• on Aug 8th, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 26 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service recently announced that it would study approximately 3,700 postal retail facilities which are candidates for consolidation. Many policymakers and Postal Service customers have expressed concern over the effect these potential consolidations will have on access to postal services and as well as the social life of rural communities where the local post office acted as a gathering point for the community. In an attempt to address some of these concerns, the Postal Service revealed plans to offer its services through authorized third party vendors, including drug stores, grocery stores, and office supply stores. These Village Post Offices (VPO) would be operated by the vendor and sell popular products and services such as stamps and flat-rate packaging. The Postal Service’s primary benefit would be lower labor and facilities maintenance costs from replacing traditional, free-standing post offices with Village Post Offices. There are also potential benefits to consumers. First, postal services could be more conveniently accessed by customers who already patronize the third party vendors. Second, the co-location may actually help to strengthen community ties. Third, the VPOs may be open longer hours. However, there may also be drawbacks to switching from traditional post offices to VPOs. First, the quality and level of service may vary between communities as VPOs would be managed by many different private vendors. In addition, as with any effort involving public-private partnerships, oversight issues may arise. Finally, because VPOs will be operated by private vendors, the role of the post office as a public space may be lost. Are Village Post Offices a viable substitute for tradition postal retail facilities? Can service standards be maintained? Which type of vendors do you believe would be most suitable as a host for a VPO?
  • on Aug 1st, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 7 comments
    In December 2009, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) obtained exclusive rights to the “.post” top-level domain for the postal community from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The .post domain joins existing prominent top level domains (such as .com, .edu, and .org), along with recent additions (such as .museum, .biz, and .aero.) The .post domain is intended to provide a secure space for members of the postal community to develop and deploy digital products and services. The .post domain is expected to be available for use by private postal operators, regulators, suppliers, vendors, trade unions, and trade associations. By linking well-established national networks, the UPU hopes .post will allow postal operators and customers to reap the benefits of a global physical/digital network that permits postal service providers and end users to connect quickly and securely to other end users around the world. The .post domain could be an appropriate platform for a variety of services. Common suggestions include: a global track and trace system linking the existing systems of the posts; the creation of an accessible database holding a universal and global addressing system; and a feature allowing consumers to decide whether to have an item delivered to a physical address or an electronic address. One approach, at the core of the OIG Risk Analysis Research Center's (RARC) digital strategy paper, Expanding the Postal Platform, would be to give every postal customer an e-mail address and digital ID. The .post top level domain could be a platform to support implementation of this strategy. The development of the .post top level domain raises a number of interesting questions: •Should the U.S. Postal Service use .post as a platform for offering digital services? •What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the .post domain, rather than .com or .gov? •Are there potential applications for .post that the postal media has not addressed? •Would .post improve the Postal Service brand by helping differentiate the Postal Service from other services in the digital space? •Does the choice of domain name affect the quality of service provided or the effectiveness of marketing such services? Let us know what you think! This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.

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