UPS rolls out new package-tracking service

In a service that it hopes will save customers time and money, United Parcel Service of America Inc. rolled out an enhanced tracking service that lets customers digitally receive a recipient's signature and proof of delivery.

Called UPS Signature Tracking, the new package-tracking system, which is still in beta testing, was announced last week. It enables customers to digitally receive a recipient's signature as well as proof-of-delivery information, including full delivery name and address, and the cash-on-delivery amount collected -- all online, according to Steve Torbett, e-commerce director at UPS.

This free service helps companies save time -- and money -- by allowing them to verify that a particular package was signed for and to view that person's signature over the Internet almost as soon as he signs for it, Torbett said. Only registered users of and UPS Online software can use the new service, and they must request a personal identification number to access digital signatures and delivery information on the Web, he said.

"Getting this information over the Web is quicker than the previous process, where customers would phone the call center and ask for it, and we would mail or fax the information to them," Torbett said. "This service enables [large retailers] to get faster credit for merchandise [from product manufacturers] and improves their cash flow."

Torbett said it also helps customers track a package that might have been mislaid and allows them to see who signed for it.

"If there's confusion and the package doesn't get to the [right place], a customer can track it and see who signed for it," he said.

The service works this way: A recipient signs the portable device used by UPS drivers to store signatures; the driver takes the device back to his truck and plugs it into his onboard computer. The data is then transmitted to UPS' large database, which stores all the delivery information on the more than 13 million packages the company delivers every day, Torbett said.

UPS' Digital Signature Tracking is making a difference at Ingram Micro Inc., a distributor of technology products and services in Santa Ana, Calif. Ingram Micro is one of the 120,000 companies beta-testing the new service, which will be generally available in the U.S. in September and in Canada and Europe later this year.

"This system provides us with better information we can use in dispute resolutions," said Jeffrey Johnson, vice president of logistics and transportation at Ingram Micro.

Johnson also said that because UPS provides his company with more detailed information, Ingram Micro can pass that information on to its customers.

"This reduces the time it takes to get the information to a customer who asks [to see] the signature [of the recipient]," Johnson said.

Ting Piper, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., agreed that, for the most part, UPS Signature Tracking was a good service.

"This takes customer service to a new level," Piper said.

However, she said, not all customers will want it because of potential security issues. She said the data that customers provide to UPS, such as the names of suppliers and clients, is proprietary, and they may not want to run the risk of anyone else seeing it.

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