• on Sep 15th, 2014 in Products & Services | 10 comments

    The aptly named Business Service Network (BSN) is charged with servicing the U.S. Postal Service’s 23,000 largest customers by addressing service issues, answering questions, and fulfilling other requests. Given the annual postal spend of this customer group – almost $38 billion in fiscal year 2013 alone – it clearly behooves the Postal Service to keep these customers happy.

    But retaining large commercial customers takes more than just putting out fires and answering questions. That’s why BSN employees have been encouraged to reach out to many commercial accounts to gain a better understanding of what customers need and with any luck, they can thwart service problems before they occur. Outreach also builds customer loyalty. And while the BSN’s 300 employees aren’t tasked with selling products and services – the Sales group does that – their face-to-face contact with commercial customers creates a key opportunity to do so.

    Our recent audit of the BSN shows just how valuable customer outreach can be. We found that the customer accounts BSN staff proactively contacted spent significantly more on postal services than those who were not contacted. And we estimated the Postal Service could have generated an additional $382 million by proactively contacting all BSN customers. Our report found other opportunities for improvement, too, such as resolving issues more quickly, collecting more customer feedback, and redesigning the BSN staff evaluation process.

    At the same time, the Postal Service is realizing it needs to beef up the BSN. During a recent meeting with mailer groups, management outlined some planned BSN enhancements. These include streamlining customer surveys, seeking ways to increase “personal” contact with commercial customers, reaching out to smaller customers, and treating all customer issues with the highest level of urgency.

    Share your thoughts on the BSN. What other ways could the Postal Service serve its commercial customers? Are there loyalty programs the Postal Service could try? 

  • on Jan 27th, 2014 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 3 comments

    It’s back to the future for the requirement that all letter and flat automation mailings be Full-Service Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) compliant to obtain discounts. Mailers were expecting implementation this week of the Full-Service requirement, but the U.S. Postal Service pushed back the date until 2015 because the Postal Regulatory Commission ruled that the mandate constituted a price increase that would have busted the inflation-based price cap.

    Many mailers welcomed the delay, as few felt the entire industry – the Postal Service included – was ready for full-service, which included the requirement that barcodes keep their unique sequence of numbers for at least 45 days before the barcode sequence is used again. A number of large mailers have been Full-Service IMb compliant for months and have taken advantage of the benefits of IMbs, including tracking of service performance, identifying bottlenecks, and coordinating follow-up marketing efforts. But many mid-sized and smaller mailers were not ready for the added requirements, which include electronic submission of postage statements and use of unique IMbs on trays and containers. And concerns were growing that the Postal Service’s systems are not yet capable of handling the expected increase in IMb data.

    The Office of Inspector General raised similar concerns in a fall audit report. In particular, we found the Postal Service had fallen short in developing a comprehensive plan for the continued development and use of IMb data. Notably, the Postal Service’s plans around the use of IMb data have grown considerably since its original vision of the program and it has not taken into account the needs of all mailers. The Postal Service needs to upgrade its data storage capabilities and data systems to accommodate the growing use of IMbs and to support stakeholders’ needs.

    The silver lining in this delay could be that it gives the Postal Service another year to develop a comprehensive IMb data plan that includes detailed input from all business users and identifies costs and milestones for the life of the IMb program. It also gives mailers more time to get ready, while letting those already in the Full-Service IMb program keep their modest discounts.

    • Share your thoughts on the Full-Service IMb and the delayed implementation date.
    • Do you think another year will make a difference in the readiness of mailers? Of the Postal Service’s systems?
    • What incentives would you like to see to encourage smaller mailers to make the conversion to Full-Service IMb?
    • If you are already Full-Service compliant, what value do you get from the program? 
  • on Dec 11th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments

    Wouldn’t it be nice to receive only the advertising mail that interests you? Information about products and services you like or want to learn about, and nothing else? And wouldn’t it be nice for advertisers to know more about what recipients think about their ads? Is an offer appealing, but the timing is not right, or is a recipient completely uninterested?

    Creating a system to share this information is a possibility, and the U.S. Postal Service could play a key role in making it happen. That’s the concept of a new white paper released by the Postal Service Office of Inspector General today. Strengthening Advertising Mail by Building a Digital Information Market highlights the importance of maintaining and strengthening advertising mail by enabling more direct communication from mail recipients ultimately back to the advertiser.

    Ad mailings could then be targeted with almost pinpoint accuracy, increasing revenues for advertisers and reducing recycling for everyone. The system would benefit the Postal Service, too, by making ad mail even more relevant and valuable.

    One potential approach starts with using a smart phone or tablet to scan a digital code on the front of a piece of ad mail you receive, and then accessing an interactive system into which you can record your advertising preferences. In return, you are sent a coupon redeemable for merchandise from a variety of vendors, and in the future you would receive ads tailored to products and services of interest to you. Participation would be strictly voluntary, and privacy guidelines would be established.

    Tell us what you think! Do you think customers would be inclined to access an interactive system to record advertising preferences if it meant special offers or more targeted mailings in the future? 

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