January 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm #119713
It’s no secret that the USPS is struggling financially. They have been for years.
Well, they’re exploring creative ways to generate revenue, like selling gift cards and delivering the mail naked. Okay, so that second one was not a ploy for money, but a misguided attempt to cheer up someone bummed out on the route.
Seriously, though: when I think of the USPS, I’m reminded of fourth grade history lessons about the Pony Express and a group of people that are believed to adhere to the following creed long before FedEx, UPS and DHL got in the game:
We are mothers and fathers. And sons and daughters. Who every day go about our lives with duty, honor and pride. And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever.
It would be a crying shame if they folded up and failed, don’t you think?
So what are your ideas for saving the US Postal Service?
How can they cut costs and/or generate revenue?
Get creative, people! I really enjoyed getting your cards and family pics over Christmas and getting that occasional, very special, handwritten note. I’d hate for that to come to an end. You?
January 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm #119817
I’ve got to admit that I am pretty peeved about the fact that 95% of the mail I receive these days is credit card offers and advertising mailers. For the love of all that is decent and holy, can we get that to stop…FOREVER?
Think about all the money that USPS would save in processing all that junk! It’s time to kick the DO NOT MAIL campaign into high gear…with the crusade being championed by USPS!
January 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm #119815
I, like you, would hate to see the USPS come to an end. To me, that just doesn’t make any sense. However, with internet banking and pay-by-phone, the mail I receive and send from my home has become less and less time sensitive over the years. So, one cost cutting measure would be to deliver the mail 3 or 4 days a week rather than 6. I can certainly wait an extra day to get the junk mail that I toss in the garbage and I probably won’t get around to reading those magazines until the weekend anyhow. I am not sure how much money this would save but it seems like it would certainly save some money on fuel, labor, vehicle maintenance, etc. This would be especially true in rural locations.
January 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm #119813
January 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm #119811
One idea might be to train their folks on offering an additional customer service-based service/product like using their expertise to wrap boxes and parcels onsite just before mailing it out. When I was stationed in Korea in the Army we used to go to this facility located on the Army installation and conveniently co-located by the military post office that offered a box-wrapping service which would meet USPS standards. Those guys were fast, and very cost-effective (about $3 per box) plus it would save the customer the headache of having to find appropriate wrapping paper, mailing tape, etc., to mail his/her box back to the U.S.
January 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm #119809
The thing is, at home, for the most part, all I get is junk mail, except around the elections and holidays. All my bills are electronic and I have canceled my print magazine subscriptions because I read them online or on my iPad. I very rarely send any snail mail. It’s a shame my mailman is a really cool guy, always pleasant.
I think the only thing that will save them is if they offer to deliver snail mail electronically, sort of like Earth Class Mail.
With that said, there does seem to be a resurgence in direct mail campaigns.
January 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm #119807
I would be extremely sad to see the USPS go under. My father and father-in-law both spent their entire careers working for the postal service. I grew up going to the post office, helping to sort and stamp mail, and delivering the mail with my dad on routes in rural Vermont.
Although we have tons of new tools at our disposal to connect with friends and family (especially Facebook, Twitter, e-mail), doesn’t that make it all the more special when you get a handwritten note from someone you know. Or better yet, wouldn’t it be interesting to bring back a pen pal campaign and get to know someone new through handwritten letters? I would love to see a revival of using “snail mail” to show our friends and family we’re thinking of them. Get Hallmark involved! They’ve got a stake in this too. Pull on people’s heartstrings with an emotional campaign. Remember the Taster’s Choice coffee commercials that were like a soap opera? Make people nostalgic for letters and packages!!
And I completely agree with removing the noise of wasted direct mail marketing that isn’t targeted. Let me sign up to receive something, don’t just keep sending things to me over and over when I’m obviously not responding.
January 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm #119805
Without the revenue generated by “junk” mail, the postal service would be completely unsustainable. The USPS and their unions have fought against DO NOT MAIL everytime it has come up.
Try this experiment for one month. Put the envelopes from the mail you really care about in one pile. Put the junk mail in another pile. At the end of the month ask yourself how much you really value the postal service.
January 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm #119803
Have you seen any figures of revenue vs. cost with regard to junk mail, Peter? In the end, do they come out ahead?
January 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm #119801
Marco – so consumers would pay for this service onsite?
