on Jul 11th, 2011 in Strategy & Public Policy | 17 comments
 
The American marketplace is experiencing constant changes in the ways that companies conduct business and communicate with customers. Like other businesses, the Postal Service must also innovate to stay relevant. The Office of Inspector General plans to examine innovation processes currently used by major U.S. corporations to learn about best practices/processes. The essence of innovation is to identify a problem and develop solutions. For example, Google and Facebook are successful because their websites meet needs of people to manage and organize vast amounts of information and social relationships available on the Internet. The Postal Service has enjoyed some success with innovative products. Its Priority Mail Flat Rate products have become popular, shipping 350 million boxes over the last 6 years, with revenue of $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2010. This product met the need to simplify the shipping process and was relevant to both consumers and business. What should the Postal Service do to identify business opportunities and customer needs in order to create solutions that lead to financial success and customer satisfaction? Also, what experience(s) have you had with Postal Service innovation? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Planning and Strategic Studies Directorate.

Comments

I suggest that you benchmark with Apple regarding their innovative approach to product development and communicating with customers. Apple is known for its user friendly and well designed products. They also communicate well with customers by creating press release or product events. They are excellent at using their website for product communication. Apple uses on-line videos with beautiful images of their products to introduce these products to the marketplace by their corporate executives and designers.

I have noticed other companies such as Breville (small appliances such as counter-top ovens, espresso & coffee machines) and Accubanker (money counting machines) introduce customers to their products with on-line videos as well. This is a model that the Postal Service would be wise to replicate to create demand for services and products and promote customer loyalty.

Benchmarking with Apple is a good idea. So far we haven't been able to get Apple to talk to us. But we have talked to Google.

I have had 6 leads go in for my current customers to be contacted by a representative of the USPS for the Customer Connect Program. It has been over 5 weeks and not one of them have been called. While recently discussing the situation with one of them I was observed by my Supervisor and given a warning for wasting time for talking to the customer for more than a reasonable time. His definition of reasonable was 10 seconds. Post Office is not serious about saving money or marketing. Smokescreen while we get sold out from above while they make private arrangements with our competitors so when the USPS finally hits bottom they can jump ship and join the ranks of private industry.

Sorry to read that you're not getting the support you need. You're not alone. In 2009 we issued a report, Performance Based Incentives for Sales Employees (MS-AR-09-007, pointing out systemic problems with assigning accounts to sales employees, crediting revenue to the right accounts, and issues with incentive payments. You can find this report on our website, uspsoig.gov. Just enter the report number in the search bar.

Well hell fellers, how about you innovate by MAKING A ROCK HARD CASE AGAINST THEM STEALING OUR 5.5 BILLION A YEAR??? If you do that, then we'll talk about why we still have 84 districts, 5 areas and drive LLV's that get 6 miles per gallon. Jeeze. GET TO WORK!

Guy, you definitely have a point about the $5.5 billion. The Office of Inspector General has gone on record making this point, and Postmaster General Donahoe has testified that he will not make that payment in September, because the Postal service simply can't afford it.

How about being innovative and actually staffing the post offices so that proper customer service can be provided. No one likes waiting in long lines.

We do have a great new program that lets small and mom&pop biz mail bulk adds cheap and no more silly red tape. GET THE WORD OUT

Also

EFT
electronic fund transfers, become like a paypal to pay postage and merchandise on line

Gregg, thanks for the input. I believe you're referring to Every Door Direct Mail, the online system that simplifies bulk mailings for small businesses. On the EFT idea, we have suggested that USPS consider getting into banking, like postal services in some other countries do. I haven't seen much interest from USPS execs in getting into anything related to banking, even though USPS meets the requirements of bank secrecy laws.

I think a great opportunity lies in becoming more environmentally friendly. Of course there are costs associated with the change over and even though there is not necessarily a return, there is savings. The EPA launched a program a couple of years back called the Green Power Program which helps (and pushes) both private and public organizations to use renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and/or hydroelectric power. Saving money and the planet is my idea of innovation.

V, thanks for the comment. Actually, there could be money in going green. I read recently that in 2010 USPS recycled 222,000 tons of materials, saving $9 million in landfill fees and generating $13 million in revenue. According to USPS' 2010 sustainability report, USPS reduced CO2 emissions by an amount equal to the annual emissions of nearly 204,000 passenger vehicles.

Great point Mr. V

Innovation???? At the Post Office.... The following bytes
are not intended to be indignant or rude....

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Now this is innovation...... I hope you can open it...

Much of it hypothetic, but it stimulates the mind to the possibilities. The USPS is STAGNANT!
Simply look at a new E-Reader. Quite frankly, it's the most exciting,
sustainable, green, energy saving, economically energetic, and remarkable development in information technology or human development, since the printing press.

http://io9.com/5781931/a-beautiful-but-creepy-vision-of-the-smart-glass-future

The #USPS instructs its employees to wave a mail bag at charging attack dogs; police carry billy clubs. Does anybody else think the police have it right?

That the USPS has introduced a new look to its website and BROKEN the ability to buy stamps and labels can only mean it wasn't tested. Who is the idiot in charge of this?

I think that the best way for USPS to innovate is to extend their web service APIs, so that we can all write programs to provide users around the world with a better USPS experience. Basically, in the end, the web services should allow you to do anything you can do by visiting your local USPS branch office. And that should start with the ability to print postage without going through one of the horrible services you've made deals with like Endicia or Stamps.com.

