I heard on the morning news that the United States Post Office is struggling financially. I know what you’re thinking, this isn’t breaking news, it’s been a topic of conversation for years. The core problem is the USPS operates like a government agency and thinks about itself like a social service that’s tax funded instead of competing to win with its private sector competitors. It doesn’t innovate and satisfy customer needs, it just repeatedly increases prices, much like a tax. They are expecting a 40% drop in first-class mail by 2020. But people aren’t communicating and delivering things less, quite the opposite, we have significantly more communication than ever before, we have significantly more deliveries than ever before. But the post office can’t stop thinking of itself as the government agency that sells the stamp.
There are a number of value-add services that I’d pay the USPS additionally to provide. And they wouldn’t be a huge stretch for them to offer. They might even save them lots of money in operational cost.
Post Office Boxes
As a PO Box customer, there are lots of things I’d like to have differently. I don’t like to check my PO Box and find nothing there. I also don’t like to delay checking only to find tons of mail filling it up.
I would love to get email or text notifications when mail arrives in my PO Box. The system isn’t terribly complex, all of the mail is bar-coded and scanned anyway, just tie in a notification system to that. Supposedly this service exists and is called “Real Mail Notification Service” (http://about.usps.com/news/state-releases/fl/2012/fl_2012_0208.htm), but I can’t find any mention of it on USPS.gov and can’t find anyway to sign up. But I’d pay more for this service.
I’d also like PO Box mail to get forwarded to my physical address. The USPS offers a mail forwarding service, but for some reason this service isn’t offered for PO Boxes. I’d pay additionally for this service too. https://www.usps.com/manage/forward-mail.htm
Whenever I do have to ship something, it would be nice if I could leave it for the post office to pickup at my home or office with delivery instructions, and I’d like for the USPS to package it up for me, ship it and handle it turnkey. I don’t want to go to the post office so I can get an envelop or box, and then wait in line to ship it.
Opt-Out Junk Mail
I’d also pay a monthly subscription fee if the Post Office would eliminate all of the junk mail that I receive. Please stop filling up my mailbox with ads, coupons, etc.
Electronic Mail (not Email)
I would actually like to never receive another piece of paper mail, junk or otherwise. If the USPS would open all of my mail, scan it, send me a notification and let check my mail from a web or mobile app that would be ideal. There are private sector startups in the space like Earth Class Mail (https://www.earthclassmail.com/), but it’s an opportunity for the USPS to innovate.
I’m terrible with paper mail, and often times I don’t even open paper mail that comes to my home. So if there’s a check for a refund or over payment or something like that, I might never see it. Mail often gets stacked or discarded. This also applies to bill payments for me, if there isn’t an automatic debit or online payment option for a bill and I have to mail a check, oh geez, good luck. Along with providing my mail electronically, it would be nice if the post office would just mail payments on my behalf. Open my mail, if it’s a bill, let me pay it online and send the check. I know banks offer these kinds of bill pay services too, but it would also be possible for the USPS to get into this game.
There are likely other services the USPS could provide, maybe secure, delivery confirmation, electronic messaging services that could be offered in a SaaS based way for companies to incorporate into their applications instead of building these services them selves. They could offer email marketing services too and compete with the Constant Contact and ExactTarget’s of the world.
Innovate or Die
At the end of the day, there is likely lots of innovation the post office could offer around messaging, mail, deliveries and notifications, but they have to think like a business and not a government agency that is entitled to exist.