I recently got a notification from UPS that they had successfully delivered a package to my home. As usual they made no attempt to ring the doorbell which is a shame because like most office workers these days I was at home, so I assumed the delivery was on the doorstep. When I went to check – no parcel.
I immediately thought to myself, how did the porch pirates strike so quickly? I went back to the delivery notification email and saw that UPS now has POD (Proof of Delivery) notifications on their website and app (better late than never).
It was then the horrible realization hit home that the house in the picture was not mine. It seemed vaguely familiar, but definitely not my house. Somehow the UPS driver had delivered my package to the wrong address. Not immediately recognizing the house in the POD image, I posted the picture to our community Facebook group and sure enough a few minutes later someone posted back that they recognized the doorstep. It turns out it was one of my neighbors across the street. 2 minutes later I had my parcel – all good.
This experience got me thinking about the unintended consequences of POD photos. As an industry, carriers have been slowly but surely rolling out new POD-enabled driver devices and policies that in some cases mandate that all successfully delivered packages have a POD.
It makes life much easier for the carrier in the case of a missing delivery dispute to prove that the package was delivered. POD’s are also increasingly being mandated by the carrier insurance providers before they will process an insurance claim.
The problem with POD is that it gives the delivery driver an excuse to be lazy. There is no incentive to ring the doorbell, to wait and see if the customer is at home, and physically give the package to the consumer ensuring it is safely delivered and in the customer’s custodianship. Instead, POD is being used as an excuse to make “Put on Doorstep” the standard operating procedure which makes the end-to-end brand customer experience incomplete.
Leaving the package on the doorstep and taking a POD photo is better for the driver in many ways:
- It’s quicker than ringing the doorbell and waiting for an answer
- The driver doesn’t have to converse with the customer
- The driver doesn’t need to risk any encounters with a barking or aggressive dog
- They can complete the delivery faster, which means a better chance of hitting delivery metrics and earning a bonus or improved driver rating score.
The problem with the “Put on Doorstep” practice is not only can it be frustrating for consumers, but it leaves packages vulnerable to porch piracy until the homeowner retrieves them. Porch pirates are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attacks, following delivery vans and striking shortly after the delivery has been made. According to Safewise, 260 million packages were victims of porch piracy in 2022. Which supports my fear that finalizing the delivery only through “Photo on Delivery” will result in higher porch piracy rates and result in an increase of customer complaints and insurance claims as drivers lose the incentive to do a physical handover of the package.
I’d suggest that last mile carriers need to incorporate the following enhancements into their delivery processes as part of their strategy for rolling out POD:
- Send a real-time mobile MMS or push notification (where the consumer has the carrier or retailers app installed) of the POD photo to the recipient’s mobile phone as soon as the delivery is complete. This will allow a recipient that is at home to be immediately notified that the package is on their doorstep and needs to be retrieved, drastically reducing the opportunity window for a porch pirate to strike. Email is the wrong communication channel for a “we left your order on the doorstep” alert and carriers should not assume that consumers are aware of the delivery because they “might” have a smart doorbell
- Carriers need to have different “successful delivery” event types (i.e.: physically handed to home resident, left with apartment concierge, left on doorstep, left in parcel locker, etc.), with mandatory requirements for a driver to take a POD photo for all events when the parcel was not physically delivered to a recipient.
- Quality requirements for POD images. At Maergo we regularly review POD photos from our last mile carrier partners and all too often the photos are grainy, too dark, or taken too far away from the package, such that it’s hard to confirm the identity of the package that was left on the doorstep. Device apps need to have embedded quality check processing that guide the delivery driver to take a high quality, in focus, contextual photo – not a quick “snap and run”.
- Ensure drivers are trained to always ring the doorbell (where one is available), however the delivery driver should assume the door won’t be answered and start the process of taking the POD photo. If the door is answered within 30 seconds the driver should acknowledge through conversation the physical handover of the parcel and update the successful delivery status to “physical handover”.
But how can carriers motivate their drivers to actually ring the doorbell? My suggestion would be to invest in wearable cameras like the police force have. Each delivery is recorded and an AI engine can evaluate the footage of each delivery to see if the doorbell was rung, if the driver waited 30 seconds before leaving and if the package was physically retrieved by someone if the door was answered. I hear cries of NO from the privacy lawyers with this approach, but if the footage is only ever processed by an AI engine in the cloud and is not permanently stored I believe these issues can be addressed. In scenarios where drivers are getting bonuses or rating scores based on successful delivery rates, a bodycam would allow the carrier to know if the doorbell was rung and if a “physical handover” occurred, thus ensuring the driver receives a higher score or bonus than just leaving the parcel on the doorstep. The added benefit of recording a video of the delivery event is that it would enable retailers and the carrier insurance firms to weed out fraud, where consumers claim they did not receive their order but the body cam footage can prove otherwise.
The technology for the fourth suggestion exists in the market today, but for sure it would be a very expensive capital investment for any carrier to make across their network (not all carriers have even completed the rollout out POD enabled handsets yet). But I believe that eventually this is the path that the industry will be forced to make.
The evolution of delivery using new technologies such as POD is exactly where we want our industry to go. But just like any initiative rollout, new technology should improve the customer experience not threaten to degrade it.