Alan Robinson, President, Direct Communications Group, is one of our guest bloggers in the "Five Elements of a Postal Solution" blog series. This is the full version of Alan Robinson's blog.
The Postal Service is one of America’s great institutions. It connects 150 million households and businesses and is the bedrock infrastructure of the American economy and society. Yet the Postal Service faces powerful and unpredictable forces. These forces – the economic downturn, the Digital Age, globalization, and statutory and regulatory demands – are fundamentally changing its outlook for the future. Actions are needed by postal management and Congress to assure that all Americans have universal access and the opportunity to take part in the emerging new world.
In an effort to reduce costs, the U.S. Postal Service has proposed cutting delivery service to five days per week by eliminating Saturday delivery. For a moment, let’s ignore the argument over whether the delivery days should be cut to five to ask another question: is Saturday the right day to cut?
City and rural carriers deliver and pick up mail, including letters and packages. In addition, they are familiar figures who care about the people they serve, often helping in dramatic ways while making their rounds in neighborhoods 6 days a week. The U.S. Postal Service has many examples of carriers sending for help when senior citizens fail to collect their mail, alerting residents of fires, aiding accident victims, and even stopping burglaries.
Out of 23 posts in industrialized countries, the U.S. Postal Service is one of the few remaining posts not offering an eMailbox solution to its citizens. And while there are private sector technology industry standouts in the U.S. that have developed widely popular e-mail and secure storage services, their business models sacrifice consumer privacy in the interest of ad-based revenue generation.
Much emphasis has been placed on reducing the Postal Service’s costs in response to its financial crisis. Yet financial viability could come in the form of a balanced approach that both reduces costs and increases revenue. How would a smart business respond to declines in its major products? Would it raise prices where possible in stagnant areas and invest the proceeds into existing or new growth areas? Would it selectively discount products to grow volume in price sensitive segments?
When you buy your groceries, how do you pay for them? What about when you go to the gas station or neighborhood restaurant? How do you buy items online? Cash may still be king, but in everyday life, it is being eclipsed by newer digital payment methods such as credit cards, debit cards, and electronic transfers. These payment methods are often more convenient than carrying around lots of cash, but they are not equally available to everyone. People who don't have bank accounts or credit cards cannot access the full-range of digital currency products.
Let’s take a simplistic view of the Postal Service by dividing it into two groups: Operations and Finance. Operations’ main concern is to make sure mail is delivered and other services are rendered to satisfy customers’ needs. On the other hand, Finance’s responsibility is to ensure that all the information stemming from the Operations side is captured for billing/payment and financial statement reporting purposes. After all, the Postal Service needs to be paid for their good work, doesn’t it?
Despite financial challenges resulting from declining mail volumes and current economic conditions, the Postal Service is continually driving efficiency by making better use of space, staffing, equipment, and transportation in processing mail. One key element of improving efficiency is consolidating mail processing operations, which is an ongoing effort.
Since fiscal year 2009, the Postal Service has completed 47 consolidations and has an additional 107 consolidations in progress for proposed savings of approximately $255 million.
The Pushing the Envelope blog recently described some of the barriers that have prevented the Postal Service from optimizing its network of retail facilities. This week we’d like your thoughts on the factors the Postal Service should consider in developing a retail network for the future. If the Postal Service were to rebuild its retail network from scratch — focusing on today’s consumer behaviors and needs — would it look as it does now? Today, there are about 32,000 brick and mortar postal-operated retail facilities.