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The Tentacle


July 29, 2010

Answering The Age-Old Question

Amanda Haddaway

As I was driving to work the other day, there was a news story on the radio about a proposed increase to postal rates. If approved, the current first-class postage would increase to 46 cents starting January 2, 2011.

 

Despite the proposed increase, the postal service would likely operate in a deficit – and has done so for a number of years. How long can this continue without some major changes to the way our postal service operates?

 

The postal service is one of those organizations that just makes my blood boil. One of the main problems is their continued usage and reliance upon an antiquated business model. Not much has changed in the last 20 years, yet in the world around them there have been many changes. For example, businesses and consumers alike are now heavily reliant on e-mail and electronic communications. The postal service totally missed the boat on this. And have you been to the United States Postal Service (USPS) website lately? It’s virtually impossible to find what you’re looking for!

 

It has also failed to advertise its online services. There are actually a lot of things that can be done via the website, but most people don’t know about them. For example, you can order stamps and other mailing supplies, stop your mail while you are out of town, and explore options for personalizing stamps and envelopes. My guess is that many people don’t know about these online services because they’ve never been told.

 

The idea of eliminating one day of mail delivery has been tossed around, but no action has been taken to date. Since moving to electronic bill payments, having mail delivered five days per week versus six days per week wouldn’t be a big deal for me. United Parcel Service and FedEx will continue to deliver seven days per week for those important, time-sensitive documents and packages.

 

Another issue is that it is reliant on brick and mortar buildings. Unfortunately, the management of these facilities and employees is lacking. I’ve stopped going to the Patrick Street branch in Frederick because it is an experience less pleasant than poking my eyes out. The line is often out the door; and when I questioned why all the service windows weren’t open, I was told that they just weren’t. I suppose that was an answer to my question, but not really.

 

There are certainly managers at the post office, but it doesn’t appear that they are managing. Instead, they are putting their employees on the front lines and they’re not customer-focused. Any person who works in a retail environment will tell you that the customer must come first or you can shut the doors. How this Management 101 concept has eluded the post office for so long is beyond me.

 

I was pleased when the postal service added automated kiosks in some of its facilities, but they don’t offer all the functions of the post office. Why can’t these machines be improved and expanded to replicate all of the services that the post office provides? I really don’t need someone with low job satisfaction to ruin my day when I can just interact with a non-human machine who is likely quicker and more efficient.

 

I did have a problem using the kiosk once at the Patrick Street branch. There was an issue with printing the proper certified mail documents. I asked a postal employee for assistance and he told me that he had no idea what was wrong with the machine. I was back to square one, but I suggested that a note be placed on the machine saying that it was out of service for certified mail. I doubt that ever happened.

 

E-mail marketing companies like ConstantContact have popped up to meet the needs of business consumers. The post office could have jumped on this bandwagon in response to declining direct mail campaigns. Instead, it continued to stick its head in the sand.

 

The only thing that does seem to be working are the mail carriers. Perhaps the organization as a whole should take a look at some of its hardest working employees and figure out why this part of their business model is working and the rest is failing miserably.

 

I’ve experienced very few, if any, problems with home and business mail delivery service. It works like clockwork and our carriers arrive at close to the same time each day. It’s pretty grueling work, but maybe they’re just happy that they don’t have to work at the Patrick Street branch.

 

It’s not too late for the postal service to fix its business model and change with the times. I understand that change is hard, but it is often necessary. The postal service must make some serious adjustments if it wants to continue to exist. It is likely that they will have two choices in the near future: adapt or perish.

 

Let’s hope that they choose the first option.

 

amanda.haddaway@gmail.com

 



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