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  • Bob Brewin (Computerworld)
  • 11 February, 2002 08:31

United Parcel Service of America now offers a wireless package-tracking service with Korean, Chinese and Japanese character sets in key Asian markets, a move the company said not only boosts customer satisfaction but also provides it with considerable cost savings.

Starting February 11, UPS will provide wireless package-tracking to mobile phone users in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. Users will be able to track their packages in their native languages, including traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Japanese and English, from Internet-enabled phones.

DHL Worldwide Express Inc. in San Francisco has offered a wireless international package-tracking service in 21 languages since July 2000. DHL doesn't offer such a service in Chinese, but it does support mobile package tracking with the kanji character set in Japan and a romanized, phonetic version of Korean. UPS supports both kanji and Hangul, the Korean character set.

Mike Taylor, vice president for international e-commerce at Atlanta-based UPS, said Asian customers pushed the company for a wireless package-tracking service tailored to their local languages. "Our customers want to be able to do business in their own language," he said.

Satisfying this customer demand has a real bottom-line payoff for UPS, Taylor added. It costs UPS about $2 to handle a voice package-tracking request and "only 10 cents if [customers] go to the Web site," he said.

UPS didn't disclose the cost of establishing the multilingual package-tracking service or its expected return on investment. But Taylor did say piggybacking on work already done on international-language Web sites helped development.

Customer usage on international wired Web sites during the past year proves that customers want to do business in their own languages, Taylor said, adding that Asian traffic on UPS's site increased 224 percent in the past 18 months.

Taylor predicted that the new service would cut costs and increase business as more customers spend more time on the UPS Web site.

Mark Indermaur, vice president of sales engineering at Atlanta-based Air2web Inc., which helped develop the international wireless package-tracking service, and a similar service that UPS introduced in the U.S. in July 2000, said wireless tracking should drive Web usage even more, because in Asia, more people access the Internet from their phones than their computers.

Roberta Wiggins, an analyst at the Yankee Group Inc. in Boston, agreed. "Mobile services are more developed in Asia, where there also is not as much [wired] Internet usage as in the United States," she said.

Taylor said UPS plans to roll out the wireless package tracking worldwide in other languages and character sets, including Arabic.

FedEx Corp. in Memphis offers international wireless tracking, but only in English. Traci Barnett, a FedEx spokeswoman, said the company constantly reviews possible new wireless services but didn't say if it would provide multilingual service.

Although DHL offers wireless package tracking service in multiple languages worldwide, it doesn't provide such a service in the U.S. Tracy Egan, a company spokeswoman, said this reflects the dominance of wired Internet usage and the slow adoption of mobile Internet services here.