Help Me, Help You… Fixing the Postal Service

This week, HP is attending the National Postal Forum in Orlando, discussing ways that technology solutions can help improve the USPS, and in turn how the USPS can help businesses and governments accomplish their business objectives.

I know GovLoop members have debated in the past about the best ways to improve the postal service, with ideas ranging from “Do Not Mail” campaigns to digitizing our mailboxes.

Here’s my question – would the postal service benefit from increased use of mobile technology? What kind of services could we provide if every mail carrier had an enterprise-class tablet at their disposal in their trucks?

Mail carriers could have each address programmed into their tablet, and quickly see who had mail and which addresses wanted to hold their mail. Also, instead of returning to the post office after running their routes, tablets equipped with scanners could automatically process requests for returned mail, address changes, forwards, or mail holds.

They could even take and submit pictures of any issues with mailboxes – and who better to submit issues with potholes and road issues than vehicles that are already making frequent stops.

Tablets could be in the cards for mail carriers – let’s just hope that they we don’t find them all playing the Mailmen game all day!

What other ways do you think we could use mobile technology to help the postal service save time and reduce costs?

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William Lim

I for one would appreciate an email or text notifying me that I’ve got mail so if I’m home, I know exactly when to check the mailbox since I don’t always see the truck come by.

Not exactly related to mobile technology, but I would also appreciate receiving an email from my local post office once the trucks go out with a list of the senders of the mail I’m going to get today. I think such a system would reduce the frustration of hearing “check’s in the mail” as well as cut down on mail theft and misdelivered mail. I.e., if a particular item was scanned to go out on a particular day and it’s not received, then it should be easier to trace where it might have ended up.

I think both types of alerts would be especially useful for parcel post, when packages that don’t fit in the mailbox are left at the front door. There have been too many stories about how these can be easily stolen or damaged.

Nakesha Kemp-Hirst

As a USPS employee, I know first hand that the use of mobile technology has been explored and is still being considered. Unfortunately, there is a of work and negotiation involved that takes a lot of time to implement such technology, that the general public simply is not aware of. The most important thing that needs to happen to fix the USPS is for Congress to actually look at the various proposals the USPS has submitted and support some of those tough decisions. If you’ve seen the news this week, Best Buy is shuttering some of its stores as they are not performing, and its customers’ needs have shifted. The USPS should be allowed to do the same thing. If a post office only sells one stamp a day but costs thousands to keep it running on a daily basis, does it make sense to keep it open, especially if you have hundreds to thousands of facilities where this occurs?

Christina Morrison

Thanks everyone for your comments – William, I like both of your ideas and think the technology is certainly available to make them possible. Nakesha – thanks for your thoughts – I’m curious to hear your thoughts on what might be the best way to replace or fix those post offices. If it isn’t cost effective to keep them open, would digitizing our mailboxes be a realistic alternative in your mind? Or are there innovations out there in the tech world that could help save those post offices and facilities?