• on Sep 9th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 1 comment

    Anyone who would argue that social media is not a critical communications tool for businesses and organizations probably still listens to 8-track tapes and uses an abacus. Social media – when done right – can increase transparency, facilitate collaboration, promote brand awareness, build community, and help an organization solve problems. A recent audit report from the Office of Inspector General recognizes the U.S. Postal Service’s early efforts in social media, but also cites opportunities for the organization to strengthen its social media presence.

    Social media is generally recognized as online tools that integrate technology, social interaction, and content creation. Social media pioneers, such as American Express and Nike, found the best way to reach customers was to engage them directly and have a “conversation” with them. A number of federal agencies have found success with social media in promoting their missions or particular programs, or alerting citizens to important events and activities. Early adopters such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration, with its spectacular space imagery, and the Transportation Security Administration, with a clever use of Instagram, have large and loyal followings.

    The Postal Service entered the social media scene in 2009 with the launch of a popular Stamps Facebook page. From there it broadened its social media presence with Business and Human Resources recruitment pages on Facebook and LinkedIn efforts, our report noted. The Postal Service finally ventured into Twitter, YouTube, and smaller social media sites, including its philatelic Stamp of Approval blog, in 2011. Today, it has a web presence on 18 social media web pages, but it is still developing a centralized blog about wider Postal Service policy, mission, or products.

    The Postal Service could use social media to better communicate with stakeholders, our report determined. In particular, the Postal Service could solicit input from stakeholders, or tailor a conversation with specific industry groups using targeted creative blogs or other social media sites. The Postal Service could also link its various social media sites for easy customer navigation. Our report recommended the Postal Service consider designating a social media liaison in each of its product and services group to provide more dynamic response to customer feedback.

    For an organization grounded in hard copy communications, the Postal Service is highly supportive of social media. It has a plan in place to ramp up its social media presence and engagement, and strengthen its sharing of feedback and analyses. Do you see areas the Postal Service could explore? As a postal stakeholder, are you inclined to use social media to learn about Postal Service products and services? How does your company use social media to engage customers?

  • 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.

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