January 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm #119799
In some ways, how about being more responsive to customers? We have a situation where, when we have a certan female carrier, some circulars dont’ come. My mother and I are both on some of the same mailing lists…yet when the Gap or Old Navy ad flyers/coupons come in the mail, if the lady is our carrier, we’ll only get one, but if the male is our carrier, we’ll get them both. Or the fact that my mom’s People magazine sometimes arrives days late and obviously read.
But who do you complain to? Our mail comes out of a post office that is notorious for its bad service. Even other postal employees know that this postal station is slow and a pain….but nothing is done. And if a complaint is made, the response is ‘perhaps you should get a post office box then’…umm, how about you consider that maybe your carrier is committing a federal offense and look into it?
Have a few cases like this, when customers know that they can no longer trust their carrier, and yeah, you switch to something else, the electronic mail. But that somethng else is just as fraught with danger in this day adn age of phishing and identity theft. So you’re afraid to put too much online because all it takes is a bad e-mail and you’ve just lost your identity.
They need to put the ‘service’ back in postal service.
If they want to survive, they need to fight to survive. and, to this point, they haven’t been looking at things in a business competitive manner, they’ve looked at the situation with a ‘hey, we’ve been around for decades, no one will ever get rid of us’….well it can happen, and there are companies like UPS or FedEx that are waiting in the wings to expand their operations.
There’s things like their ‘flat rate’ campaign….well seriously, have you looked at the price? it’s like they charge you the postage they’d charge you on a 50 pound package for something that may weigh 5, so yes, it’s easier, but you pay for that ease by overpaying. How about doing the flat rates instead of up to 70 pounds (and honestly, what can you put in some of those boxes that weighs 70 pounds???) lower the rate, have the flat rate go up to 20 and make it cost effective for consumers.
January 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm #119797
Yeah, – it was pretty efficient and fast – almost no waiting in line…
January 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm #119795
I do not have them at my finger tips but yes the revenue from junk mail FAR exceeds the cost of delivering it. Back in my Congressional staffer days, Postal Service union lobbiests would be in the office within 24 hours after any DO NOT MAIL legislation was introduced to explain why it would mean the end of the Postal Service. While some of there rhetoric was a little over the top, their numbers always added up.
January 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm #119793
Sadly I don’t have any ideas that could help bring the USPS into the digital age either, but I must agree with your sentiment about receiving hand written letters. Perhaps it’s because we receive so many e-mails at an instant gratification timeline that it shows someone has put a bit of extra effort into it.
Further, I’ve noticed in the past that hand written thank you notes delivered to prospective employers are often found to be favorable.
On a work related note USPS going under is more than just an issue for the delivery of snail mail. There are so many transportation government contractors that rely on their business. If they fail, it will directly affect a lot of people.
January 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm #119791
I think they should diversify their business.
Cool idea from a recent NYTimes op-ed –http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/18/opinion/18ravnitzky.html?_r=1Ravnitzky’s idea (which he’s careful to point out is his and not that of his employer) is to take the USPS’s biggest asset – it’s massive fleet of vehicles – and turn them into the most robust data collecting operation in the land. Right now each truck has a single purpose: to deliver mail. But fitted with an array of cheap sensors, mail trucks could wireless deliver real time information on weather, pollutants, traffic, road conditions, and even locate gaps in cell phone coverage and television signals.
January 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm #119789
Alice M. FisherParticipant
Will we loose an integral portion of our record keeping capabilities if the Postal System and Newspapers Die?
For consideration: My grandmother was a well known philatelist, a postal historian, a philatelic journalist. Faulstich was a pioneer student and collector of postal history. She campaigned extensively to have postal history recognized as a category at major exhibitions. She was a founder of the Postal History Society of the Americas (now the Postal History Society, Inc.). Faulstich helped the PHS through its early years as the first editor of its Postal History Journal, and as president from 1965 to 1967. In her philatelic career, “Dee” edited Covers magazine, The Essay-Proof Journal and was associate editor of Western Stamp Collector. She wrote a historic stamp column in the Bergen (NJ) Evening Record and later in the Newark (NJ) News (25 years)
Faulstich built world-class philtelic collections. For example the postal history of the American Expeditionary Forces and the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in Siberia during World War I. Her collections are now in the archives of Stanford University (Hoover Institution, 434 Galvez Mall, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-6010) as one of the pre-eminant collectors of Siberian History becuase of her research and contributions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Margaret_Faulstich
Can we learn from those who have gone before us, from “the saga of the mails” and come up with any ideas to adapt? To sustain? Undoubtedly, postal history is part of the fabric of our U.S. history, as it is from the covers and letters sent through the mail that enrich our history. To read more begin here.
