By guest author Daniel Burrus
The United States Postal Service has been doing poorly, financially, for years. With the advent of email and electronic bill payment, there’s been a dramatic drop in the use of the postal service, yet their expenses have increased. It’s thus no surprise they have recently announced big cutbacks to help rein in costs.
Will more people turn to online bill payments and email communications? Absolutely. That’s a hard trend. And starting in 2012, thanks to mobile banking and mobile payments, we’ll see people turning their cell phones into a way of paying bills. In addition, Netflix, one of the biggest users of the U.S. Postal Service, will soon be streaming movies to customers’ phones, tablets and digital TVs rather than mailing DVDs. As processing power, bandwidth and storage continue to accelerate and increase exponentially, the concept of DVDs coming in the mail will be obsolete.
Now, I admit that it’s nice to get a handwritten letter. And you can’t email packages. But we don’t need that much mail anymore. And with FedEx and UPS so competitive in the package delivery markets, what’s the U.S. Postal Service to do?
One suggestion is to get into the email business. Believe it or not, the USPS has sophisticated technology. In fact, they likely have the most advanced scanning technology in the world. Just think of all of the packages and letters they have to scan with handwriting recognition software — even items with the sloppiest and most illegible handwriting get to the right places.
So, they have amazing technology . . . and we have emails that are loaded with spam. What if the USPS created a secure email system for the nation that has the highest level of spam filtering? Since it’s our government, perhaps they could connect with the Department of Defense to make sure we get good filtering, get rid of spam, eliminate viruses and devise a national email verification system. This way we know for certain that our emails are from the companies they claim to be from and are not a phishing scheme.
Would everyone in the U.S. use it? No. But if it’s a high-value service, most corporations and businesses would jump onboard and pay handsomely for the service.
Finally, with the layoffs the USPS is planning, estimates show that by 2015 there’ll be 120,000 fewer postal service employees. That’s a soft trend because many things can still affect this estimate. But rather than just lay people off, what about retraining those workers so they can get jobs in something that is growing? Putting money toward retraining and re-educating would be well spent so the unemployment system would not be strained even further.
The USPS has the opportunity to create amazing new value for United States citizens. By generating income from e-business and retraining workers, they could positively shape America’s future rather than cling to the past.