Postal operators today clearly have their hands full, dealing with challenges like escalating costs, limited operating hours of Post-owned branches, seasonal peaks, dealing with high parcel volumes, staying one step ahead of evolving customer demands, and competition that has intensified greatly over the years. But the challenges on the horizon perhaps deserve our greatest attention. We’ve all seen the effects of our over-reliance on a physical-based service economy during the pandemic, bringing anything with a physical component to it to a standstill. Add to that the challenges with handling international shipments and the fact that 22 percent of e-commerce physical products will be shipped across borders by 2022. And finally, perhaps now more than ever, Posts need an easy way to diversify services to bring in new sources of revenues to ensure long-term sustainability. These are critical issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
What is the Always On Post?
One solution to address the current landscape is moving towards the model of the “Always On Post”. This is really the idea of readying your Post to provide anywhere, anytime access to the services you offer – both physical and digital. In this blog post, we’ll provide just a few examples of what the Always On Post looks like, but as you would expect, it requires a transformative approach to be one, always keeping the customer and overall simplicity at the center of everything. The Always On Post takes a customer-centric approach with every interaction not only being effortless for the customer, but a seamlessly integrated experience over all points of engagement across the postal network. This unique approach leverages automation, reduces complexities, and optimizes efficiencies at every point, keeping costs lower too. The foundation or unified customer engagement platform we put in place makes it incredibly easy to offer other services as well, like government and financial services.
When a Post transitions to being “always on”, there are limitless possibilities that exist. Customers can now choose how to interact with your Post (digital/physical/hybrid) and can do so now across many more channels. The digital transformation itself improves operational efficiencies through better automation, real-time data analytics, AI and machine learning, and an overall reduction in complexities, allowing for greater focus on innovation. Your retail network in effect become more agile in nature, able to adapt quickly to changes like expanding to more channels, or the ability to accommodate a headless commerce architecture and more. Also, most of the services your Post offers – traditional postal services but also government and financial services – can be offered digitally too. So, whether your Post experiences the effects of a pandemic or a natural disaster, you can still offer services.
Completely Integrated Physical and Digital Channels
The Always On Post has seamlessly integrated POS channels that transcends today’s widely accepted (but limited) models. Not only are physical and digital channels completely integrated but the customer experience is consistent, intuitive, and above all incredibly simple.
For example, a customer wishing to ship a parcel can begin the process at home online, adding all details on the Post’s self-service web portal, including payment and printing the shipping label. Then the customer simply drops the parcel off through one of the Posts’ many self-serve kiosks or smart lockers for physical delivery at any time of the day. The customer receives receipt of the package acceptance and receives real-time updates on the package status to her mobile phone through the Post’s app. In this regard, the self-serve kiosk or smart parcel lockers are not viewed as standalone points of engagement, but rather, become one of many options for customers along their journey. The entire process is incredibly easy and flawless.
Embedded Postal Services Across Retail Environments Everywhere
Customers are looking for more options and convenience when deciding how and when they ship their parcels. However, building out a Post-owned retail network is expensive, and time-consuming. Even dedicated postal areas within third-party locations can be expensive to set up and maintain and can take up more retail floor space than is really required. Posts are looking for faster and easy-to-set-up solutions for expanding their network of locations and services in an age of digital transformation where customer expectations are rapidly changing.
The Always On Post allows a consumer at any retail establishment (usually a convenience store or petrol station) to pay for all general merchandise from the store along with postal goods and services, in a single transaction at check out. It does this by embedding its POS system directly onto the retailer’s existing POS system or payment terminal. At far more convenient times, customers can enter any of these retailers and perform any number of postal transactions such as bill payments, parcel returns, parcel drop off, parcel pick up, flat rate parcel shipment, Click n Ship and more.
Even the Post Office on Demand is a possibility for the Always On Post. With Post Office on Demand, a post office can be set up in any number of locations in less than a day. This allows the Always On Post to set up post offices in less time, for less costs, and in more locations than was ever possible before. If applied to an existing convenience store chain, then the retailer would be provided with the POS software, hardware, service, and support – enabling any existing retail location to transform into a post office environment overnight. Of course, the Post Office on Demand approach allows any Post to set up a temporary post office overnight in the case of a natural disaster, or alternatively, to quickly set up pop up stores in a busy mall during peak season. Again, the possibilities are limitless.
Imagine the benefits of these solutions, particularly where Posts are mandated by the Universal Service Obligation (USO) to have a set number of branches where postal services are provided.
The Always On Post
There are many challenges on the horizon that Posts everywhere will need to address. A digital transformation is required to address these challenges head on and to become what we call the The Always On Post. Through this process, Posts can provide anywhere, anytime access to services and provide a seamless customer experience that is consistent, intuitive and above all, incredibly simple.
Escher helps many postal operators around the world take the necessary steps to become the Always On Post. Are you ready to become an Always On Post? Book your demo today.