I would be so very interested in ideas as well
Thank you for this Topic!
January 8, 2011 at 2:18 am #119787
I don’t know where I read it, or who said it, or when I read it – but I seem to recall a great idea that may have come from the Postmaster (but I’m not sure)
The idea is making small post offices at many locations such as supermarkets, shopping centers, and other places. (Almost like supermarket Starbucks does… they can put one of those little booths almost everywhere) – It would be cheap to do because the overhead is taken care by the market/shopping center/other places. Plus, with the automatic postal machines and drop-off boxes there’s a lot of places that won’t even need a staff person there at all hours.
Another idea that’s sorta out there is a One-Stop Shop for different government services such as passports, limited services for social security, IRS, INS, and things like that. Other agencies could pay to postal workers staff to assist with common task like filling out applications, processing requests for replacement cards, and other simple things. Every small town has a post office, but not every small town has a place to get a replacement social security card.
Going one step further, imagine if we had tele-presence that linked with these agencies? A computer with a webcam and headset that was linked to a home office would greatly extend the reach agencies out in the field.
January 8, 2011 at 3:56 am #119785
A few grocery stores around here already have basic postal outlets, they do the simple weight and mail, but stuff like international mail you have to take to the post office.
in some ways I can see merging work, in others, I don’t think there’s much chance of some agencies willingly merging like that. The post office already does passports.
the databases and knowledge are just different enough…I can see a lot of flaws with having one group of people wearing so many hats. Not to mention the security flaws and potential information vulnerabilities with one office having access to so many databases. The more knowledge you have in one place, the bigger target you are.
Now, what i could maybe see is one building, several counters all in one office. Systems that aren’t networked…they basically are roommates to save on the rent.
However, it’s my impression that the biggest money drain isn’t post offices as much as it is home delivery and the manpower needed for that.
January 8, 2011 at 6:06 pm #119783
I think the key is customer service. Our post office is small, with only three windows. The line could be out the door, and if only one or two windows are open, so be it. The parking lot is tiny, and at busy times, can be out to the main road. Our mail lady is great. But my friend, same office, different route…. if there is a car even remotely near her mailbox… not blocking, but near it… the mail doesn’t get delivered.
Yesterday, I went to our main office. Maybe 5 people in line, two windows open with a person at each window. The lady at one window went out to her car for something and the employee did nothing while the lady was gone. And when the supervisor came out, they just started chatting. By the time I left there were 10-12 people in line, still only 2 windows open. When I walked out the door, all I could think was… no wonder they are in debt!!!
January 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm #119781
I’ve seen things like that too….window workers not caring about moving the line. On the other hand, i love going to our downtown post office because the ladies working there are just the opposite. ‘sir, if you’ll move over there and fill that out, i’ll wait on these people’, etc. they multitask. They do all they can to move the line. And when you have things like address forwarding, passport applications and even customers coming in with their packages totally unwrapped, it’s great to have them try that hard.
Then there is our Gage Street office…where they do little to nothing to move the line. They don’t care how fast they move you thorough, cause it’s not like you’re going to take your business elsewhere.
If you walk into a fast food restaurant and get treated poorly, you just don’t eat there because you have a choice, but if you walk into a post office and is treated poorly, you’re stuck.
No, that’s not all their problems. However public perception and attitude towards you DOES effect sympathy towards you. And when the postal rate keeps going up and up and up and the service gets worse and worse and worse, people lose sympathy and take their business elsewhere as much as they can. Such as electronic bill pay, shipping via UPS or FEDEX rather than USPS. I find it quite pathetic that a friend of mine mailed a christmas present to me the monday after christmas and it took it a week go get here….and it was priority mail…she she lives 500 miles/8 hours away. That’s inexcusable. Should have taken 2 days at the most. but they don’t seem to care.
I know they have no real competition, but they need to pretend they do. they need to pretend and act like they are fighting for every customer…because, in a lot of ways, they are.
