• on Nov 26th, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 18 comments
    This holiday season many of us will find ourselves rushing from one errand to the next, often visiting a variety of stores to accomplish all of our tasks. Wouldn’t “one-stop shopping” be easier? Wouldn’t it be nice to get everything from shopping to wrapping to shipping taken care of in a single trip? Locations offering a multitude of services potentially increase foot traffic because of the convenience they offer. They also create opportunities for the company to sell more products and services to its customers. In other countries, such as Sweden and Australia, the trend has been toward placing postal counters in grocery stores and pharmacies, often located in shopping malls. Customers can buy stamps or ship their packages while they are shopping for food and other staples. In the United States, grocery and other retail stores sell stamps at check-out counters, but do not offer shipping options. Office supply and other approved shipping stores offer a range of Postal Service mailing services including Priority and Express mail. Customers find that using these stores for their mailing needs saves time and effort because many of these retail outlets have longer hours than post offices and are conveniently located. E-commerce and mobile commerce have proven to be a popular choice for consumers who enjoy the convenience of shopping at home. Online retailers ship directly to the purchaser’s home, or wrap and ship gift purchases directly to their recipients. If customers want to wrap the package or gift themselves, the Postal Service’s Carrier Pick-up service will retrieve the package at their doorstep for shipping. While e-commerce and mobile commerce can offer purchasing, wrapping, and shipping from home, some people prefer physically browsing and purchasing items from brick-and-mortar retail outlets. This holiday season, a shopper might first visit a retail outlet to make your purchases, go home and wrap the gifts, and then go back out to ship the item. That's at least three trips and two lines, just to send one package! Does shopping, purchasing, wrapping, and sending your item in one stop sound better? With postal counters in strategic locations, all of your needs could be met in one stop. Would gift-wrapping services be an added bonus? If Post Office functions could be moved into retail spaces, what areas or types of stores best lend themselves to this effort? Share your ideas in the comment section below.
  • on Oct 8th, 2012 in Delivery & Collection | 10 comments
    The digital revolution has changed communications, and with it, the operations and finances of the U.S. Postal Service. It also has brought deep changes in the way we design networks and analyze systems. Many organizations rely on mathematical modeling to test ideas before they become operational, conserving money and time. The Postal Service, facing limited capital and resources, has also adopted this practice. It is discovering how important these tools are for assessing strategies for designing the future mail network. The Office of Inspector General has explored some of the main components of the postal supply chain - retail, mail processing and transportation, and delivery – using a systems modeling approach. This approach has allowed the OIG to use objective methods to determine how the network could be redesigned to meet current needs and future demands. This research also helps us to understand some of the challenges in developing information-based decision models for the Postal Service. A primary challenge in any modeling effort is collecting the necessary information. Without this data, the model cannot fully assess the efficiency of the operations it is modeling, and develop an optimal network solution. Postal information systems can be a complex array of the hundreds of highly varied and specialized information systems that are often developed and maintained under separate contracts. Simplifying this landscape also could enable more insightful analyses to better guide decision makers. As the Postal Service considers how it can best serve the public through its products and services, modeling efforts can help it to evaluate different proposals for change. As we develop better efficiency standards with more rich data sources, we can not only better evaluate the efficiency of operations and system design, but we can better explore how operations may be changed to meet the needs of new environments.
  • on Oct 1st, 2012 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 29 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service has made improving the customer experience a priority. Postal officials see a positive customer experience as a key to revenue generation because customers are more likely to return if their experience was good. As Deputy PMG Ron Stroman noted to a gathering of postal officials in August, “Our customers have choices, they don’t have to come to us. How people are treated makes all the difference in the world.” Customer service strategies could include something as simple as a menu of services and prices on display in each Post Office. Or, a quick resolution of a customer complaint can turn a negative experience into a positive one. Other efforts might require more substantial changes, such as reconfiguring the retail space or offering extended hours in some locations. In some cases, the Postal Service’s goal of rightsizing its retail network might run counter to the customer experience, at least initially. For commercial customers, a positive customer experience might be entirely different from the retail customer. A simplified or more automated mail acceptance process may appeal to bulk mailers. Changes in service standards might not please all commercial customers, while others may be able to adapt to the changes more readily. New dropship points for mail entry and the changes these can cause to internal processes might stress some mailers. For other mailers, fewer mail entry points might help them gain efficiencies. Given the different needs and expectations of customers, the first step to a successful customer experience would be to know your customers. “One size fits all” might work for the Snuggie®, but not for the Postal Service. Commercial mailers, in particular, have urged the Postal Service to get to know their businesses and operations better. The Postal Service has worked hard over the past few years to reach out to customers and engage them in discussions on improving operations. How can the Postal Service build strong relationships with its customers and encourage customer loyalty? Would consumer and business mailer online rating systems, similar to Yelp, be a useful tool for gleaning information about customer experiences?

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