• on May 23rd, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 8 comments
    Mobile technology is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. “Mobile” includes multiple devices (cell phones, smartphones, and tablet computers) and platforms (text messaging, applications — or “apps” — and mobile Internet). With all of these new communication avenues available to customers, the U.S. Postal Service must ask whether it is keeping up with the rapid expansion of this market. Compared to other government organizations in the Postal Service is ahead of the curve when it comes to establishing a mobile presence. It has an app available on both major smartphone/tablet platforms (Apple and Android) that allow customers to find post offices, collection boxes, and Automated Postal Centers anywhere in the country. The Postal Service has also created a mobile-friendly version of its website (http://m.www.usps.com). Just last week the Postal Service launched http://www.uspseverywhere.com, which is a new interactive map featuring dozens of locations for customers to purchase postal services within their neighborhoods by entering a ZIP code. However, compared to major private sector competitors, such as UPS, the Postal Service appears antiquated. For example, the UPS Android app includes a cost calculator and digital package tracking function not available on the Postal Service app. Some foreign postal operations provide numerous services that the Postal Service might want to offer. For instance, Denmark and Sweden just initiated a program that allow customers to buy postage via text messaging rather than standing in line at the post office to buy a stamp. Customers text a word, such as ”stamp” or “postage” to a certain telephone number and receive a unique code they can write on the envelope in the area where they normally place the stamp. The code is only valid for a limited number of hours to reduce the possibility of fraud. Sweden’s program even allows customers to receive different denominations of postage based on the weight of their packages. This is just one example of the way postal operations around the world are leveraging mobile technology to make customers’ interactions with their postal operations more efficient and pleasant. This example underscores the fact that mobile technology presents an important opportunity for the Postal Service to reach out to a generation of technologically savvy customers.

    What types of mobile applications should the Postal Service pursue? If you have an idea for a possible postal mobile application, post your ideas in the comment section below.

    Update: It has been brought to our attention after the publication of this blog that the USPS Mobile application does include a package tracking feature on the main menu.

    This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on May 16th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 21 comments
    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.
    The key to realizing all the benefits of simplified address mail depends on how the Postal Service implements the program. It must actively be promoted to small businesses and others and it must be made as easy as possible for customers to use. So, what do you think? Would you be receptive to receiving advertising materials for the restaurants, stores and services in your local neighborhood? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on May 2nd, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 2 comments
    President Obama’s State of the Union address in January included the announcement of the National Wireless Initiative, which would expand wireless broadband coverage to 98 percent of the population within 5 years. With that large percentage of the population on the verge of being wired, could such a network be leveraged by the U.S. Postal Service to modernize its obligation to deliver mail to every household in America? The initiative provides financial incentives for private industry to expand wireless broadband infrastructure. The incentives are necessary because building a nationwide, interconnected communications network is cost prohibitive in some areas of the country. Once constructed, though, this network will be used by government agencies for a number of purposes including coordinating emergency response and communicating important information directly with citizens. The Postal Service must provide universal service to every address in the United States under the Universal Service Obligation (USO). The USO requires that Americans have ready access to postal products and services through postal carriers, collection boxes and post offices. It also requires the Postal Service to deliver the mail to every street address, six days a week. Perhaps the Postal Service could connect every physical address with a secure e-mail address. Other countries offer similar services, such as Finland’s NetPosti, which is a digital alternative to the physical mailbox. Every citizen gets an account and an e-mail address tied to his or her social security number. Postal customers could opt to use hybrid mail and have their letters and flats scanned and delivered to the customer’s secure postal e-mail box instead of to a physical mailbox. The Postal Service could also print and deliver the letters from a sender’s e-mail box to a recipient’s physical address if so desired by the sender. A number of private sector companies have made limited attempts at providing such a service in the United States, such as Zoombox, but none of them have the resources or infrastructure at the Postal Service’s disposal to offer reliable hybrid mail service to a national audience. Let us know what you think. Should the Postal Service explore the realities of implementing this service in the near future and use the internet to help meet its universal service obligation? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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