Customer Created Touchpoints

UPS apparently maintains an informal set of touchpoints with businesses that schedule a daily package pickup. In order to save time and spare the shopkeepers unnecessary interruption they sometimes work out an arrangement to leave a sign like the one below in the window. That way the UPS driver can see without coming in whether there’s a pickup that day.

UPS Pickup Sign

You’ll find homemade signs like these all over, cobbled together by customers. Here are three more examples from Flickr.

I was curious about this phenomenon, so I spent some time Friday afternoon talking with UPS drivers and asking them about the signs. Everyone I talked to was familiar with them. The drivers call them “flags” and said that the practice had been going on as long as they could remember. One driver from my neighborhood even recognized the flag I had photographed. But they also mentioned that the practice was completely unsanctioned.

So why not make it official? When you see your customers start to take matters into their own hands, step back and ask whether you’re missing an opportunity.

In this case, UPS could offer their own signs for businesses with a daily pickup. One sticking point is that customers sometimes forget to turn their sign around and then wonder why their driver stops showing up. That’s a problem, but customers are using the signs anyway and as it stands now the signs aren’t doing UPS’s brand any favors. One driver even said that it looked like the businesses were protesting. NO UPS!

The solution doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just a sturdy, discrete sign on heavy cardstock that the driver can see from the truck. “No pickup.” It should also include a simple call-to-action for people who see the sign as they walk by: “To schedule a pickup call 1 800 PICK-UPS.” The other side isn’t as important, since “yes” is the default when you have a daily pickup. Make it something they want to put in their window. That side of the sign could be customized with an iconic photo from the city in question along with minimal branding and a small “pickup today.” Make it seasonal, to provide opportunities to switch out the signs when they fade from the sunlight. There are lots of possibilities, but no mile-high letters are necessary.

Some businesses don’t use these signs, and a few would be offended if UPS offered such a thing. One driver I talked to mentioned that the way their customers see it, that’s what they’re paying for. They want the driver to come up to the 2nd floor and offer the service, regardless of whether they have a package for pickup. But if a driver does notice a customer with their own homemade sign, they should carry a stack of replacements in their truck and offer one. They should also be prepared in case the topic comes up with new customers.

I thought some more about this and realized that beyond business pickup, home customers sometimes engage in little sign-making campaigns with UPS. Leave the box at my next-door neighbors’ house. Door buzzer doesn’t work. That sort of thing. Maybe there’s an opportunity there as well.

  1. redjotter

    This is so interesting Jeff. Thank you for sharing.

    “So why not make it official? When you see your customers start to take matters into their own hands, step back and ask whether you’re missing an opportunity.”

    There are so many situations that this advice is crucial!!


  2. Jeff

    Hi Lauren,

    I remember reading once that eBay gets a staggeringly high percentage of their innovations by listening to their customers. These kinds of things are pretty low hanging fruit; it’s just about keeping our eyes and ears open.

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