A Pivot for the Post Office
The US Postal Service is scrambling for customers. Their strategy: Get companies to abandon interactive web sites and email and go back to paper mail. Maybe there’s another way for USPS to attack the problem.
Here’s a transcript of a recent post office commercial:
A refrigerator has never been hacked.
An online virus has never attacked a cork board.
Give your customers the added feeling of security that a printed statement or receipt provides.
It’s good for your business, and even better for your customers.
For safe & secure ways to stay connected, visit usps.com/mail.
Excellent Execution. Wrong strategy.
The commercial is well produced. The music is engaging and it’s backed by subtle, secure sound effects of papers ruffling and drawers closing. But the strategy is wrong. Asking customers to return to paper mail ignores basic customer needs.
Once the toothpaste has left the tube, you can’t get it back inside. Companies are already saving money and time by communicating with customers electronically. Why would they return to the expense and drudgery of paper mail? How many of us use candles for lighting our homes? How many of us ride horses to work? When customers can pay bills quickly and securely online, why should they do otherwise?
A Better Strategy for the Post Service
Fortunately for USPS, their service is still relevant. They just need to look at their business a different way. They can start by asking a few questions:
- What does the USPS offer that the alternatives do not?
- What can the US Postal Service deliver better than any other delivery system?
The Postal Service has several strengths to build upon, including:
- USPS can deliver physical objects like gifts, merchandise ordered online, and other physical objects. We can’t email physical objects (yet).
- USPS has bricks & mortar offices near every address in the country. Can the physical offices be re-purposed for other services that leverage the strengths of USPS?
- Some post offices are located in rural areas which the for-profit delivery services (like FedEx and UPS) don’t serve. Since the structures are already built, what can these offices offer that rural customers will pay for? How about mailbox services or an Internet cafe?
- Dedicated workforce, driven by their unofficial motto: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Trains and Airplanes. Paper Mail and the Web
The Pullman Company might have survived the shift to air travel if it realized that it was in the transporation business, not the train business. The Post Office needs to realize that it’s in the delivery business, not the paper mail business.
Pivots Can Be Hard
The Four Steps to the Epiphany defines a pivot as a changing one’s business model in response to a newly discovered reality about customer needs. USPS needs to pivot away from paper mail. It won’t be easy because paper has been a cash cow for centuries. It’s hard to abandon a revenue source, even a dying one. But if USPS wants to thrive & grow, they need to stop running commercials about paper mail.
The best move for USPS: Pivot away from paper mail, become an outstanding physical delivery service, and build on the strength of the existing physical locations.