• on Sep 19th, 2014 in Products & Services | 3 comments

    Mere ink-on-paper advertisements are so last week. Cutting-edge ads, including direct mail, involve interactive features that were once limited to slick websites. How about something the size of a postcard that uses radio waves to send detailed product information to your smartphone and lets you to buy the minute you want to? Or a piece of mail that has an embedded, paper-thin video screen that you can control?

    The first example is called near field communications, the second a type of electronic mail (which is not at all the same as email). They’re just two of 10 technological innovations for enhancing advertising mail that we examine in our recently released white paper, Mail Innovations. One way or another, they each leverage technology to provide far more information about a product – and are far more engaging – than advertising mail of yore.

    Some are already in use. For example, home-furnishing giant Ikea’s catalog contains pages with codes you can scan with a smartphone so you can get a better look at something. Let’s say you’re interested in a particular chest of drawers; scanning the page code puts the dresser image on your screen and lets you “open” the drawers to see inside. This innovation is known as augmented reality.

    New mail enhancements can also transmit relevant data back to the sender – data such as which items you looked at most. This helps the sender tailor future advertising mail to your particular interests. And the U.S. Postal Service is trying to encourage mail advertisers to use these innovative features by offering promotional discounts on postage when they do.

    Let us know what you think. Are you more inclined to open and scan something with an interactive feature? What type of included or embedded innovative technology would hold your attention? 

  • 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 Sep 8th, 2014 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 43 comments

    You can’t cut your way to prosperity. That seems to be the message coming out of many of the comments we received on our recent blog about the next phase of network consolidation. So, if cutting alone isn’t the answer, what are your ideas for revenue growth?

    Five years ago, we ran a blog post asking stakeholders for their best brainstorming ideas to help the U.S. Postal Service improve its net income. Interestingly, the suggestions seemed split about evenly between cutting costs and generating revenue. So, this time, we want to ask just about revenue-generation ideas. Of course, we welcome any thoughts you have on ensuring a viable Postal Service. That’s what this forum for stakeholder feedback is all about. So this week we ask you to consider the following:

    • What is the number one idea you have to raise Postal Service revenue?

    Share your ideas in the comment section. If you respond to someone else’s idea, please remember to keep it civil. Let’s get a dialogue started. 

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