choice is out there?
Tom Langa: I’m not positive about the ability at this time to put a link into a website. I’m sure that that’s in the works, if it’s not already available. Again, My Choice just launched earlier this month. But what I can tell you is that customers can go to UPS.com and there’s a banner on the home page that will provide a link so that anyone can register as a My Choice member.
Anita Campbell: I would also point out that if you run a home business, this sounds like a great choice as well. Because, how many times have you been marooned at your home waiting for an important business package? Now you have some additional choices with this. I think even if you are a small business run out of the home, this could be very helpful for you as a recipient.
Tom Langa: Exactly right, you hit the nail on the head. Now, to use your word, instead of being marooned, the small business owner can go about their daily business, whether it’s visiting customers, out talking with vendors, drumming up new business, whatever, instead of waiting around on their inbound shipments.
Anita Campbell: I have two more questions. We’ll try to hit them quickly. First is, perishable goods. The best way to ship those?
Tom Langa: We have the UPS Package Engineering Design and Test Lab that works with customers to develop specific solutions for their product to help with shipping perishables. I would encourage small business customers to do that if they ship perishables regularly.
Now, for occasional perishable shipments, specifically around the holidays, here’s a few general tips that your listeners should follow. First, freeze the product if you can, and package it in an insulated container with dry ice whenever possible. Next, ship it UPS Next Day Air early AM for quickest delivery, or UPS Next Day Air for delivery by 10:30 AM or 12 noon.
Next, if you’re dropping off your package at a UPS location, keep it on ice, keep it frozen, and drop it off as late in the day as you can so that it remains in the best condition for its journey to its destination.
Finally, if you need to ship on a Friday, remember that Next Day Air service is available for Saturday delivery, but it will cost an extra fee.
Anita Campbell: One final question I want to make sure we cover is, the UPS Stores. People have obviously seen UPS Stores in their local business neighborhood, or even not too far from their residential neighborhood. I happen to use one and find it to be very convenient.
Would you explain what they are, Tom, and how to use them?
Tom Langa: The first thing that I think your listeners will be interested to know is that each location of the UPS Store is individually owned and operated. These store owners are small business owners themselves. They have the same kinds of challenges and concerns and opportunities that your small business listeners have.
As a local small business owner, they also have a vested interest in their community. The UPS Store provides a number of services that can help small businesses, not only around the holidays, but 365 days a year. The first one you already hit on, convenient location and convenient hours.
There’s more than 4,000 UPS Store locations around the country. Chances are there’s one located near you. As a matter of fact, about 75 percent of the U.S. population lives within five miles of the UPS Store. The store owners understand that running a small business isn’t a nine to five job. Particularly during the holidays, many of the UPS Store locations are offering extended hours, not only on the week but during the weekend as well.
If your listeners go to TheUPSStore.com, they can find the local neighborhood location and their hours of operation, not only today, but for the holidays as well.
Next, what is their real expertise? Their real expertise is packing and shipping. So why not let them help with your packing and shipping for your holiday orders? So that you can focus on taking care of your customers and drumming up business.
An added benefit of shipping through the UPS Store is that many locations offer the Pack and Ship Promise, which means you will be reimbursed the cost of packing as well as shipping in the event that an item is lost or damaged. In addition, small business owners can talk to the UPS Store about setting up a house account. This provides free monthly billing and expense tracking and authorizes others to conduct business there on behalf of your small business.
If you business is looking for a polished image many locations offer professional printing and binding. You can take advantage of those services without even leaving your small business. Just upload the materials to the store website, select the options that you’d like and you can pick up your finished product at the location nearest you.
If you’re looking to boost your bottom line, many of the store locations offer direct marketing services as well. There’s really a tremendous amount of capability at the UPS Store and as small business owners themselves, I think they relate well to the small business shipper and can anticipate the needs and challenges that they face.
Anita Campbell: That’s great, Tom. Where can people find out more?
Tom Langa: Three distinct places. First TheUPSStore.com, which will have all the information about UPS Store locations, pack and ship services as well as print and bind services.
Next UPS.com where you can take advantage of UPS internet shipping, set up an account, and arrange for pickup so that you can start shipping today.
Finally, to find out more ways that UPS can help you and your small business, send listeners to UPS.com/smallbiz.
Anita Campbell: Tom Langa of UPS Small Business, you have been a wealth of information, thank you for joining us today.