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Posted under: Opinion

What I Believe USPS Should Do To Save Itself And Better Serve Customers

The overall mail volume decline is the result of online diversion.

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USPS First Class mail volume declined from an all-time peak of 103.6 billion pieces in 2001 to 54.9 billion pieces in 2019. This year, COVID-19 exponentially accelerated the shift to online.

USPS had a $4.5 billion loss in 2020, quarter 2. This loss is $2.4 billion more than the loss in the same quarter of 2019. The USPS financial condition is expected to worsen even more dramatically in the future. Boston Consulting Group’s presentation on March 2, 2010 to USPS projected at least a 15% overall volume decline with a 37% decline in First Class mail by 2020. McKinsey’s presentation to USPS on the same day also predicted a significant decline in First Class mail.

The overall mail volume decline is the result of online diversion, or simply put, e-diversion. To address this decline, we need a fundamental USPS change from a physical mail service to a mostly email service with email marketing and money transfer services. In the age of Zoom and Slack, we need USPS to shift to serve customers where they are.

Millennials prefer email communication. Gen Z and Gen Alpha generation grew up on the internet and with electronic screens. To serve consumers where they are most comfortable in today’s world, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy should lead USPS in starting an email service. Only verified people and companies should be able to send email to one another just as it is offline with the USPS Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) program. The email service would provide the same services that USPS currently offers in the offline medium, in an online medium.

There is a lot of data that supports email marketing. 60% of people prefer receiving offers via email. Small businesses and many “mom and pop” stores that use USPS’s EDDM Program would become paying customers.

We could have the same privacy rules and protections to the email ID that apply to the physical mailbox at our homes. USPS could charge the public a nominal monthly fee to opt out of unsolicited marketing email.

Bringing an email service to serve the public would increase safety online. Since its inception in 2000, the FBI Internet Crime Control Center (IC3) received 4,883,231 complaints. In the last five years, there were 340,000 complaints on average per year. From 2014 to 2019, losses amounted to $10.2 billion. The Federal Trade Commission 2019 Sentinel Report data shows that there are 92,323 email fraud reports with $226 million in losses with a $400 median loss amount. Millennials are 77% more likely to lose money from an email scam. In addition, we can also reduce cyber threats, such as WannaCry.

USPS in its “Digital Identity – Opportunities for the Postal Service” report on May 29, 2012, studied providing a digital identity and protecting user privacy online. USPS has the network to provide authentication services with its post offices and mail carriers. It already provides this service to the Department of State with its Passport Services. USPS can require the email ID it issues as the digital identity and to be authenticated with a code sent to the user’s address periodically. It could retrain mail carriers in email marketing services to sell to customers in their neighborhoods.

Though there is a decline in mail volume, USPS still uses a lot of paper. In 2019, it recycled 177,612 tons of paper. That is a great step since for every ton of paper, 17 trees are cut down. An email service would be even better because it would hugely reduce paper usage and our carbon footprint, hence helping our planet.

USPS should start an email service to save itself, act as a digital identity to serve customers and protect their online privacy, reduce cyber issues and, in the process, help our environment.

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Praveen Chaparala discusses policy & supports Akshaya Patra Foundation, which helps feed the hungry.