• on Sep 9th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 1 comment

    Anyone who would argue that social media is not a critical communications tool for businesses and organizations probably still listens to 8-track tapes and uses an abacus. Social media – when done right – can increase transparency, facilitate collaboration, promote brand awareness, build community, and help an organization solve problems. A recent audit report from the Office of Inspector General recognizes the U.S. Postal Service’s early efforts in social media, but also cites opportunities for the organization to strengthen its social media presence.

    Social media is generally recognized as online tools that integrate technology, social interaction, and content creation. Social media pioneers, such as American Express and Nike, found the best way to reach customers was to engage them directly and have a “conversation” with them. A number of federal agencies have found success with social media in promoting their missions or particular programs, or alerting citizens to important events and activities. Early adopters such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration, with its spectacular space imagery, and the Transportation Security Administration, with a clever use of Instagram, have large and loyal followings.

    The Postal Service entered the social media scene in 2009 with the launch of a popular Stamps Facebook page. From there it broadened its social media presence with Business and Human Resources recruitment pages on Facebook and LinkedIn efforts, our report noted. The Postal Service finally ventured into Twitter, YouTube, and smaller social media sites, including its philatelic Stamp of Approval blog, in 2011. Today, it has a web presence on 18 social media web pages, but it is still developing a centralized blog about wider Postal Service policy, mission, or products.

    The Postal Service could use social media to better communicate with stakeholders, our report determined. In particular, the Postal Service could solicit input from stakeholders, or tailor a conversation with specific industry groups using targeted creative blogs or other social media sites. The Postal Service could also link its various social media sites for easy customer navigation. Our report recommended the Postal Service consider designating a social media liaison in each of its product and services group to provide more dynamic response to customer feedback.

    For an organization grounded in hard copy communications, the Postal Service is highly supportive of social media. It has a plan in place to ramp up its social media presence and engagement, and strengthen its sharing of feedback and analyses. Do you see areas the Postal Service could explore? As a postal stakeholder, are you inclined to use social media to learn about Postal Service products and services? How does your company use social media to engage customers?

  • on Jun 3rd, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 1 comment

    Powerful forces like globalization and the digital revolution are changing how, when, and where things are produced, purchased, and delivered. Look at how our shopping habits have changed in just the past few years. With your smartphone or tablet you can shop anytime, anyplace. Offshore production trends are reversing, and some manufacturing jobs are returning to the United States. And major urban areas continue to grow and link into a global transportation supergrid that connects people, commerce, and ideas. If you’re left off the grid, you could find yourself disconnected from the new global economy.

    The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General recently released a white paper discussing the new logistics revolution and all the challenges and opportunities it presents — The Global Logistics Revolution: A Pivotal Moment for the Postal Service. The paper asks, in the face of all these changes, how can we make sure citizens and commerce continue to thrive? Perhaps postal organizations – here and around the world – have a key role to play. Some foreign posts already provide an array of logistics services ranging from comprehensive warehousing to customized, end-to-end cross-border and returns solutions that better serve customers and the new global economy. For some of these posts, these “value-added” logistics services are providing a new revenue stream to offset steep declines in traditional mail volume.

    The Postal Service is also well positioned to move into the large and fast-growing logistics market. With its extensive first and last-mile reach to nearly every household and business in the United States and mission to “bind the nation together” through communications and commerce, the Postal Service is unmatched in keeping communities connected. Either on its own or by partnering with private sector companies, the Postal Service could offer a range of new services and products to meet the evolving needs of citizens and business across the country. A service could be as basic as comprehensive track and trace to more complex offerings like warehousing solutions. If the Postal Service does not at least keep up with emerging customer expectations for improved and expanded logistics services, it could jeopardize its position in the evolving expedited and small package market.

    We encourage you to read the white paper to learn about how the Postal Service could respond to the Global Logistics Revolution and then weigh in with your thoughts below.

    Do you think that the Postal Service’s ability to offer new, value-added logistics services could help respond to customers’ changing needs?

  • on Apr 9th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 10 comments

    In 1963, the ZIP Code was introduced by the U.S. Postal Service as a means to deliver mail faster and cheaper. Fifty years later, this system has grown to provide unforeseen benefits as an infrastructure that enables commerce and organizes information. However, the ZIP Code was not universally accepted at the onset. To overcome skepticism from consumers and mailers, the Postal Service launched a creative outreach campaign led by a character called Mr. ZIP. This mailman caricature served as the primary advocate for the ZIP Code and increased public support for the idea enough to overcome the initial resistance from stakeholders. Below we interview Mr. ZIP to hear the story of the ZIP Code.

     


    As Mr. ZIP mentions in his interview, the Postal Service Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center has worked with IBM to issue a white paper entitled The Untold Story of the ZIP Code. This white paper explores the lessons learned from the creation of the ZIP Code and estimates an economic value for the ZIP Code of about $10 billion annually across the entire economy. Most importantly, the paper presents two enhancements to strengthen the ZIP Code’s placement in the modern world:

    • Combine the ZIP Code with the precision of geocodes (latitude and longitude coordinates)
    • Improve the ZIP Codes value in targeting by linking demographic information with the ZIP Code and Utilizing the full ZIP +9 or some variation to offer smaller mailing groupings.

    Combining the ZIP Code with geocodes could allow easier reconfiguration of delivery routes in real time as well as help align government in assisting disaster recovery efforts, tracking population “flight paths” to unaddressed areas, and increasing the capability to link demographics to unaddressed areas. Linking demographic information with the ZIP Code and offering smaller mailing groupings would improve target mailings. This would increase the value of mail for senders and receivers by connecting recipients with mail they want to receive and reducing less valuable broad mailings.

    What ideas do you have for enhancing the ZIP Code to meet the demands of today’s ever-evolving society? How might the Postal Service enhance the ZIP Code to gain internal benefits? What enhancements would place the ZIP Code in a better position to provide the innovators and entrepreneurs new capabilities to meet today’s demands?

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