Virtually every business owner makes use of delivery services in their
operations. For some companies, reliable, timely deliveries of parcels,
letters, and documents are an essential element of their overall business
practices. For others, delivery services are needed only occasionally to
distribute contracts, business proposals, financial records, and other
At one time, the United States Postal Service provided virtually all mail
and package delivery in the United States. But today's business
owner has a number of choices when it comes to delivery/courier services.
These choices range from major international carriers such as Federal
Express, Airborne Express, DHL Worldwide Express, the United Parcel
Service, and the aforementioned U.S. Postal Service to companies that
provide regional services. Moreover, these options are relatively
inexpensive, due to the fierce competition that characterizes the
industry. As a matter of fact, delivery services have become so
competitive that overnight and same day delivery services have been the
norm for many business operations since the mid-1990s. As one United
Parcel Service executive told
"It's no longer an issue of overnight, but rather what time
of day." Indeed, all of the major players in the delivery industry
offer some type of same-day delivery program.
As competition for delivery dollars has increased, so have the
technological advances and innovations offered by delivery companies.
These technological innovations are apparent in all facets of company
operations, from the sophisticated operational equipment used to separate
and track parcels to customer service operations that enable clients to
utilize new technologies to monitor the location and status of every
WEIGHING DELIVERY OPTIONS
When selecting a delivery carrier, business experts urge companies to
consider a wide range of factors. "Shippers should look closely
at what each parcel carrier can offer and decide how much real value
each service brings to the shipper's business," said
Dwight Sigworth in
Air Cargo World.
"For the shipper, that also means taking a close look at your
own business and deciding what your needs are. Only then can you make
the crucial link between your bottom line and the services that are
available." Specific considerations in this regard include the
Are there alternative means of transporting the materials without
incurring the expense of a delivery service? For example, some documents
can be faxed for a fraction of the cost of physical delivery, and
electronic mail can be used for many corporate communications.
What sort of materials constitute the bulk of your company shipping
needs? "Parcel shipping has an array of special considerations
that are usually not part of the picture in either the document shipping
business or the industrial heavyweight line," pointed out
Sigworth. "Shippers are not going to consolidate overnight
letters, for instance. But the parcels that may weigh as little as five
pounds or 20 to 30 pounds are the target of the package carrying
industry's greatest service and rate incentive programs."
Where does your company send most of its parcels and/or documents?
Shippers who routinely send packages cross-country or overseas generally
make arrangements with services that offer single-zone pricing
structures, but regional shippers can register significant savings by
enlisting in zone-based rate programs.
Does the service offer discounts to companies that drop off parcels at
the carrier site?
Does the service have drop boxes located in convenient locations?
Does the delivery service charge fees based upon package size, in
addition to package weight? This can be an important consideration if
your company's parcels are even of moderate size.
What degree of parcel/document tracking capability does your company
require? Companies that deliver materials to rural/remote locales
typically look to major carriers offering universal coverage. In
addition, businesses that ship time-or content-sensitive materials also
typically enlist the services of companies like UPS or Federal Express,
which can provide clients with detailed information on shipment data.
"Web based tracing and tracking, while still considered a
value-added service among many transportation providers, has become a
standard offering in the package delivery business," wrote Tim
"That has small-package firms rapidly adding new functionality
to their Web sites to put more information in shippers' hands and
to differentiate themselves from their competition."
What value-added services does the delivery company offer, and at what
price? "Major package carriers … act as transportation
companies, freight forwarders, and customs brokers rolled into one,
handling everything from package pick up and delivery to customs
clearance," observed Minahan.
Do you want shipping data integrated into other operational aspects of
your company, such as inventory management? Major carriers offer systems
that can aid clients in this regard, although some experts warn that
such arrangements can tie businesses to one carrier to the exclusion of
Which delivery options are most cost-effective for your company? In
today's fast-paced business environment, overnight delivery is
immensely popular with small and large businesses alike, and same-day
delivery guarantees have proven profitable for many regional carriers.
But many letters and parcels simply do not have to be delivered in such
short time spans. Savvy business owners often look to more economical
two-or three-day delivery plans instead. These options provide shippers
with time-definite guarantees at a fraction of the cost of same-day or
Brown, Ann. "Saving on Next-Day Delivery: The Right Mailing Service
Can Reduce Your Office Expenses."
Coleman, Lisa. "Overnight isn't Fast Enough."
. July 31, 1995.
Minahan, Tim. "Strategy Shift Pushes More Business to Parcel
March 26, 1998.
Rice, Marc. "Competition Fierce in Complex Business of Delivering
May 22, 1995.
Sigworth, Dwight. "How to Choose a Package Carrier."
Air Cargo World.