• on Dec 12th, 2011 in Products & Services | 6 comments
    Every year, millions of Americans send holiday greeting cards through the mail to friends and family around the country. Usually this means a trip to the store to pick out cards, the Post Office to get stamps, sometimes even a photographer to capture that perfect holiday photo, and another trip to the Post Office to mail the cards. But now there are many options for creating a holiday greeting card that save both time and money. Not only are these options a potential boon to consumers, they are an opportunity for the Postal Service. Several years ago, Hallmark® introduced a hybrid greeting card that customers can order online. For one price, customers create a card by choosing a design and uploading their own photos and even choosing the day the Postal Service delivers the card. This year, Apple® introduced Cards, a smartphone application that allows customers to create and mail hybrid greeting cards directly from their iPhones. Still, for those who love the experience of shopping for cards, a number of Postal Service retail locations offer a selection of greeting cards allowing customers to buy, stamp, and send them from the same location. Offering holiday cards through multiple platforms has a number of benefits for the Postal Service and its customers. This type of multi-channel strategy provides customers with convenience and multiple options for using physical mail. If expanded to other postal products, such as Priority Mail or Standard Mail, this strategy could provide the Postal Service with an opportunity to grow mail volume for other mail classes and improve customer satisfaction by making other products and services easier and more convenient to use. Additionally, hybrid holiday cards, whether created from online or mobile platforms, represent a path forward for the Postal Service in the digital world. It shows that digital technology can compliment and not be the enemy of physical mail. So, should the Postal Service make efforts to apply this multi-channel, hybrid mail model to other postal products, and if so which ones? Do you plan to send your holiday cards this year using an online or mobile card builder or are you sending them the old fashioned way? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.
  • on Dec 5th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service owns or leases more than 33,000 facilities with approximately 284 million interior square feet (SF). These facilities are in virtually every community throughout the country and range in size from 55 SF to 32 acres under one roof. We visited 717 of these facilities as part of 10 facility optimization audits and identified over 21 million excess SF of space. During our subsequent national facility optimization audit, we statistically projected that the Postal Service has about 67 million SF of excess space nationwide. In addition to an abundance of space, recent audits have disclosed that there are unmanned or underused windows in post offices around the nation, as well as more workhours at retail facilities than needed based on fiscal year 2011 workloads. The solution most often suggested for dealing with these excess resources is to consolidate and close facilities. In fact, the Postal Service is in the process of identifying both retail and mail processing facilities for closure or consolidation. While closures and consolidations can reduce the supply of these excess resources, there may also be opportunities to use this excess capacity to expand the services provided in local communities through partnerships with federal, state, and local governments or with private companies. Government services could be provided at post offices through kiosks or by training Postal Service employees to provide these services. The Postal Service could also offer excess window space to government agencies where their employees could assist customers. Another possibility would be for the Postal Service to partner with private sector companies to provide non-postal services. These companies could offer services ranging from fax and photocopying to banking or other financial services. These services could also include selling commercial products at retail facilities or providing warehousing and order fulfillment services at larger facilities. What do you think? What services would you like offered at Postal Service facilities? Are there any other potential uses for these facilities? Please share your ideas in the comment section below. This blog is hosted by the OIG's Audit Engineering Team.
  • on Nov 28th, 2011 in Pricing & Rates | 14 comments
    Have you ever heard of Alaska Bypass? It’s a service the U.S. Postal Service offers only in Alaska, allowing shippers to send shrink-wrapped pallets of goods at Parcel Post rates using private airlines. The Postal Service pays airlines to carry the goods to rural Alaskan communities by delivering these goods directly to the stores located in rural areas. The shippers effectively and entirely “bypass” the Postal Service’s delivery network. The Postal Service has to pay the airlines much more than it receives in postage for this program. In FY 2010, the Postal Service lost $73 million on Alaska Bypass. In addition, the people receiving the shipments are usually retail merchants, because the orders must be at least 1,000 pounds. The Postal Service doesn’t provide this kind of service for retailers anywhere else in the country. Alaska Bypass began when it was much more difficult to get goods to rural Alaskans than it is today. There are even some that say it no longer seems to fit with the Postal Service’s mission. The Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center has developed a white paper, Alaska Bypass: Beyond Its Original Purpose, which outlines the history of the program and the shift away from its original purpose. The paper offers various options to improve the program. Should the Postal Service continue to pay for sending large shipments of goods to retailers and be permitted to charge the shippers more for this service? Should the 1,000-pound minimum order requirement, targeted to retailers, be eliminated in order to extend the benefit directly to consumers shopping online? What do you think? Click here to read the white paper and we invite you to share your thoughts about this program on our blog. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.

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