UPS wants you to know that they have a new philosophy about what they do. You may have thought that UPS is basically in the shipping business. This includes getting packages and freight from one place to another. And it includes the concept of logistics, which is the science of getting things from one place to another efficiently.
But wait, there’s more. At least according to the latest campaign from UPS. They have introduced—drumroll, please—United Problem Solvers. Here is their promise taken directly from the United Problem Solvers home page:
Bring us your problems. Your challenges. Your daydreams. Your scribbles. Your just about anything. Because we’re not just in the shipping business. We’re in the problem-solving business. We’re more than 400,000 “can-do” people serving over 220 countries and territories who are ready to roll up our sleeves and help solve your business problems. Let’s get to work.
You see? No, over here. You see? UPS is not just in the shipping business. They’re in the problem-solving business. And lest you think they are really just talking about shipping problems, they’re making it clear that they want to solve all kinds of problems for you. Your challenges. Your daydreams. Your scribbles. They’re all fair game, and UPS (that’s United Problem Solvers, remember) wants to help.
So, what are you thinking right now? That’s what I thought. Sounds like baloney. Like a lot of hot air.
But I had to find out for sure, cuz, you know, maybe some of those 400,000 people were hired to be general business consultants. So I filled out their form online and hit “submit.” This was my business problem: I need sources for affordable website developers to help my clients build better websites. (Please note, we are actually pretty happy with our current partners in this area, but I needed a topic to test the scope of this here newfangled “United Problem Solvers.”)
I waited. It took about 10 days, but I got a call at my office from an earnest young man from UPS. He wanted to help, but he wasn’t sure how. “Let me see,” he said, after introducing himself, “You want help with shipping from websites?” No, I explained, not really. I wanted help with developing websites. “Well, we can set up e-commerce delivery systems that tie into your clients’ websites,” he explained. I responded that I knew that, but it was the actual design and coding that we wanted more options for. “I’m not sure how we can do that,” he said and he sounded a little crestfallen. Now I felt bad. I came clean. “Look, I was really just testing your company to see if you could deliver on that promise of ‘solving my business problems.’ I didn’t think you would actually respond. Thanks for trying, though.” At this point, he was mumbling something about asking the guys in marketing if they could help when I suggested now would be a good time for us to stop talking. He reluctantly agreed.
I’ll give UPS credit for trying, and I’ll even give their representative credit for having the can-do attitude they promised. But here’s the thing: They couldn’t do. Because they made a promise that was impossible to keep. They can’t solve all my business problems. Or yours. Nobody can. They can solve shipping and logistics problems. Of that I have little doubt.
The question is, why wouldn’t they just focus on what they really can do? What they are really good at? Instead, they cooked up an elaborate promise with a beautiful website (much nicer than their main site, by the way) that delivers carefully-crafted copy with one of the worst examples of overpromising I’ve heard since I was five years old and the doctor told me it wouldn’t hurt a bit.
This is not to mention that “United Problem Solvers” would be a far better brand name for a social justice organization than it is for a delivery service. So, please, UPS, leave our daydreams, our scribbles and our just-about-anythings alone. You can’t help us there. Focus on what you do best and don’t try to be all things to all businesses. It never works, no matter how many can-do people you have.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.