Postmaster Promises Leaner, Faster, Smarter USPS

Top Brass Lays Out Plan to Reverse USPS Downward Trend

Tuesday’s annual National PCC Day marked the 50th Anniversary of the Postal Customer Council. The event is typically highlighted by a video simulcast of the Postmaster General, along with other top executives. Having attended the past five years, I can tell you that the day is usually marked by irrelevant awards and USPS execs delivering painfully scripted, over-coached messages that are one degree away from a Saturday Night Live parody. This year proved to be different.

The USPS is in trouble, proven by the fact that Comedy Central has highlighted the turmoil on both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report twice in recent days. PMG Pat Donahoe presented a well-polished plan to create a “Leaner, faster, smarter USPS.” I have included an admittedly poor video of the presentation.

Here’s my take on the highlights:

Donahoe has asked Congress to allow the USPS the authority to manage their business more like the private, non-governmental entity it is. This would include reducing delivery service to five days, changing the prefunding of retiree benefits, and consolidating distribution centers by half.

Regarding the impact of these changes to USPS customers, Donahoe promises a swift implementation of more efficient practices. Donahoe was light on specifics, but he committed to listening to the marketplace and moving quickly — two areas where I can say that the USPS has stumbled in the past.

In a refreshing tone, Donahoe and his team are focusing on growth through new products. Plans include strengthening the business consumer channel by simplifying the process for small, local businesses, improving the customer experience by growing USPS locations in convenient retail spaces, and extending store hours. Post offices around the globe, including this one at the Eiffel Tower, adopted these strategies a decade ago; the USPS has some catching up to do.

Capitalizing on the success of the Priority Mail campaign, “If It Fits, It Ships,” Donahoe previewed a new ad campaign focused on “The power of mail.” The campaign pushes the personal connections and tactile nature of mail and the security of physical mail versus digital communications in light of identity fraud.

Lastly, Donahoe spoke about the integration of paper-based marketing communications with internet campaigns. Earlier this summer, the USPS offered significant discounts for standard mail customers to integrate QR codes on envelopes, which resulted in 33% of the standard mail in July featuring a QR code, compared with 2% in June.

Following the PMG’s presentation, the general feeling among fellow vendors, customers, and the USPS employees themselves was both skeptical and optimistic. The plan appears sound on paper, but everyone I spoke to voiced significant concern over the timeline required. The USPS can deliver a first-class letter from coast to coast in days for $0.44, but can they force an act of Congress, slash bureaucracy, cut unionized distribution centers in half, and launch a handful of robust new products fast enough to stop the bleeding, all while promoting the relevance of mail in our increasingly digital age? Sounds to me like the post office will be working overtime.

Bob Makofsky at bmakofsky@conformer.com

About Bob Makofsky

Bob runs operations and marketing and is Conformer’s resident postal expert. Bob has over a dozen years of entrepreneurial experience in the technology industry, in both marketing and business development roles ranging from negotiating $100 million-plus contracts nationally and abroad to developing marketing campaigns. He is regularly featured in print and packaging trade magazines on innovation. Bob is a competitive cyclist and longtime member of the Century Road Club Association in Central Park, competing in the Empire State Games (2007, 2008). Bob graduated from the University of Denver.
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