Sometimes, like the example of a car parked too close, it looks like some look for excuses not to work. It’s too cold to deliver, it’s too hot, etc. really? If the police or fire said ‘yeah, sorry, too cold to work your car wreck, we’ll try again tomorrow, we’d never hear the end of it.
yes, mail isn’t as vital as police or fire…but they are a public service. People depend on them. People getting checks or bills or packages, nowadays, even meds and medical supplies. It’s frustrating when your carrier decides they don’t feel like delivering your mail…cause it’s not like i can go and pick it up (and if i try the lines are so long it’d take forever).
Just very customer unfriendly as times.
January 10, 2011 at 1:32 pm #119779
I think the post office has outlived it’s usefulness and these duties can be done cheaper and better by others. But knowing that few government programs ever see the trash heap of ineffectiveness, here are my ideas:
1. Stop Deliveries.
2. Open Post offices 24/7 and allow people to stop by at their convenience to get/send their mail.
3. Charge full price for junk mail.
4. Allow special, limited delieveries on a sign up basis for those who can’t get to the post office.
January 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm #119777
Two quick things:
1 – The Post Office needs to start thinking like McDonalds or Starbucks or the Catholic Church. Seriously. What’s the common thread for all four organizations? Property. Prime real estate in cities and towns across the country. And they need to start leveraging their strategic positions and use them for other opportunities that serve the needs of the community.
2 – …which leads to this point: What are other products and services that USPS could offer and sell from these strategic locations? I worked (very briefly) on a project to transform post offices in an island nation, seeking to do just that: re-purpose post offices to serve as one-stop shops that meet other community needs. Could the Post Office consolidate with other key service partners who might be struggling and could use space? I know this might take a bit of a re-build for the buildings themselves, so there are capital expenses…but I’m trying to think outside the box. Could USPS partner with related companies or organizations that offer complementary products or services, inviting them to share the load of sustaining the infrastructure as well? I don’t know…
January 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm #119775
Bryan Martin FirvidaParticipant
USPS needs to be given the freedom to make adjustments quickly on their own. They’re completely supported by the revenue they generate, not by taxes, and yet are unable to make changes without government approval completing hemming them in. The financial and structural demands and limitations are going to severely impact any positive changes that USPS can make. Adding things like gift cards and greeting cards for sale in USPS locations took months for them to get approval for.
For comparison, USPS still has some of the lowest first class rates in the world (44 cents to send a letter anywhere in the US) yet FedEx and UPS will charge anywhere from $15 to $25 (or more) to deliver the same letter.
USPS can’t fulfill the demands of Congress (you MUST have a Post Office everywhere) and not be given the freedom to make the smart business decisions required to operate in today’s environment.
January 10, 2011 at 2:21 pm #119773
Bryan Martin FirvidaParticipant
on 1: not sure if USPS manages their own property or if GSA does.
on 2: it can a long time for USPS to make changes because of the approvals needed. USPS already has partnered with FedEx to provide drop-boxes at USPS locations. So they are trying to think smarter. I just think for some folks its easier to maintain control and then complain when the USPS doesn’t do what they want them to even though they’re the ones preventing them from improving…(Amtrak is in a similar business trapped in a government situation)
see this column for more thoughts >> http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2011/01/coming_soon_to_a_post_office_n.html
January 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm #119771
They could save millions by changing to energy efficient lights at all their facilities.
January 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm #119769
I agree with some of Dan Herlt’s points, and those of some others, but not because the USPS is no longer useful–because it needs to simplify.
UPS and FedEx started out doing one thing well: delivering packages. They then backed into delivering letters. This leaves them with a balance–mostly packages with occasional letters–that reflects the business landscape today.
As more people move their communications and business online, they reduce the number of small items they send, such as letters. At the same time, they increase the number of packages they send as they do more shopping online.
To do so, the USPS should
- Charge first-class rates for all letter or catalog size mail to discourage junk mail and simplify their rate structure.
- Continue to simplify their package rate structure.
- Close as many post office locations as possible to focus on centralizing operations around package delivery.
- Co-locate as many of the remaining locations as possible within supermarkets, banks and so forth as someone else described.
January 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm #119767
Take the experiment one step further – I keep the USPS in “business” by sending all the postage paid envelopes back to all those businesses who include them, and I fill them with everyone elses junk mail. This helps to keep
both the postal service and all the mail room employees across the country employed.
