Small Business Tips: Usps Vs Ups Vs Fedex Vs Dhl

A brief overview of top delivery options for small businesses. Price comparisons, tips on finding hidden costs, packaging tips and customer service ideas.

Whether your home business is a small auction service or a garage-sized production line, there is the issue of shipping your product to your customer in the most timely, cost-effective way possible. Here let's examine some of those options, and see which is right for your home business.

The United States Postal Service, while certainly reliable, having been in existence in the United States since 1775, is not always the quickest way to post. A quick trip to the USPS website shows that they offer a wide range of services, from buying stamps online, to sending greeting cards from an affiliate website. There is a handy postage calculator, and tools and tips for business owners. From their website, you can have mail placed on hold (handy for that week you're away on vacation) as well as having it forwarded temporarily to an alternate address.

In essence, the US Postal Service is definitely a low-cost option, as long as your customer is flexible. The one thing they do not do is guarantee delivery. They will offer you insured mail, Collect on Delivery mail, certified mail, and absolutely anything else you can think of, just do not ask them for a guaranteed delivery date.

Now, if your customers are not the laid-back, get-it-when-it-gets-here type of group, you may want to look at a couple of other options for delivery.

UPS, or United Parcel Service, has been in business since 1907, when it started as a messenger service within the United States. A visit to their website shows that most all of their services can be accessed without leaving the office. You can schedule pickup, print labels, choose a delivery option and pay your fees all from the comfort of your own home office. Routine deliveries are best served by UPS ground, which includes guaranteed day-of-delivery in the 48 contiguous states, after which you get into specialty delivery, which can become costly. UPS is also kind of picky about shipping materials. Using their products for packing will give you the least trouble, but also adds a bit to your shipping cost. Flat rates are available using UPS 10kg and 25kg boxes; otherwise your delivery cost can be estimated on the website using their handy cost calculator. Many on-line businesses include UPS shipping calculators on their sites, giving customers the option to compare costs for themselves. UPS ground costs get a bit higher the further they have to go. It's a good, reliable service. And your customers are guaranteed delivery, but let's continue to look at our options.

Federal Express, more commonly known as FedEx, has been around since 1985, when it was founded under the name RDS, or Roadside Delivery Service. FedEx has a web site that seems a bit more streamlined than UPS or USPS. While FedEx does not sell stamps on its sites, it does, of course offer its own packaging and printing services. Digital photo printing, as well as business printing services is also available. FedEx offers same day delivery up to seventy pounds, door-to-door, 365 day a week, including all holidays. FedEx is a good delivery option for rush orders and they offer specific-time deliveries.

They also offer services for deliveries of up to 2000 pounds. However, there are surcharges added to select zip codes, so before using FedEx, check and make sure one of those additional costs aren't being applied to your delivery.

DHL started in 1969 as a shuttle for bills of sale from San Francisco to Honolulu, was basically a Pacific Coast operation until expanding globally. Like the other services, they maintain a web site, where you can compare rates, track packages, and shop for additional options. DHL was found to have a few surcharges the others didn't, such as a 3.00 pickup fee, and 1.75 residential delivery fee. They hint at better rates for opening an account and promising to ship more than one package a month, but since our business model for this instance is a home-based business, that simply isn't always an option.

Office Max is advertised at their service partner, but I didn't see any additional discount for going with Office Max as opposed to any other packaging store. In fact, clicking on the service partner link only brought me to their regular web site, and if you choose to buy DHL's supplies directly, they will show you the product, but not the price.

Out of all the services listed, I found DHL's to be slightly confusing, and full of hidden costs.

Whichever service you use, remember, delivery is sometimes the only contact you will have with your customer. A good delivery service will leave an impression that you may not have a chance to make, so choose wisely, and specify in your shipment the wait time indicated. A tracking number is always a plus to provide, and while there's nothing better than a speedy delivery, if your customer knows in advance what the delivery time is, you will have a better chance of return business.

© High Speed Ventures 2011