Some of our recent blogs have considered the customer experience from a number of different angles – from the mystery shopper program to the reliability of underlying systems that support customer service. This week we ask if technology might have a role in improving the customer experience.
From watching traffic flow on major roads to monitoring home security to Skyping with a friend, webcams have become a regular part of everyday life. What was once seen as Big Brother behavior is now something that most citizens accept as part of living in the technological age. The U.S. Postal Service started using cameras in some Post Office lobbies about a decade ago to help manage wait time in lines, which is part of its larger strategy to improve the retail customer experience.
Employees can monitor the lines at several offices from a central computer screen and when they see a line grow, transmit that information to the affected Post Office. The Postal Service has indicated that participating post offices then address the wait times by directing lobby assistants to help customers or encourage them to use the self-service kiosks, thus speeding up the transaction. Another option might be to open a new counter slot, if staffing allowed it.Read More
The U.S. Postal Service can play unique and positive roles in the expansion of the peer-to-peer marketplace, as suggested in a new OIG white paper, Peer-to-Peer Commerce and the Role of the Postal Service. American consumers are familiar with peer-to-peer (P2P) digital commerce and increasingly comfortable buying and selling that way. Millions of people place offerings and shop on eBay, Craigslist, etsy, and other sites every day. In recent years, the P2P segment has grown beyond these traditional product sites and now includes services from which users can rent a vacation room in someone’s house, lend or borrow a private car, or even hire someone locally for small jobs, such as baking cookies for a child’s classroom party or assembling modular furniture.
However, there are a number of problems in current P2P commerce that may prevent wider adoption by the American public. Market participants face the challenges of balancing convenience with privacy and the potential for economic or physical harm. Some of these issues can be addressed through enhanced digital identity and authentication services, but there are other opportunities, which the paper presents.Read More
Even with smartphones, high-speed Internet, and other modern technologies, Americans spend an inordinate amount of time running errands. Interacting and conducting business with our government is no exception. It can be time-consuming.
Wouldn’t it be great to use the local Post Office as a one-stop center for doing business with government? Or, what if the U.S. Postal Service had a digital platform to access government services or information online? Last week, the OIG released a white paper called “e-Government and the Postal Service — A Conduit to Help Government Meet Citizens’ Needs.” The paper identifies opportunities for the Postal Service to partner with other agencies to better connect with citizens, improve services, cut costs, and reduce duplicative and wasteful services. By providing e-government services, the Postal Service could help the government save money. There has never been a better time to do more with less.Read More
Some have argued that the U.S. Postal Service should be allowed to raise prices in order to increase revenue and ensure that the sales of their products cover their costs. Others have argued that the current costing system may overstate the cost of some products, as it assumes the Postal Service is able to adjust its capacity, such as quickly closing a facility or eliminating a tour, to match the decline in mail volume. So, the second argument goes, if the Postal Service is unable to adjust its capacity, it should temporarily lower the prices of certain products, in order to encourage volume, as it did in the past with its “summer sales.”
The latter argument was briefly discussed in the OIG’s recently released paper “A Primer on Postal Costing Issues.” As a follow-up to that paper, we asked Professor Michael D. Bradley of George Washington University, an expert in postal economics, to co-author a paper on the use of short-run costing and pricing. Essentially, short-run costing varies from the current costing system in that it does not assume that the Postal Service can reduce its capacity as fast as volume falls. Using short-run costs to develop prices would allow the Postal Service to temporarily lower prices, at least on some products, to encourage volume that would make use of the excess capacity while the Postal Service creates a plan to reduce the excess capacity.Read More
The U.S. Postal Service is about the best in the world at providing its core service of mail delivery. In fact, its ability to deliver mail and return undeliverable mail to the sender effectively makes the United States government one of the most efficient in the world, according to a working paper by National Bureau of Economic Research.
A group of economists rated the efficiency of the world’s governments with a simple test of their postal systems. The group mailed fake letters to nonexistent businesses in 159 countries and waited a year to see which were sent back to a professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. The goal was to use a simple, universal service to explore why, other than corruption, developing countries tend to have poorly performing governments. All the letters went to countries that subscribe to the Universal Postal Union, which requires that incorrectly addressed mail be returned within a month.Read More