• on Nov 9th, 2009 in Delivery & Collection | 65 comments
    News about disappearing collection boxes is everywhere these days. Even BBC News ran a story on the decline of the blue collection box in the United States.

    The Postal Service argues that picking up mail from collection boxes is expensive. Removing underused boxes is a cost savings move and a reasonable response to the economic crisis. The Postal Service is removing boxes with less than 25 stamped mail pieces per day.

    Critics wonder if there is adequate analysis to support the 25-piece minimum and whether one reason for removing collection boxes — in addition to the minimal cost savings — is that the Postal Service does not want to be criticized for poor service. Fewer boxes mean fewer opportunities to miss a collection or to pick up mail too early.

    Is the Postal Service thinking too narrowly and missing some of the value of collection boxes? The ubiquitous presence of the boxes is free advertising for the ailing agency. How much would a private sector company pay to be allowed to put a collection box anywhere it wanted to in the country? Millions? Billions?

    What do you think? Is removing collection boxes a reasonable cost-cutting move or a strategic mistake that the Postal Service will later regret?

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

  • on Oct 31st, 2009 in Delivery & Collection | 65 comments

    In these challenging times, reducing the cost of delivery operations — one of the Postal Service’s largest expenses — could save millions. One option the Postal Service is considering is to discontinue Saturday city and rural delivery and collection services.

    Saturday is said to be one of the lowest mail volume days. It’s also a day when many businesses are closed. The September/October 2009 digital issue of Mailing Systems Technology included a survey of managers working in the mailing industry. Of those surveyed, 98 percent said changing to 5-day delivery would not require a change in staffing. The survey results also indicated that most managers surveyed (81 percent) preferred Saturday as the day of the week that the Postal Service would stop delivering mail. An additional 62 percent of the managers surveyed felt that once implemented, there should be no exceptions to 5-day deliveries such as for holiday weeks or high-volume mailing periods.

    Gallup also conducted polls on ways to help the Postal Service solve its financial problems. They found that 66 percent of Americans supported reducing mail delivery days from 6 to 5 days, and 66 percent also supported reducing the number of days the Post Office is open from 6 to 5 days.

    The Postal Service is currently studying the reduction of mail delivery from 6 days to 5 days. Should the Postal Service consider eliminating delivery, collections, retail, and remittance services only for delivery units with low mail volume? Should the Postal Service eliminate these services for all delivery units nationwide?

    This blog is hosted by the OIG's Delivery directorate.

  • 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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