Now seriously, while some of us could manage without receiving our mail 6 days a week, we need to remember
rural American’s still rely on the postal system for their daily newspapers, and realistically they are the citizens
who also don’t have great access or the desire to read the papers electronically.
While I do fully believe there are avenues for them to cut costs, I also see the validity of their services.
January 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm #119763
Lots of good ideas on here – co-location, offering more services, reducing number of days mail is delivered, better customer service. All things that are do-able.
I am one of those who would be very disappointed to see the Post Office phase out. I still like to read my news on paper, get handwritten notes and cards, and do most of my banking through “snail mail” as I have been the victim of online PII theft – more than once, and all through no fault of my own.
My mom even had stickers made up to place on those envelopes that say “save a stamp, conduct business online” – she places her sticker just below that statement. What does hers say? “NO! Use a stamp, save a job!”
January 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm #119761
The future of the Postal Service must be tied to the future of internet services. The primary challenge in internet security and the means of eliminating spam lies in the availability of a universal identity management solution (think of an electronic passport or universal HSPD-12). What better to implement this than your ubiquitous post office.
January 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm #119759
The new PMG has said that one of the key USPS strategic goals is to compete for package business. I applaud this. I see this as the growth area because there is going to me more internet shopping, not less.Reports. According to the annual report, packages are a small amount of volume, but a fair slice of the revenue pie. The primary retailers used to allow a shopper to select their carrier (USPS, UPS, Fedex) from the website, but that is a thing of the past. I’m not sure how we lost that, but we need to get competetive where these orders are fulfilled. The USPS did this with Ebay and the Priority Mail product, but this entire market took a dive in the recession.
January 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm #119757
The Social Security Administration??? We are about 90 percent there using SSAs, why would we switch?
January 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm #119755
I wish there was a like button here. My thoughts exactly!
January 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm #119753
What she said. They need to focus on what is working and what will work and drop everything else.
January 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm #119751
USPS is not a trusted source online, and would be starting from zero in this effort.
Facebook, Google, Yahoo! and so forth are trusted names already on their way to solving this problem, and so are going to get to this far more quickly than the USPS would.
As for eliminating spam, just using GMail had that effect for me.
January 10, 2011 at 3:18 pm #119749
I love the Postal Service and the convenience of getting your mail at your home. However, I don’t think it is fair for the Postal Service to get all these extra perks that are not given to other federal workers. The Postal Service should not get separate and extremely cheap insurance premiums and must more lucrative retirements plans than the rest of the federal workers. If Obama and Congress want to save money, all federal workers need to be placed under the same pay plans, insurance and retirement plans. If the Postal Service is in such bad financial shape, why were their wages not frozen like the rest of us for 2 years. It is so unfair for some of the federal employees to be punished for the national debt and it is not our fault that Obama and Congress are wasting money. The average American has seen no benefit from the billions in stimulus funding. How much money was used to bail out the banks and automotive industry only to see their executives get million dollar bonuses and ridiculous salaries? No one I know in the federal government makes $1 million+ a year or receive million dollar bonuses. Are the salaries at the banks and automotive companies frozen for 2 years? Of course not!!! I am so sick of the federal workers getting the blame and have to pay for mistakes that we had nothing to do with!! We need to pull our troops back into the United States and protect our borders!! Take care of our own people!! There are many hungry and homeless people in the United States who are in desperate need of help!!
January 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm #119747
I like this and will think of some things. Globally though, USPS isn’t going anywhere. The privatized alternative would quintuple the cost of a stamp; probably just after the 3-5 year phase in that would be required. We might not like our USPS (however I do), but no one on the planet does it better.
An on that note, the first idea I have is to staff around that curmudgeon that I see other people always running into. I’m not sure if the USPS problem is rising costs or the perceived value of service indexed by the skill of the person on the other side of the line, or window.
The other thing would be a technological solution. Think 7 years ahead and rollout a reliable, EMP-proof electronic mail delivery system with legal editable and lockable electronic documents. Become the cheapest point to do mass electronic transactions, because that’s where they are losing money to the web, Develop a regional ‘print on demand” network, which would allow catalogers and mailers an option to long runs and logistics timelines.