The big "problem" that USPS has is that people use e-mail now to send most "letters." Obviously, I know. I had a couple thoughts about that (maybe good, maybe not). Since the start, the Post Office's main job was to deliver mail. But e-mail has taken a big - perhaps the biggest - chunk of that away. It's free and easy, with sites like Hotmail and Gmail. "What's your point, Scott?" I'm glad I pretended you asked...why doesn't USPS start its own free e-mail system, like a Gmail type of thing? "Because it's FREE and how will that help, and besides, people already have all the other kinds, why use a new one?"

Well, yes, that's all true. The free e-mail system or the home page of a USPS system would need to offer people something the others can't offer, some benefit they can ONLY get from the Post Office. I dunno exactly what that is, but there have to be some things a PO e-mail could exclusively offer.

E-mail has its weaknesses that real mail doesn't. And e-cards. I personally don't like them. It's a card from someone who didn't care to actually put some time in and think a little. The signature of a loved one is a heartwarming physical "link" to them - they held this paper, their hands signed the words. It's the whole basis of the autograph industry. I don't want to watch an animated e-frog jump off a lilly pad or dance to a song I probably already don't like, not to mention it blasts out of the speakers on you unexpectedly since the e-card people are on some odd mythical decibel system different from the rest of us, so the whole office suddenly looks up as you scramble for the speaker volume to lower "Born To Be Wild" but the speaker fell down behind your monitor out of reach, and before you can locate it, the song ends -in the middle of a word- just before it got to the good part, leaving everyone in earshot unsatisfied, plus the song is stuck in all their heads now for a week because they never heard it end and got song closure, and your screen now has the frog jumping up and down in place next to lame text reading, "You were BORN today-BE WILD!" and a little arrow button with the nerve to say "Play again" on it (!), and under that is your loved one's name, in 12-point courier font, typed letters that anyone on earth who knows the English spelling of your name could have done with one finger, there's nothing personal about it, no sigrature, they never held on to it or wrapped it in an envelope with your address on the front, nothing. Your cousin went to some e-card site, looked at a few, and picked "Born to Be Froggy" because "that's good enough" and she didn't want to sit in front of the computer anymore, which is EXACTLY what she'd have avoided if she'd gotten you a regular card at the store and physically mailed it to you in the FIRST PLACE! And there's your first ad, come to think of it. "E-mail...for when you don't care enough to even try." Your cousin had to move her wrist a few times, click a mouse, and push enter. "That's good enough."

I digressed...a little...but that was my next point anyway: an ad campaign showing why using the USPS to mail a real card for that birthday or for Easter. Save the e-cards for Talk Like A Pirate Day. Advertising is famously summed up: "Don't tell me how good your product is, tell me how good I am when using your product." I think an ad campaign pointing out that sending e-cards or even e-mail in some situations doesn't require much effort or thought. The ads I picture would show that, but would be showing that the person who goes and selects a card, writes in it and signs her name to it with her own hand, writes out your address, licks an envelope and puts it in a box for another person to take it to another, who takes it to another, who takes it to yet another, who hands it to you is thinking of and doing more to get you a happy birthday. And you have the very card she picked, with her actual writing on it. Handed down a line of human beings, each putting their own little bit of energy into it, for it to get to you. It actually moves from their caring hands to yours; it's not a keyboard and then a bunch of uncaring computer chips that buzz it along, having translated it into groupings of two digits (0,1) that are reassembled into small colored squares that when viewed from far enough away, appear to form words, but still a bunch of teeny squares that nobody touched, took seconds to create and send. Speed, yeah. But at least the sender thought of you a couple days ahead of time, not because Facebook reminded them it's your birthday.

Your ads could show the sick lady in bed, her elderly mother calling from down the hall, "Honey, your sister sent you an e-card." "Oh, that's nice, let me see." And the old woman turns to the computer monitor like, "ummm." It's not a laptop I guess. Or one where a computer gets hacked and the person lost everything, even that last e-card that grandma sent, may she rest in peace. Or the work scenario above. E-mail is great, but it doesn't have to replace EVERYthing.

So I suppose this epic could be summed up with "Start a unique free e-mail site (& get advertisers) and advertise that maybe you'll look better to those you love if you take the classier way and actually send a real card that YOU signed instead of the easy, "don't hafta get off your butt or even move your eyeballs" e-methods. Maybe people already do that and I'm wasting everyone's time (mostly yours) because people know to send real cards when it counts. Some certainly do.

That being said, you could hire some well-known writers or artists and start a USPS e-card page. The worst part of all this is that I'm way too tired to edit this to a reasonable length, I type fast so it's a fathom long, so I'm going to go against normal procedure and just try to post it and see how many sarcastic replies I can accumulate telling me to make a phone call next time or do some market research. It'll be interesting to see if the site even lets me post something so ridiculously long (which I'm not making shorter by still typing explanations now) and so very poorly worded.

In closing (yaaaaay), I'd say to the person above suggesting a billy club should be used against charging dogs, why not use it on their owners instead? Don't blame the dog for not being taught what's wrong. Dog's doin' what it thinks it must do; protect, hunt, etc. Dogs love people by their nature, but they're also protective of those people, some more than others. Those rare dogs that attack for no reason are usually the ones who learned it, or fear people from abuse. There are better ways to deal with dogs than trying to injure them. I agree it's a problem, but violence against dogs isn't a good solution, ever. Yeah, I love dogs. And I like mail carriers. Can't we all just get along? Answer: yes. Let's just figure it out.

Please also tell me.. How about being innovative and actually staffing the post offices so that proper customer service can be provided. No one likes waiting in long lines.

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