• on May 28th, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 0 comments

    What do you want from your Postal Service? It’s a simple question, yet it is probably one that few citizens have pondered – even as our nation’s policymakers consider how best to reform the U.S. Postal Service. The voice of the American public has largely been absent from the debate about what role the Postal Service should play in meeting modern communications needs.

    To better understand how Americans view the Postal Service now, as well as what role it could play in their future lives, the Postal Service Office of Inspector General commissioned a web survey of 5,000 Internet-connected Americans aged 18 years and older. The survey explored areas such as: perceptions of the Postal Service’s role, access to postal services, cost reduction efforts, comfort level with online interactions, and future growth opportunities.

    The survey yielded several interesting results. For one, the overwhelming majority of respondents think their lives would be hurt if the Postal Service did not exist in 5 years. Most respondents also consider Postal Service delivery a public service that should be maintained, even if it is not profitable. While most respondents were satisfied with the service and accessibility of their Post Office, a strong majority indicated they would be interested in more self-service options. Respondents were not generally opposed to closing post offices to reduce costs, but were less likely to support cost reduction measures such as delaying mail delivery or reducing delivery to 3 days a week. Many interviewees, especially younger ones, expressed interest in the Postal Service offering new nonpostal products, including some digital services. (Link to “What American Wants From the Postal Service – A Survey of Internet-connected Americans”)

    This week, in a series of daily blogs, we are going to ask you to weigh in with your opinion. Each day, we will feature some of the questions from the survey in a poll we hope you will answer. We also welcome more detailed input in our comment section. In particular, we would like to know your thoughts on reinventing the Postal Service in an era of digital communications. If you were going to reshape the nation’s postal system, which parts would you keep and which parts would you change? And is there some aspect of today’s Postal Service that you would absolutely insist on retaining.

  • on May 21st, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 2 comments

    Lean Six Sigma is a method used in many large organizations to look for improvements in business efficiency and effectiveness. It relies on a team-based approach to focus on the customer, on removing waste, and on improving processes. The Postal Service and the Office of Inspector General are among the many companies and organizations that use Lean Six Sigma as a continuous improvement tool to try to get at the root of the problem rather than just solve the problems as they arise. Management uses the insights gained from the Lean Six Sigma approach to reduce variations in processes and systems.

    Lean Six Sigma has loyal adherents in many industries, but some critics have argued that it is primarily effective only in product manufacturing. Others suggest that soliciting ongoing input from your employees is one of the most effective ways to improve processes and encourages their ownership in the process. Finally, some critics note that Lean Six Sigma only promotes incremental improvements, not radical breakthroughs.

    The OIG has found Lean Six Sigma to be useful in automating processes, shortening process cycle time, reducing paper usage, and improving high-volume and high-usage databases. Eliminating waste and strengthening processes results in cost savings and improved efficiencies. The Postal Service has employed Lean Six Sigma and other continuous improvement efforts in several of its processes, including relocation, payables, receivables, and some claims processing. The Postmaster General recently stressed the importance of these tools to the Postal Service’s plan to accomplish the business changes necessary to compete in today’s marketplace. He touted the Value Stream Map (VSM) as a Lean Six Sigma tool that is being used effectively to look at all components of an end-to-end process.

    We would like to hear your thoughts on Lean Six Sigma. If you have had it applied to your job, or to processes you use, did it drive down costs and improve service? Did it improve the overall customer experience? Are processes significantly better because of Lean Six Sigma? Or have you found there are better ways to improve processes and increase efficiency without using a Six Sigma approach? Are there better ways to achieve significant breakthroughs?

  • on May 14th, 2013 | 0 comments

    Money orders are a safe and convenient way for customers to make payments or forward cash. This modest and longstanding postal product has quite a notable history. The government established the United States Money Order System in 1864 to allow Union soldiers to send money home to relatives and to reduce the risks associated with sending cash through the mail.

    In today’s era of digital communications and mobile banking, the money order might seem like a passé postal product. However, it remains a popular and vital offering. Money order sales average about $22.4 billion a year, with the Postal Service earning about $135 million a year in revenue from fees. Customers can buy money orders at a local Post Office facility, branch, station, and from rural carriers using cash, U.S. Treasury checks, Traveler’s check, American Express gift checks, and pin-based debit cards.

    The Postal Service does not accept payment by check or credit card for money orders, even though it accepts credit cards for other retail transactions throughout its retail network. Money orders are one of the few postal retail products not available online but require an in-person purchase. These and other safeguards were put in place to guard against unauthorized use of money orders and to protect the integrity of the system. Our recent audit report, Controls to Detect Money Order Fraud , found that some of the Postal Service’s current controls fall short in detecting fraud in a timely manner. The report highlighted that safeguards remain important in curbing the opportunities for misuse of money orders. It might be time to find the right balance between providing the public the access it expects in today’s digital world and preserving the safeguards needed to lower fraud and preserve security.

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This site provides a forum to discuss different aspects of the United States Postal Service and how it can be improved. We encourage you to share your comments, ideas, and concerns.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy and disclaimer. We plan to blog weekly on as many emerging new media topics as possible. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.