• on Aug 2nd, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 9 comments
    Deutsche Post graphic emphasizing online ordering and shipment integration.
    About a year ago, we ran a short blog about Deutsche Post’s Automated Packstations. Operated via touch screens, Packstation services include 24/7 customer pick-up and the ability to mail parcels and letters as well as print postage. When a parcel arrives, the recipient is notified via e-mail for pick up at the kiosk. Customers can have their packages delivered to a Packstation of their choice. Since our last blog, Packstations have caught on. The numbers have expanded, to about 2,500 Packstations in Germany and over 1 million registered customers. Typically located in high volume pedestrian areas along streets and in commuter rail stations, Packstations offer a myriad of customer choices for items being sent or received. Mailing a parcel from a Packstation is cheaper than mailing a parcel from traditional post office counters, and there is a bonus rewards program as well. Points are earned for sending a package, buying stamps, picking up a package, having a friend register or simply reading the online newsletter. The points are redeemable for shopping vouchers, stamps, and gifts. Austria Post introduced a nearly identical service in 2006. Estonia offers similar parcel terminals, and Dubai’s subway system has made a deal with DHL to install Packstations at certain stations. Can the U.S. Postal Service copy Deutsche Post’s success too? Automated package stations could be a great alternative to traditional post offices and fit neatly into the evolving internet economy – and provide real competition in the package business at the same time! How could this service help you? Would you have any concerns? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Jun 28th, 2010 in Products & Services | 50 comments
    For decades, the Postal Service offered vending machine service to supplement its retail operations. Vending machines meet the needs of customers who want to purchase stamps without waiting in line. While the lack of stamp vending machines has resulted in customer frustration and a surprising number of newspaper articles, the problems are particularly acute in economically depressed and more urban areas. Although Automated Postal Centers (APCs) provide many services including the sale of stamps and directly applied postage for First-Class letters, APCs require credit cards, which people in economically depressed areas often do not have. In addition, some customers find APCs to be intimidating to use. Finally, APCs sell only booklets of stamps or individual stamps in denominations of $1 or more, yet many disadvantaged customers may want to buy just one First-Class Mail stamp.

    So with an apparent need for simple vending machines, what should the Postal Service do? In the past, the Postal Service had problems with the legacy machines it owned. They were costly and difficult to maintain and operate. The answer may be to contract this activity out. Commercial vending machines, like those selling soda and chips, are generally not owned and operated by the organizations on whose property they are located. While Postal Service unions and management associations may have concerns, private operators might be very interested in acquiring stamp vending machine contracts for a percentage of gross sales (or similar) while taking sole responsibility for vending machine maintenance and support. In addition to the convenience vending machines would offer, they might also help window clerks operate more efficiently. Diverting low-value stamp sales from windows would increase revenue per labor hour and allow the Postal Service window clerks to focus on more important functions. With shorter lines and happier customers, the work environment of a window clerk would likely improve. This idea could be a win-win for all concerned. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Jan 16th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 14 comments
    A recent presentation by Deutsche Post describes the German delivery and logistics company’s efforts to transform its retail network. One particularly interesting innovation is self-service Packstations. Like the U.S. Postal Service’s APCs (Automated Postal Centers), these kiosks allow customers to ship packages. However, Packstations also provide 24-hour access for parcel pickup. Customers can register to receive their packages at any packstation in the country. When the package arrives, the recipient receives an e-mail or text message. Rather than rushing to the post office before it closes, customers can use their card and pin number to retrieve it at any time. This convenience is particularly helpful for people who have no way to get to a post office when it is open.

    Deutsche Post already has 1,500 Packstations in Germany and is planning to add 1,000 more. What do you think about Packstations? Would you use one?

    Should the U.S. Postal Service look into providing 24-hour parcel pickup? If so, how? What about combining APCs with parcel pickup?

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