• on Apr 7th, 2014 in Products & Services | 4 comments

    Love ‘em, hate ‘em or feel indifferent, stamps are certainly getting their 15 minutes of fame. Not only are the latest stamp releases creating major buzz (think Harry Potter and Jimi Hendrix) but alternatives to buying stamps at Post Office counters – such as online and retail partners – are gaining in popularity.

    The Postal Service reports a growing number of direct-to-consumer stamp orders received from online channels, including eBay. With consumers buying stamps in new ways and a need to improve internal processes, the Postal Service recently announced it is borrowing some of the best practices of other large national retailers to create a world-class distribution network.

    The new system will support the growing number of direct-to-consumer stamp orders while keeping postal retail outlets and partners, such as Costco, Walmart, and Staples, well-stocked. This improvement should reduce consumer frustration when preferred stamps are not easily available. The changes include consolidating its stamp distribution network, greater use of automated equipment to provide order processing 7 days a week and faster fulfillment and delivery times of 5 days or less. The streamlining also should improve inventory management and reduce destruction of stamps.

    These changes address some of the recommendations made by the Office of Inspector General in an audit report issued late last year. The Postal Service is also beginning to implement some of our other recommended improvements, including better scanning compatibility, timely posting of transaction data, and status alerts sent to requesters.

    The new system should be seamless to customers and post offices were told to order stamps as usual until further notice. We welcome your input on the changes and the stamp-ordering process. Customers, do you have trouble locating the stamps you prefer? Employees, are there other ways to improve stamp ordering and fulfillment? 

  • on Mar 31st, 2014 in Delivery & Collection | 6 comments

    That ethereal voice was enough for Ray Kinsella to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield in the movie Field of Dreams. But is this approach a sound business model for same-day delivery providers? It seems to be the model they are following: provide same-day delivery in anticipation that customers will eventually consider it standard practice – and actually want it.

    Study after study shows consumers shop online mainly because of low prices and free delivery. Consumers consistently rank “fast shipping” toward the bottom of their reasons for returning to an e-tailer’s website. And yet e-tailers, brick-and-mortar stores, startups, and even the U.S. Postal Service have embarked on the quest to provide same-day delivery service.

    Amazon, Nordstrom, and Walmart are among retailers offering same-day delivery in select markets for orders placed by a certain time. Startups such as Deliv and Instacart are getting in on the action, providing same-day delivery services for retailers in malls or for grocery stores. And, in an interesting convergence, eBay and Google have partnered with traditional retailers not only to deliver their products within hours of a receiving an order, but also to sell them online through consumer-friendly platforms.

    The Postal Service stepped into this market with a short-lived pilot project in San Francisco and now a refined test in New York City. FedEx and UPS do not appear to be jumping in wholly with a same-day service aimed at the retail e-commerce channel, instead offering individual customers some a la cart same-day options.

    Overall, the prices providers are charging for same-day delivery range from about $6 to $10. This is roughly in line with the value consumers place on these services, according to surveys. The price point is good news for consumers, but raises questions about same-day delivery’s sustainability. According to some analysts, many of the same-day services are money losers. Still, as the late Steve Jobs understood well, consumers’ preferences change as offerings are refined. Demand for same-day delivery could increase in the future, which means those already in the market could have an advantage over late entrants.

    Share your thoughts on same-day delivery service. Is this something you want? Are you willing to pay extra for it? If so, how much and for what types of products? Where is the best opportunity for the Postal Service in this market?  

  • on Mar 24th, 2014 in Labor | 7 comments

    When long-term, experienced workers leave companies, they take their know-how with them. It’s called “brain drain” and it happens at organizations of all sizes and kinds, most notably companies with a large number of baby boomers getting ready to retire and industries that are restructuring. The newspaper industry comes to mind, as does manufacturing, as does the U.S. Postal Service.

    Since 2004, the Postal Service has reduced the number of career employees by more than 200,000, primarily through attrition, early retirement incentives, and some contractual changes. This is part of its ongoing effort to right-size its workforce to better match the number of employees with a declining workload. Many of those who left were seasoned workers who took with them a wealth of experience and knowledge essential to running a vast and complex organization.

    Given that nearly 31 percent of current employees are eligible to retire now, and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe plans to shrink the workforce by 10,000 positions in fiscal year 2015, it’s likely this brain drain will continue for a number of years. Is the Postal Service adequately prepared for this loss of institutional knowledge? What more could it do to ensure it has a comprehensive approach to collect, maintain and disseminate this information?

    Our recent audit, Postal Service Knowledge Management Process, looked at the subject and determined the Postal Service could do more. Notably, by mimicking the best practices of eight large organizations we reviewed, including the General Services Administration and Walmart, the Postal Service would be able to ensure important knowledge and expertise stay within the organization. These practices include conducting exit interviews aimed at gleaning key information; designating a knowledge management officer; developing knowledge maps that offer visual representations of the organization’s pockets of expertise; and conducting mentor-based training.

    Are you concerned about the flight of human capital from the Postal Service? Do you think it should do more to preserve the knowledge of its most experienced workers? What are your ideas for the Postal Service to retain and share valuable knowledge and expertise? 

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