• on Feb 22nd, 2014 in Products & Services | 3 comments

    Postal customers took fewer trips to the Post Office this past holiday season but that doesn’t mean they spent less on postal products. They just conducted more business through alternative channels, such as online at USPS.com and self-service kiosks. Over the 2013 holiday season, transactions at brick-and-mortar post offices were down 8 percent compared to last year, but transactions through alternative access were up 17 percent, postal officials reported.

    The movement to online postage transactions certainly mirrors the larger societal shift toward e-commerce and mobile commerce. But the big shift over the holidays to alternative access could also be the result of reduced hours at some post offices. Customers will shop where they find it most convenient, and in some locations post offices are opened only a few hours a day. This certainly makes Village Post Offices and contract postal units, self-service kiosks, and online purchasing more attractive. Many of these options are available 24 hours a day.

    The U.S. Postal Service recognizes that it needs to be where people find it most convenient to buy postage or other mailing services. The Postmaster General stated as much at the recent Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee meeting when addressing alternative access, including the Postal Service’s decision to partner with Staples. But alternative access retail options have limitations, which if not addressed could frustrate customers and leave some money on the table.

    Our recent audit of self-service kiosks found that customers are not using kiosks as much as anticipated for a few reasons: they sometimes are located in hidden parts of the lobby; kiosk signage is not always visible; and lobby assistants are not always available or fully trained to help customers help themselves. In addition, self-service kiosks are generally housed in retail outlets with the highest mail volume, primarily urban and suburban areas. Low-traffic retail outlets, often in rural areas, get a double whammy. They are not likely to have a kiosk and their Post Office hours are reduced.

    How can the Postal Service ensure that customers receive suitable services while reining in operating costs? Does the Postal Service need more self-service kiosks, or should it redistribute the 2,500 now in service? What incentives might the Postal Service offer merchants to house Village Post Offices? Or should the Postal Service restore hours to its own post offices, even those that are not profitable? 

  • on Nov 19th, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 5 comments
    Twenty years ago, when professional sporting teams started selling naming rights to their stadiums and arenas, many purists called it a low point in the commercialization of sports. But today, the number of arenas and ballparks not named after a corporate sponsor is small. For revenue-seeking team owners, it is just too hard to pass up the money that comes with selling your stadiums’ name. Strategy, business development and marketing all play huge factors in naming-rights deals, with top prices for these deals reaching about half a billion dollars, according to Sports Business Journal. As a business-centered organization looking to boost revenues, does the U.S. Postal Service have opportunities to sell naming rights? The idea of selling the naming rights to an entire Post Office might not be palatable to Congress, as lawmakers like to name post offices after fallen soldiers or local heroes. But what about selling space in parts of the Post Office? For example: this retail counter brought to you by XYZ Co.? Sides of vehicles or automated postal centers in high-traffic areas of retail centers could also hold valuable advertising space. With its national reach, yet local presence, the Postal Service is visible in every community nearly every day. Companies and nonprofit organizations would likely find the opportunities to reach such a large audience appealing. Another option might be to appropriate advertising space to other government agencies. For example, a state health department or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could use space on postal vehicles or in retail lobbies to announce a public health campaign. The Department of Energy or local governments could use retail space to tout energy conservation practices to citizens. This approach would also tie in with a larger vision of using post offices to connect citizens with other government services. Would such offerings tarnish the Postal Service’s image and degrade what is still considered a public institution held in the public trust? Or should the Postal Service think creatively about new ways to use its large physical network? Would naming rights be an easy way to generate revenue in tough economic times? Or should the Postal Service focus on its core business?
  • on Nov 12th, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 5 comments
    The historic election of 2012 is over. Whether your candidate won or lost, you can feel confident that the American electoral process, a model for the free world, worked as the Founding Fathers intended – even if they never could have imagined spending billions of dollars on an election. However, many citizens complained about the long lines at polling places and the unreasonable wait times. The wait times seemed to range from 30 minutes to several hours. In some cases, voters abandoned the polls altogether after a lengthy wait. States have decades of experience administering elections, so it is particularly vexing that voting is so time consuming. Why should it take longer to vote than it does to conduct other routine government business? In many states, motor vehicles can be renewed securely in several ways, at the citizen’s convenience. The citizen can renew in person at an office of the motor vehicle administration, mail a renewal form, or submit a renewal application online. What can be done to make voting quick, easy, convenient and yet still secure? Since 1998, citizens of the State of Oregon have securely cast their ballots exclusively by mail. Although postal voting has increased the amount of time necessary to tally votes, Oregon has reduced the cost of conducting elections and seen consistently higher turnout than the U.S. average. Ballots can either be mailed (earning the U.S. Postal Service some additional revenue) or dropped off free-of-charge at a ballot collection center. All 50 states already have a postal voting infrastructure in place through the offering of absentee paper ballots. In 2011 Washington State followed Oregon’s example of total postal voting and 27 other states allow anyone to vote by mail (without excuse). However there are still 22 states where postal voting is not an option without a valid and documented reason. In some localities, citizens can visit their local courthouse or other locations for early voting or to submit their absentee ballot in person, weeks before Election Day. Many citizens take advantage of these opportunities, even if the voting locale is less convenient than their polling place. The Post Office, as the heart of many local communities and a trusted government entity, might make an ideal place for early voting or in-person absentee voting. Do you agree? Do you think voting by mail would work in your community? Would you use the Post Office to cast your ballot if that were an option? Tell us what you think.

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