• on Dec 19th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 7 comments
    With mail volume decreasing, the U.S. Postal Service is coming up with new ways to reach out to potential customers. As one of the latest and most effective trends in customer outreach, more and more businesses are embracing social media outlets to engage the public. Presently, the Postal Service has a Facebook page and a Twitter account, but is the agency using them effectively? According to the Postal Technology International, September 2011 issue, effective use of social media is at the heart of many successful businesses. With so many potential customers spending time on social media websites they have become an increasingly important means of reaching people. Consumers use social media sites to seek advice from their online peers and communities about what products and services are best. Companies have the opportunity to find out what consumers are saying about them, so they can gain insight into what people want in a product or service. It is widely accepted that social media is most effective when used as a two-way communications platform, for example, when the company not only issues its messaging and listens for remarks from customers, but when the company uses the platform to respond to customers directly, engaging with them on specific issues. Also, many companies are now advertising their products and services on social media sites to tap into a group of consumers who spend a significant amount of time on the Internet. How can the Postal Service use social media to increase its customer base and revenue? This blog is hosted by the OIG's Network Processing team.
  • on Dec 5th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service owns or leases more than 33,000 facilities with approximately 284 million interior square feet (SF). These facilities are in virtually every community throughout the country and range in size from 55 SF to 32 acres under one roof. We visited 717 of these facilities as part of 10 facility optimization audits and identified over 21 million excess SF of space. During our subsequent national facility optimization audit, we statistically projected that the Postal Service has about 67 million SF of excess space nationwide. In addition to an abundance of space, recent audits have disclosed that there are unmanned or underused windows in post offices around the nation, as well as more workhours at retail facilities than needed based on fiscal year 2011 workloads. The solution most often suggested for dealing with these excess resources is to consolidate and close facilities. In fact, the Postal Service is in the process of identifying both retail and mail processing facilities for closure or consolidation. While closures and consolidations can reduce the supply of these excess resources, there may also be opportunities to use this excess capacity to expand the services provided in local communities through partnerships with federal, state, and local governments or with private companies. Government services could be provided at post offices through kiosks or by training Postal Service employees to provide these services. The Postal Service could also offer excess window space to government agencies where their employees could assist customers. Another possibility would be for the Postal Service to partner with private sector companies to provide non-postal services. These companies could offer services ranging from fax and photocopying to banking or other financial services. These services could also include selling commercial products at retail facilities or providing warehousing and order fulfillment services at larger facilities. What do you think? What services would you like offered at Postal Service facilities? Are there any other potential uses for these facilities? Please share your ideas in the comment section below. This blog is hosted by the OIG's Audit Engineering Team.
  • on Nov 14th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 28 comments
    Out of 23 posts in industrialized countries, the U.S. Postal Service is one of the few remaining posts not offering an eMailbox solution to its citizens. And while there are private sector technology industry standouts in the U.S. that have developed widely popular e-mail and secure storage services, their business models sacrifice consumer privacy in the interest of ad-based revenue generation. In an increasingly digital world, it may make sense for the Postal Service to offer eMailbox services in addition to traditional delivery. A consumer would also be able to sign up for an accompanying highly secure data storage area service called the eLockbox, which would provide added security for the archiving of important legal and personal documents with anytime, anywhere secure access. Today many electronic documents, especially financial records, reside primarily on the banks or billers Web site and not with the consumer. The Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center’s new paper eMailbox and eLockbox: Opportunities for the Postal Service (Report Number RARC-WP-12-001) explores these concepts. This white paper is the fourth paper in the Digital series, and presents a case for offering an eMailbox and eLockbox. Some of the paper’s findings include: 1.As communication channels become increasingly consumer-centric, the eMailbox and eLockbox would empower individuals to transition to full electronic delivery at their own pace. 2.The linking of one’s physical identity and address to the eMailbox address will provide high identity assurance necessary for transactions, which require privacy, confidentiality, authentication and non-repudiation such as for legal and financial correspondence. 3.The Postal Service, offers protection from theft, interference, fraud and forgery under federal law, utilizing two law enforcement organizations (the Office of Inspector General and the Inspection Service). 4.Advertising mail would only be allowed from entities registered with the Postal eMailbox system and with the consent of the receiver. Together, the concept of the eMailbox and eLockbox services reflects a natural extension of the Postal Service’s role in the physical world as the trusted custodian of the nation’s address management system. The product provides a digital service linking American households and businesses in a trusted and verifiable way, while empowering consumers to determine the pace and extent of the service’s use. This product suite should be further developed as the organization implements new digital services. What do you think? Would you use a Postal eMailbox? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.

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