It’s no secret that the United States Postal Service is in trouble. Big trouble. According to the prestigious Wharton School, Between 2009 and 2011, the postal service experienced a 9 billion unit decrease in the amount of mail shipped.
This resulted in a loss of more than $17 billion. Additionally, it is projected that by 2020, the total amount of mail sent is estimated to decrease by another 116 billion units. And, as technology continues to develop, those numbers are likely to dwindle even more. So how did this happen and how can it be corrected?
“Resistance is Futile”
Whether intentionally or not, the USPS has effectively resisted adapting to the technological world in which we now live. For over 200 years, the post office enjoyed a monopoly on the delivery of mail. As a constitutionally-mandated and (until the 1960’s) congressionally-funded business, the USPS enjoyed a market domination that very few companies have enjoyed. As the American population grew, all the USPS really needed to do to maintain its market prowess, was to add more employees and equipment. In essence, the way that mail moved around the country remained relatively unchanged. As happens with most monopolies, innovation was unnecessary and certainly had not become a part of the USPS corporate culture.
While they have added some more technologically advanced tools, those tools are focused on improving the delivery of physical mail. Today’s world increasing shuns physical mail for electronic forms of communication. So, what can the USPS do to not end up like AIG and needing a bailout? To survive in our ever-changing world, the USPS must shift its focus and provide solutions for the way the world actually communicates today.
“Kowalski, Give Me Options!”
While there are many innovative solutions that the postal service could provide, here are just a couple that could prove helpful for the USPS.
Scan physical mail, then email it
Have you ever misplaced an important letter or document and frantically torn apart your office or home trying to find it? Have you ever had something spill on a piece of mail and ruin it? Have you ever had the dog actually eat your mail?
In the workplace, it is common practice for documents to be scanned and archived. So, why doesn’t the post office provide this type service with all of your physical mail? Companies like Outbox have already started to provide this service. For a very reasonable fee of $7.99 per month, you can have your mail scanned and emailed to you. You can then forward it to others, or store it digitally forever.
Email Management Services
Most individuals have a free email account through Google, or some other service provider. As individuals, it’s fairly easy to manage the volume of email we receive. However, large businesses are literally flooded with email every day. Making sure the right emails get to the right department and the right person, is often a time-consuming process that must be completed manually by an actual human being. Shiva Ayyadurai, an MIT professor, has developed algorithms that help to more “intelligently” sort email. This would certainly be a profitable and highly-utilized service by mid to large sized organizations. By adding “intelligent” email management to its list of services, the USPS could position itself as the premiere institution for management of ALL types of mail.
“If you build it, they will come”
It is clear that the USPS cannot remain in its current form and stay viable. Its monopolistic practices have made it somewhat lethargic and unresponsive to the rapid changes of today’s world. Additionally, the current product offerings of the USPS are quickly becoming outdated and insufficient to meet the needs of the current market. To stay alive, the Postal Service must innovate and build new solutions. The marketplace has already demonstrated a willingness to use these new solutions, as evidenced by Outbox. With its preeminent brand awareness, and sizable infrastructure, the Post Office is uniquely positioned to help lift itself out of failure, and prosper. They just need to build the solutions the market requires, and the money will come.