28 December 2011

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Here are two ways to fix the out of date floundering United States Postal Service (USPS).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

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