• on Aug 24th, 2009 in Strategy & Public Policy | 12 comments
    Think ahead to 10 years from now. What will the world look like in 2020? How will consumer behavior change? What should logistics companies do now to prepare for the future?

    Deutsche Post attempted to answer these questions in its global Delphi study published in June (click here to view the study). The Delphi method is a technique to develop predictions about the future. The Deutsche Post study involved two stages. In the first stage, a group of specialists working in a wide range of theoretical and practical fields put forward various theses about possible future developments. These were discussed and debated until the experts converged on a set of 81 theses.

    In the second stage, a different wider panel of 900 industry experts reviewed the 81 theses and rated how much they agreed with them. There were regional differences in the responses, but several trends stood out such as the rising importance of Asia, the growing interest in green issues, and the continued growth in Internet technologies.

    The poll below lists some of the most relevant predictions from the Deutsche Post survey that may affect the Postal Service.

    Do you agree with these predictions? Do you think the Postal Service is ready to meet the challenges of the next decade? If not, how should the Postal Service respond?

    This blog is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Aug 17th, 2009 in Pricing & Rates | 24 comments
    Since the earliest days of the Post Office there has been a public policy goal of promoting the dissemination of information throughout the country. This goal was also part of all 14 of the rate cases conducted under the Postal Reorganization Act. By law, rates had to consider “the educational, cultural, scientific, and informational value to the recipient of mail matter.” This provision generally tempered the increases for Periodicals, or at least kept the “institutional cost burden” for Periodicals to a minimum. In fact, in the final rate case in 2006 before the new price cap system of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act took effect, the “markup” on Periodicals was only 0.2 percent. Periodicals prices were set so that revenue was only 0.2 percent above attributable costs. The average for all mail was 79.3 percent.

    The two price adjustments since that final rate case have been capped by inflation. Under the old rate case process, the increases would have likely been greater so that the prices covered the Postal Service’s costs for handling Periodicals. In fiscal year (FY) 2008, Periodicals revenue did not cover costs. In fact, the cost coverage (the ratio of revenue to attributable costs) was only 84 percent. (In rate cases, the recommended prices had to be at least 100 percent of costs.) The new law includes the price cap as an incentive for cost containment, but also says products should cover their costs.

    So what do you think? Should the Postal Service try to increase Periodicals prices beyond the cap? What role do Periodicals play in the mailstream? What takes precedence: the cap or a requirement that products cover cost? Should the price for a flat that happens to be a magazine be significantly lower than the exact same flat that happens to be a catalog?

    This blog is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Aug 10th, 2009 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 42 comments
    The Postal Service has a long and proud history in public service. It has always been viewed as part of the federal government, yet has also been told to “act like a business” and to be self-sufficient. These distinctions can lead to interesting real-world implications, such as the degree to which retail associates should “upsell” or otherwise assist customers as they transact postal business. On one extreme, some claim that retail associates should do everything to find the lowest price for the customer. On the other extreme, some believe that retail associates should maximize the revenue from each transaction, and if that means selling more than a customer “needs,” then so be it. Of course, there is a wide area between these two extremes, and the Postal Service is challenged to meet these sometimes conflicting goals of providing public service and maximizing profit. But are these goals really conflicting? What balance should the Postal Service strike between finding the best value for the customer and maximizing revenue? What factors should be considered in striking this balance – transaction time (keeping the line moving), customer satisfaction (the customer feels good about the transaction), ease of use (keeping the transaction and choices simple), public service (an obligation to find the best deal for the customer), standardization of retail experience (providing routine guidance to retail associates), or other factors? There are a wide variety of transactions, so striking the right balance is difficult. Nonetheless, by looking at specific examples, one can see the implicit tradeoffs. For instance, if a customer is mailing a rather heavy box that the retail associate presumes may contain books, should the retail associate ask the customer if it is solely books and offer the reduced Media Mail price? Or should the retail associate encourage the use of Express Mail or Priority Mail, and suggest additional special services? What are your thoughts about how the Postal Service should serve customers while generating revenue? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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