January 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm #119745
This is random and I don’t know if it would work but what about recycling. I’m remembering back to the Seinfeld where Kramer and Newman drove bottles and can to Michigan for the 10 cents. So my question is what is post offices became recycling hubs that gave people more of a kickback. A) I don’t know what you can make off recycling but if there’s money to be had than the government could have it. B) We’d get people to recycle more which would make me and Al Gore happy.
January 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm #119743
USPS needs to look to current and modern delivery methods like Greg mentions about Earth Class Mail. USPS could save huge amounts in fuel and delivery costs by intercepting mail sent (which they already do), scan the envelopes (which they also already do to improve sorting) and then sending just the image of the envelope to their customers.
Maybe they could also tell their customers who the mail is from (by scanning the sender address/name) and then let users decide if they actually want the mail either as a scanned image or they could opt to actually receive the physical mail.
Once the user decides they don’t want a certain piece of junk mail, for example, then USPS never sends that piece again.
USPS wins by saving much $ in operational cost and the consumer wins by getting the mail they want and in a usable digital format.
Pitney Bowes and Oce offer similar services for in-bound mail in government agencies and companies. Maybe this is another warning sign that USPS should heed or lose to commerical interests…again.
January 10, 2011 at 3:58 pm #119741
USPS should look to provide value-added services to their business clients. There is alot of “Business Reply Mail” sent by companies to get new customers. Think of magazine subscription post card that a publisher sends out to solicit a new subscriber: An interested person fills out the simple form and checks a box indicating their desire. USPS could intercept this post card scan it for the data indicated and send the data to the publisher instead of the paper mail. This would get the data to the publisher much quicker and USPS saves carrier costs on forwarding the mail.
It seems that this same service could be provided for credit card apps, change of address forms, warranty cards and renewals for a start.
January 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm #119739
I LOVE this! Especially if it’s a great user interface for that web-based dashboard.
January 10, 2011 at 4:17 pm #119737
I think the earth class mail is a great idea.
Also, why not speed up mail by scanning it, sending it electronically, and then printing it out and delivering it at the destination. Many personal letters and business correspondence could be done that way.
January 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm #119735
That would involve opening my mail. Will my son get his birthday check from grandma that way? Will we be able to send her checks? She isn’t so good with email and electronic stuff….
January 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm #119733
Very cool idea!
Maybe Google could pay it to carry their cameras.
January 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm #119731
Steve, I really like your idea. You are one of those people that’s very connected to what’s happening in new media…I expected nothing less from you. On a similar note, I think it would be great if GovLoop had a thumbs up/down feature on comments that would sort out comments based on popularity…similar to digg.com or various newspapers out there. Good ideas need to float to the top.
January 10, 2011 at 4:48 pm #119729
The sad thing is, the USPS seems to be doing everything right, or at least consistent with what their private sector counterparts are doing. The problem for the USPS, as well as a lot of other public sector agencies, is the lack of a good PR plan. People have come to “typecast” a lot of our organizations, and it’s very difficult to get away from this without a good strategic plan to overcome it.
My first suggestion is to launch a massive, and I mean massive, campaign that lets everyone know what services USPS offers (print your own postage, schedule pickup, customize your mail options, etc) and how its better than its counterparts. Some of us don’t consider USPS when shipping larger packages, and it has nothing to do with cost or convenience, it has to do with the “typecast” we’ve received over the years and the little that has been done to overcome it. The first challenge is letting people know who we are and what we do.
The second suggestion is to expand the scope of services and locations. As somebody else mentioned, there are a lot of other things that USPS could be doing in addition to delivering letters and junk mail. Sure, adding more locations is a good idea, but rather than doing everything ourselves, we need to look at unconventional and unlikely partners. For example, my credit union, which used to be inconvenient to get to and had limited ATMs in Southern California, is now at every 7-11 (multiple locations in every City almost) thanks to a partnership the co-op network stuck up with these ATM vendors. The credit union is now my primary financial institution…I can deposit checks, withdraw money, and even transfer money between accounts at my local 7-11…free of charge.
January 10, 2011 at 6:03 pm #119727
The biggest issue I see with expanding locations is that it’d be adding more employees with their 20-30 dollar an hour salaries. And there is a part of me that accepts that, simply because, theoretically, we’re supposed to trust the postal employee to keep their hands out of our mail and not ‘help themselves’ to anything. And for that reason, I can see a higher salary….yet I think that would be the biggest obstacle to having smaller outreach locations. You’d not only be paying rent on those places but salaries as well and the cost of picking up the mail dropped off at these places.
