Signs that your digital strategy is outdated – running out of tracking numbers

 In disruption

If like me you buy a lot of items online, you’ve probably experienced any number of courier companies, some great, and some pretty horrible.

One consistent thing is that each shipment can be tracked using a consignment or shipping number. One of my first jobs was working in my Father’s electronics company in the store where I shipped goods to customers, so I’ve filled out my fair share of consignment or “con-notes”.

I’ve always expected that these tracking numbers were unique, and that they would never be re-used or recycled. Imagine if the number you were given to board a plane (the Passenger Name Record or PNR) was recycled from a few weeks ago.

Imagine my surprise when I was given a TNT tracking number for a shipment I was expecting. When I logged onto the website to check progress, I was given someone else’s shipment from a few weeks ago, along with my shipment details.

It looks like this is not the first time people have wondered about this, as TNT helpfully have a FAQ on this underneath the shipment details.

This got me thinking. If you have to tell your customers about a bad user experience – that is seeing **another** customer’s details on the tracking list, and knowing someone else will see yours in a few weeks, and you put it down to the limitations of your logistics platform, then perhaps it’s time to update it!

In this case, TNT use an 8-digit tracking number, and in a way this is a Y2K problem. Just as the internet has started to run out of free IPV4 IP addresses (the 213.215.230.217 numbers you have to type in sometimes), TNT has “run out” of tracking numbers.

This should be a sign that your system is now no longer able to cope with the volume of parcels you are shipping.

My suggestion to TNT – fix your “Y2K” problem and allow for unique shipping numbers in your system.

Does your company suffer from similar digital growing pains?

 

About 

Futurist Keynote Speaker and former IBM Global Managing Partner, Andrew is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption and emerging technologies. He is a multiple TEDx & International Keynote Speaker. Watch his speaking showreel here, enquire about availability & fees here or listen to his latest Podcast - "The Practical Futurist Podcast" on your favourite app.

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