City and rural carriers deliver and pick up mail, including letters and packages. In addition, they are familiar figures who care about the people they serve, often helping in dramatic ways while making their rounds in neighborhoods 6 days a week. The U.S. Postal Service has many examples of carriers sending for help when senior citizens fail to collect their mail, alerting residents of fires, aiding accident victims, and even stopping burglaries.
But what else can carriers do? Could they provide additional services because, after all, carriers and their vehicles are present 6 days a week in every neighborhood in the U.S.? Each potential service opportunity for carriers should be evaluated by three criteria: the investment required, the risk assumed, and the potential benefits that could be achieved. So, what are some other responsibilities that carriers can take on while delivering the mail that would result in a positive return on the Postal Service’s investment?Read More
The Pushing the Envelope blog recently described some of the barriers that have prevented the Postal Service from optimizing its network of retail facilities. This week we’d like your thoughts on the factors the Postal Service should consider in developing a retail network for the future. If the Postal Service were to rebuild its retail network from scratch — focusing on today’s consumer behaviors and needs — would it look as it does now? Today, there are about 32,000 brick and mortar postal-operated retail facilities. However, the Postal Service generates about 35 percent of retail revenue through alternative access channels. For example, customers can buy stamps and access postal services at http://www.usps.com/, self-service kiosks, grocery stores, retail outlets, and privately operated shipper locations. The availability of alternatives combined with declining mail volume and changing consumer needs has led the Postal Service to renew its efforts to optimize the retail facility network.
Advertising mail is a core product for the U.S. Postal Service. It is an important way for businesses to reach their customers, but many local small businesses and others underuse or avoid advertising mail. The rules, rates, and regulations can be complex and confusing. For saturation mailings, simplified addressing allows businesses to use a simple “Postal Customer” address instead of a full street address. While the Postal Service has tested a number of simplified address products in the past, early this year it rolled out a national product available for all “flat-size” saturation mailings.
In a recently released white paper titled Simplified Address Mail: An Easier Way for Small Businesses to Reach Local Customers, the Office of Inspector General, Risk Analysis Research Center lays out the advantages of the simplified address mail concept, which could potentially bring in over $1 billion in new revenue if fully implemented. Among the paper’s key findings:
- Simplified address stems from the Postal Service’s core, hard-copy mail delivery business and could help keep mail relevant in an increasingly digital world.
- Adding profitable simplified address mail volume could lower average unit costs and make universal service more affordable for all current and potential mail users.
- Simplified address makes advertising mail easier to use and far less expensive for organizations that have traditionally shied away from directly using the mail.
- Simplified addressing has long been the standard practice among foreign posts and often accounts for a significant proportion of their mail volume. The Postal Service has been the sole exception.
In fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Postal Service spent more than $149 million in manufacturing, shipping, and fulfillment costs for Express Mail® and Priority Mail® packaging supplies. The Postal Service, like FedEx, provides these supplies at no cost to customers and the public.
The packaging is Postal Service property and, therefore, should only be used to send Express and Priority mail packages. However, some customers use the boxes, envelopes, and labels for other purposes and in some cases, customers use the packaging to mail items using the Postal Service’s competitors. This adds additional costs to the Postal Service and violates federal law. The question is balancing the desire to control costs with maintaining the convenience that customers desire. Read More
In recent years, a growing number of people have chosen to avoid crowded shopping malls by doing their holiday shopping online. To a certain extent, online shopping reduces their carbon footprint by keeping these individuals from driving to and from the store. However, their packages still have to be delivered. What if postal customers could choose to have carbon neutral delivery for an extra fee?
In 2009, Itella, Finland’s postal service, introduced a program where customers could pay extra for carbon neutral delivery, adding the “Itella Green” marking to letters for less than a penny or parcels for around five cents. Itella achieved carbon neutrality through a combination of energy efficient delivery vehicles by funding reputable, environmentally-friendly projects. While Itella’s plans include increasing carbon efficiency in all three phases of the package delivery process: sorting, transportation, and delivery, the greatest carbon efficiency gains currently come from their shift to electric or fuel efficient delivery vehicles.