• on Dec 1st, 2014 in Products & Services | 4 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service’s 2014 Holiday Playbook has a very modern spin. More than just holiday timetables and stamps, it encourages readers to download the Postal Service’s augmented reality (AR) app, “USPS AR.” The app is available through the Google Play store and Apple App Store.

    AR allows users to scan physical objects and see them with digital graphics, information, and sounds through an app on a mobile device. AR works by connecting to a back-end library of images, allowing the app to “see” those objects and overlay the real-world images with computer-generated animations. Users must have an Internet connection to access the AR component. For example, in this year’s holiday campaign, the Postal Service added the eagle on the side of blue collection boxes to its library. When a mailbox is scanned, it will show a different animation each week followed by an opportunity to visit the Postal Service’s mobile site.

    This leads to one of the biggest challenges of AR – companies must be very clear about how to use the app. They need to indicate what users should scan and what additional functionality the app delivers. Some exasperated postal customers didn’t know what they were supposed to scan or how the app worked.

    Reviews on Google Play and the App Store suggest some users have had other troubles with the app as well. But a number of reviews have applauded the Postal Service for doing “something cool.” These positive reviewers have also expressed interest in seeing where the Postal Service takes this technology.

    The app is different from past Postal Service forays into AR because it could generate revenue by hosting other companies’ advertisements. Companies could create and implement campaigns using AR mailpieces and allow users to access digital content through the USPS AR app. This would let users download one app rather than a different app each time they want to scan something. If all mail goes through one platform, customers might be more likely to use it.

    Have you downloaded the USPS AR app? If so, do you like it? What do you wish it could scan? Do you see an opportunity for the Postal Service to generate revenue with AR? 

  • on Nov 24th, 2014 in Products & Services | 19 comments

    It’s been more than 3 years since the U.S. Postal Service changed its rules on postage stamps, ending its long-standing tradition that people on stamps had to be deceased. At the time of the announcement, the Postal Service said it would consider stamps for acclaimed American musicians, sports stars, writers, artists, and other nationally known figures.

    The policy change led some people to worry that stamps were becoming advertisements, not carefully considered subjects of cultural relevance. Others worried that honoring a living legend could backfire. What if that person went on to do something embarrassing or, worse, illegal later in life? That’s no small concern as recent headlines from the sports pages suggest.

    Yet, 3 years on, none of the major stamp releases have featured any living “celebrities,” unless you consider the fictional character of Harry Potter to be a celebrity. (While the stamps featured the actors from the movie, the stamp honored the films, not the actors.) That release stirred up a good deal of controversy – and publicity – primarily because many philatelists felt it commercialized the stamp program. And, they noted, Harry Potter isn’t even American. Others, however, applauded the move as an attempt to make stamps relevant to a younger generation.

    The large response to our blog on the topic got us wondering: Who would you like to see on a stamp? Would you send more mail if you could buy stamps honoring Bruce Springsteen, Justin Bieber, Michael Jordan, or Julia Roberts? Do you think living celebrities should be allowed? Yes, but with certain criteria? Is it important to you that the featured individual be American?

    You can find out more about the Postal Service’s stamp program by visiting http://uspsstamps.com/ 

  • on Oct 27th, 2014 in Products & Services | 8 comments

    There’s an adage in business that it’s cheaper and easier to retain existing customers than to find new ones. It’s been estimated that it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than to retain ones. This explains why businesses work so hard to keep customers happy.

    The U.S. Postal Service understands the importance of customer retention. It has ramped up its efforts in this regard, including changing its sales organization, enhancing its use of analytics to see where it risks losing customers, and operating customer retention call centers. Still, customer retention is a challenge in an era of shrinking mail volume. While customer defections decreased from fiscal year (FY) 2012 to FY 2013, the magnitude of this ongoing problem is hard on the Postal Service’s bottom line.

    We recently looked at the effectiveness of the Postal Service’s customer retention strategies and explored whether it could do more to keep customers from reducing their postage spend or from leaving altogether. Our report recommended the Postal Service promote organization-wide collaboration and share information on customers at risk of defecting. We also urged the Postal Service to reach out to former customers.

    Interestingly, dormant customer accounts, the subject of a separate audit report, provide an outreach opportunity. While the audit report did not look at inactive and dormant accounts as a customer retention tool, it seems like a natural fit. Dormant accounts are advanced deposit accounts for business mailings that have been cancelled and closed. The Postal Service cancels the accounts following a notification process that occurs after 2 years of inactivity. What if these inactive and dormant accounts were used as sales leads?

    Many of us are accustomed to hearing from our doctors or dentists if we miss our regular checkups. In fact, we welcome the reminders. Could inactive and dormant accounts trigger a similar “outreach” attempt from postal employees?

    What suggestions do you have for customer retention? What does it take to retain a strong and thriving customer base? Or should new customers be the focus as mailing budgets shrink? 

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