September 19, 2011, 4:16 PM

UPS tries to reduce delivery headaches for online shoppers

A new program gives consumers more delivery information and control.

Lead Photo

Starting Oct. 3, consumers who receive online orders via UPS delivery and sign up for the new UPS My Choice program will be able to receive electronic alerts about when their packages will arrive. And for a fee, consumers will be able to request a delivery window of two hours.

UPS has already signed up some retailers for the program, including Liberty Media Corp.’s QVC, the online and TV-based merchant.

“QVC is pleased to be among the first multichannel retailers to bring UPS My Choice to our customers, so they can be notified of incoming packages,” says John Hunter, QVC’s executive vice president, customer fulfillment services. “We know our customers will appreciate and embrace the flexibility to make alternate delivery arrangements and assure their QVC purchases arrive at a time that works within their busy schedules.”

Liberty Media Corp. is No. 115 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

UPS, which is a major carrier for online retailers, says the program is also designed to assist retailers by helping to decrease the costs related to replacing or reshipping lost orders, and to reduce the number of calls to a customer service center asking about order status, a spokeswoman says. UPS is offering the My Choice program in two levels of consumer membership.

At the basic level consumers can receive, for no charge other than usual shipping fees, alerts via e-mail, calls or text messages sent to phones about when their packages will arrive within a four-hour delivery window. Consumers can also opt at the basic level to electronically authorize through e-mail or phone the release of packages that require a signature. They can also reroute a package to another delivery address or have it delivered to the nearest UPS Store for a $5 per-transaction fee.

At the premium membership level, which requires an annual $40 subscription fee, consumers get the same alerts service and the ability to electronically authorize the release of packages, plus access to an online delivery calendar that provides an ongoing status of home deliveries. And for a $5 per-transaction fee, consumers can request delivery within a two-hour delivery window.

UPS is not charging retailers to offer the MyChoice program and is still working out some of the details of the program during a beta test program with QVC and other retailers, a UPS spokesman says. But participating retailers will display a UPS My Choice logo on their checkout page, with a brief description of how it works, he adds. Consumers can click the logo to go to UPS.com, where they can register for the program, choose the kind of alerts they’d like to receive, and pay for the annual $40 fee if they choose the premium service. Consumers must also register a credit card number, which UPS will automatically charge after a consumer chooses the $5 fee tied to the special delivery requests. But UPS won’t process that fee until it confirms that delivery was made according to the consumer’s request, the spokesman says.

Once a consumer is enrolled in the program and clicks the UPS MyChoice logo on a retailer’s site, UPS sends her a confirmation via e-mail, phone call or text message. The consumer can then respond with any special delivery requests, such as for delivery within a two-day window or rerouting a package to another address.

Terry Rowinski, chief operating officer of costumer and party supplies e-retailer BuySeasons Inc., which is also a unit of Liberty Media, says BuySeasons plans to begin making the UPS My Choice program available to its customers in time for this year’s Halloween shopping season. “This is a very interesting service and I believe it will be welcomed by consumers,” he says.

He adds that it remains to be seen how his customers will accept the fees incurred by the program, and whether other carriers like FedEx Corp. will begin to offer the same type of service.

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