The post office has already removed many on street drop boxes in an effort to curtail pickup costs, so adding more seems to run counter to that.
Unless you can have these other employees that’d be running these outreach places to be third party contractors…paid less but still bonded or held to the high standards we’d all like to see in those caring for our mail.
How about, instead of house to house delivery, each block has a large multi unit box and the postal carrier delivers to that box only and we’ll just have to walk to the corner to get our mail. I’d imagine that’d allow one carrier to deliver a larger area. And i’d imagine it’d also help with identity theft and mail theft if a post office employee drops off our mail in a locked box and only we have the key to it.
And for them to run a ‘customer service/secret shopper’ type of campaign. where their carriers are occasionally monitored and graded on what they do…and if the customers have a complaint, we have somewhere to go and someone to listen to us.
What if each post office is monitored and held to a ‘speed of service’ grade. They do it in fast food restaurants. From the second your order is taken to the second you get your food, the workers are timed and if they constantly run too long, they get in trouble. Well, do something like this with window service. Locate the bottle necks. Maybe there are hours where they need more employees or have a rule like ‘no breaks between 3-5pm’ or something to keep the lines moving and customer service standards high.
January 10, 2011 at 6:24 pm #119725
Maybe USPS should aggressively pursue more e-related mail business functions, where they are presently weak on.
To me, doing such might be a key to their survival and competitiveness with others (UPS, FedEx, etc.) already diversifying into electronic transmission of goods and services, and less reliance on mostly obselete, lower tech, human-hand-held business methods/procedures.
Futhermore, unrealistic, misguided compensation demands from Postal Union leaders may be out to destroy the USPS without lower-level member employees knowing what their leaders are up to. USPS employees might need to get real with the real world, suck it up and bite the bullet a lot better, if they wish to survive.
January 10, 2011 at 7:13 pm #119723
This is isn’t really expanding locations as creating more kiosk-oriented interaction, right? Less an empty box where people place their mail and more an interactive kiosk/vending machine where you can get stamps, envelopes, etc.
I think I agree with Denise that this could be fraught with additional cost and complication that might not lead to net positive revenue goals.
January 10, 2011 at 7:21 pm #119721
USPS has thought for awhile about linking email address to postal – http://news.cnet.com/USPS-mulling-email-option-for-residents/2100-1017_3-243861.html
I think this is still a huge opportunity. Government should be sending property tax statements, DMV renewals and all sorts of information via email and not print. Saves $. But gov’t can’t send it to [email protected] – it has to tie into a real box.
January 11, 2011 at 1:41 pm #119719
The post office in my town opens at 9 am and closes from 12:30 to 2:30 every day. They reopen from 2:30 to 4:30. When I go to the PO at noon, when most working people can go since they aren’t open before or after work, there is one postal worker at the window and a line of a dozen customers trying to mail something. To save the PO, they need to make themselves available when customers can go to mail something. I don’t avoid using the USPS, they avoid me.
January 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm #119717
The USPS is unlike many entities in that Congress needs to approve every policy decision. Congress requires the USPS to be self-funded, but it ties its hands in terms of rate increases and agency staffing. USPS might have to be given the right to close un-profitable branches in rural areas (it could be done like a BRAC sommission). The President must lobby Congress for USPS flexibility.
January 12, 2011 at 8:16 pm #119715
Thomas K. PerriParticipant
I really think it is interesting that the USPS continues to struggle to remain solvent. With the outbreak of the Digital revolution in communication the USPS needs to work the package delivery angle, instead of working to be the cheapest how about still being the cheapest (relative to the other methods of posting packages) but work on the quality angle. Your packages are treated with kid’s gloves (not thrown like they presently are). Develop more efficient and better ways to process packages, talk to your people and see if they have some innovative ideas. Posting a letter is still relatively cheap when you compare rates on the worldwide postage arena, raise some of those rates. How about having a pick up your mail day, go the Post Office and pick up your own mail in areas that it is feasible. How about working with the US Taxpayers to create a way to raise money for the Post Office…we accept donations (tax deductible). Work with the Schools and School children to revive the Pen Pal Program stressing penmanship and using the USPS to do it. Where does 80% of their revenue come from? Work on maximizing that. Usually 20% of situations cause 80% of the problem, what are those? Work on them.
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