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The Holidays – And The Rest Of The Year – Don’t Have To Be A Shipping Nightmare

Business

We're emerging from the season for overloaded postal operators. Every year, we read about e-commerce’s overwhelming effect on post offices and consumer fears about gifts arriving late.

This is why it’s imperative that posts and couriers make deliveries more manageable this time of the year. But it takes more than good cheer to achieve this. The postal industry is in a state of transformation, which means postal business leaders are making strategic decisions while combating market realities. For instance, despite rising parcel volumes, posts are also managing rising operating costs.

Fortunately, there are good tidings. What’s good for posts’ holiday business is good for their year-round business too.

The Nightmare Before Christmas For Posts

During the holidays, posts face two major pain points:

So Many Parcels, But No Place to Put Them

Unlike consumers, posts can’t toss all their parcels under a tree. They have dedicated storage areas, but many are optimized for regular season parcel volume. So what do you do when the holidays -- or an equally busy time of year -- arrive?

The traditional option is to acquire more space. Sadly, this is an example of being penny wise and pound foolish. While it addresses the short-term urgency, it introduces a long-term problem: idle space that increases year-round operating costs.

Delivering Parcels Right The First Time

In the postal world, “third time’s the charm” doesn’t cut it. Even “second time’s the charm” is too expensive.

Redeliveries cost postal operators over $1.2 billion. Any instance where the recipient doesn’t personally receive the package counts as a failed delivery. For instance, if a package is dropped off on the consumer’s front step, technically, this is a failed delivery or, if we’re being generous, an unsecured delivery. Sure, there are a number of strategies carriers use to address this, including leaving the package with a neighbor or returning it to the depot, but these alternatives result in two things: an inconvenienced customer and an unsecured/failed delivery.

How Posts Can Make The Holidays Fun Again

Fortunately, there are two solutions to the issues described above, which make it easier for consumers and postal operators.

  1. Implementing A Pick Up, Drop Off Service
Arranging pick up, drop off (PUDO) locations, such as with third-party retailers, is a smart solution, and there’s technology to make this easy. For consumers, PUDO locations take the hassle out of shipping and picking up parcels, especially during the holiday season when shopping can be a source of stress. Instead of going out of their way to pick things up or worrying that an expensive package might be snatched off their doorstep, consumers can drop off parcels on their way to work and pick up their packages on their way back. Longer operating hours and convenient locations make this a compelling option for consumers.

This also alleviates the pressure on posts. Redeliveries and lost or stolen packages are unfortunate any time of year, but these bad experiences are magnified during the holidays when customers are sensitive to errors and the media is on the lookout for mishaps. PUDO outlets (including pop-up shops) allow posts to ramp up quickly before peak season and then quickly return to normal operation after the peak season without incurring huge, unnecessary costs.

  1. Enhancing Customer Experience With Digital-First Solutions
Customers expect self-serve options for accessing real-time information about the status of their deliveries.

During the holidays, this is especially important. With more mail and packages circulating during the holidays -- around 16 billion through the USPS alone -- there’s a serious spike in call volumes, often overloading customer service teams. By providing a way for customers to get quick answers to common questions, customer service teams can deal with more complex issues.

How exactly can you do this? Start by implementing the following:

Track And Trace Technology: Posts can provide real-time information to customers who can log in to their account and check the status of their deliveries.

Click And Ship Options: Customers can create their own shipping labels using printers at home and schedule pickups online.

Laying The Foundation for Successful Digital Transformation

Once your post commits to digital transformation, analysis paralysis is a common challenge. Here’s how to start off on the right path:

• Define and clearly communicate your post’s purpose to stakeholders. A post’s mission is to deliver the right letters and parcels to the right people in the right place, on time. If you’re not able to do this, digital transformation is not a choice -- it’s an imperative.

• Outline a clear strategy and create a detailed innovation road map. Innovation and digital transformation are popular words, so it’s easy for them to lose their meaning. By extension, the projects associated with them lose their impact. Be intentional and specific in defining what your post means by innovation, and create a clear plan for which areas of the business you wish to transform.

• Prioritize areas of the business for transformation. Identify the areas of your business that will generate immediate impact. This secures wins without diverting too many resources away from day-to-day operations. For example, you may want to start by making it easier to handle cross-border shipments or by extending service availability beyond operating hours. Identifying your priorities will help with committing the appropriate amount of time, money and resources.

• Invest time in the process. If your first project is implementing a network of third-party retailers, take the time to create a proper plan that considers all possible variables. How will you build relationships with retailers? How much time will this take? What training and support will these partners require in order to give customers the same experience they’d receive at one of your branches? What technology is available to extend your POS system?

Parcels don’t have to be a pain. With the right technology and service options, posts and consumers can look forward to the holiday season again.

 

This article was originally published by Nick Manolis, forbes.com

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