28 December 2011

Milestones and Changes

200 posts and 20,000+ pageviews in my first 4 1/2 years.  Not overwhelming by any means but still chugging along.

I apologize for any broken links and trouble surfing to and around my blog for the coming weeks.  I have made a decision to realign my online digital presence by creating a new simple homepage to serve as a menu for my online profiles and activity.  This change forced me to commandeer my domain of michaelmakis.com to point to my new landing page instead of my blog.  My blog will retain its original michaelmakis.blogspot.com address for now until I can find a way to claim michaelmichael.com (owned by someone else who is not currently using it and doesn't want to sell it) or michaelmichael.blogspot.com to match my blog's title with the URL.

Thanks for reading!

Putting a new stamp on the Post Office

Here are two ways to fix the out of date floundering United States Postal Service (USPS).

It's disappointing to hear the gloom in the news about the Postal Service, a service that we expect as a right in the United States of America, and how it is failing and making decisions on which local branch offices to close, which days to stop delivering mail on or how much to raise the price of a stamp.  These are not the best options and will only extend their problem and continue to destroy the brand.

Americans have been proud of the Post Office brand for years.  With few exceptions, someone can pay a minimal amount (+/-44¢) and have an envelope or small package delivered in less than 3 days to someone within the 50 states.  With all of the labor and fuel involved this is a good deal relatively speaking.  As most people know, technology advancements like email, blogging, micro-blogging, discussion forums and online bill payment compounded with social media and social networking explosions have made a significant blow to the traditional communication and financial transactions previously reserved for traditional mail.  Regardless of significant changes and improvements, the Post Office's brand is still the same.  They get important messages and packages to recipients quickly (relatively speaking) consistently.

Companies need to change just like people.  Small, medium and large companies change all the time.  They adapt by creating better products and delivering new services every day or end up going out of business when their products and services are no longer needed.  Why should this be any different for the Post Office?  There is no need for the Post Office to die off nor should the great people of the United States let it.

USPS made the necessary changes to stay competitive with shippers like UPS, FedEx and DHL over the past couple of decades.   But USPS has failed to stay competitive now that communication has gone so much more digital.

Here are the answers:  email and file transfer.

If you have the least bit of technically savvy, you are probably thinking, how would this work?  These aren't new products?

The Post Office needs to get into the business of email.  Email is the communication vehicle that people have been choosing and will continue to trend into for at least a few years to come.  The use of blogging, micro-blogging and discussion forums are definitely increasing, but email is something most people need in today's society.  There is money to be made off of the (regulated) advertisements parked on the side of email web based applications.  And who better to provide email security than the government?  People are born everyday that will need new email accounts and if they don't want to wait there are students in public schools that could benefit from their first email accounts.

File Transfer
The second part of the coupled fix is file transfer.  People need to get large digital files to recipients immediately every day in today's business world.  The Post Office's current best option is overnight or express mail, which just doesn't cut it for most.  They need to get into the file transfer business.  The quantity, size and frequency of transferred files is increasing all the time.  Eventually the infrastructure (application servers, server disk space, bandwidth, associated databases, etc...) of existing vendors will not be able to provide free services for transferring files and will either charge outright per file, per license or by term; or trade free file transfer services for advertisement ridden applications.  Again, there are several companies already in this space but this is consistent with the USPS brand, a lot of opportunity remains and would be easy for them to transition in customers as well as convince those advanced in the technology spectrum into digital transactions.

Innovation doesn't always come from brand new ideas as it can also come from a different application of what exists already.  Altering the USPS's product landscape with these new directions would make them drastically more applicable to today's instant communication consumer.  It's time for the Post Office to start acting outside of their proverbial box and instead of making cuts looks to redefine a well known brand.  Good Luck USPS.

22 December 2011

3F’s for U

False Frequent Flyers

Why is it that there are so many airline frequent flyer credit card programs available now?  Road warriors and regular travelers have forged their brand allegiances grinding out weekly cross country commutes and regular airport journeys to ascend in their club’s frequent flyer statuses, only to now be trumped by business owners and heavy spenders beating the original system.  The goal of ascending to the upper medallion tiers or airline clubs to finally have a chance at a seat where you can actually get some rest, be provided with some snacks, check bags for free or imbibe in the provided spirits is diminishing in value.  The definition of an actual frequent flyer is going out the proverbial window as 'status' is now achieved in other ways.
The airlines have stretched their methods to increase revenues far and wide and have embarked upon partnerships with financial institutions to get the less frequent travelers to pay annual banking fees in order to be rewarded with tradeoffs of short domestic tickets for annual fees and jump the true frequent flyers to get the last few upgrade seats available.  This is only going to increase over time as these airline companies continue to penetrate the credit card industry.  If they want to give away free trips that’s up to them and I'm all about companies leveraging new ways to generate revenue, but to count them in the same groups as true frequent flyers is a tough blow to take. Why not rename all of the programs to 'points clubs' as they are no longer frequent flyer programs.

  The frequent flyer system has always been tough with annual renewal goals and miles expirations, but it is becoming much more of a mirage at this point.  With the intensity of in-flight, online and tv advertising to subscribe to all of the airlines' credit cards the days of true frequent flyer upgrades are doomed.  The opportunity for upgrades and the perks for frequent travelers is really changing.

Sad days are ahead for the frequent flyer.

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