HOW CAN POSTS OFFER 24/7 SERVICES?
HOW CAN POSTS OFFER 24/7 SERVICES?
New York may pride itself as being the city that never sleeps, but the “always on” nature of the connected society is having a significant effect on the way we work, rest, and play. Thanks to increased internet access and the proliferation of mobile devices, a 24/7 digital lifestyle is now the norm for most people. As a result, postal organizations that do not offer a round-the-clock service run the risk of losing both customers and business opportunities.
Over the last few years, there has been a notable rise in the number of business sectors that provide their customers with 24-hour access to goods or services that were traditionally limited to bricks-and-mortar transactions. These digital disruptions to the way that people interact, for example, with retailers, utility companies, posts and stand-alone financial institutions have changed not only the working landscape beyond recognition but also individual expectations.
Tapping Into The Digital Experience
A digital experience for the customer is, essentially, only as the good as the physical results it produces.
Internet banking is effective because it removes the need for an individual to visit a physical location to conduct finance-based business. A rideshare limits the need to hail a cab on a street. Online shopping allows a consumer to buy goods or services on their schedule as opposed to an individual retailer’s opening hours.
The same cannot be said for organizations that offer physical services – a car mechanic, say – that are not beholden to the virtual world. And there is an argument that postal services still fall (in the perception of the general public, at least) into the latter camp.
A retail behemoth like Amazon, for instance, can provide its end users with access to whatever they want, when they want it, but the company still relies heavily on its logistics and distribution network to both provide the customer with the item and deliver it in a reasonable time frame. However, Amazon is only one part of the overall 24/7 logistics equation that evolving technology has created.
With ecommerce now providing posts with an increased workload, the concept of a 24/7 postal service is one that must move to the next level. The fact that the global postal industry is already a 24-hour operation is immaterial, what matters is the ability of the consumer to interact with posts when they want.
To the average person, postal organizations remain part of the traditional form of doing business. If you need to send a parcel, then the assumption is that you would have to visit a physical location. This bricks-and-mortar building has defined opening hours and, more often than not, a counter service that provides the customer with not only the required service but a range of other postal options – stamps and passport applications, for example.
For most people, the window of opportunity is small. More often than not, a postal customer will have to take time out of their day to visit the location, with the expectation being that there will be a queue.
The problem is that today’s consumer wants the ability to interact with a post on their own terms. As we have noted above, customer expectations have increased significantly in recent years and, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, posts are not providing the 24/7 service that people want.
Some of this can be attributed to the legacy infrastructure that has failed to keep up with the so-called digital revolution. In the past, a 24/7 business operation – one that allowed customers to transact on their time – was often limited to convenience stores, gas stations, bank ATMs, and chain restaurants. The connected society changed that completely.
Always On, Always Connected
The question is, how do posts tap into the 24/7 market? And what is the best route to take?
The answer is, naturally, to take advantage of not only the software technology that is available on our mobile devices and desktops, but also the hardware that makes life easier.
If we think about how we interact with the aforementioned banks, for instance, there has been a 24/7 mentality in place for decades, thanks to the space allocated for physical ATMs both outside a branch and retail environments. Chain restaurants have also provided people with a 24-hour option (the drive-through, say), a service that has itself been disrupted by the app economy. Online shopping, as we noted earlier, has merely increased the ability of people to buy stuff at all hours of the day.
Over the last couple of years, postal organizations have started to factor this consumer-driven mentality into their working practices. The industry is aware that the connected customer not only wants convenience above all else, but also has the digital savviness to interact with a range of disruptive technology options.
Back in 2016, the U.S. Postal Service released a five-year strategic plan that called for the organization to become “future ready in a digital age.” This required, the plan said, the ability to deliver a world class customer experience, to equip employees with the right tools, to innovate faster, and to invest in future platforms. All of these goals would allow the USPS to focus on the most important part of the process … customers.
Let’s take self-service kiosks, for example. According to the USPS, there are self-service kiosks available at over 2,883 locations nationwide, with the majority offering a 24/7 service. In addition, employees have been trained in Mobile Point of Service technology, providing customers with access to a digital ecosystem that is not limited to the branch or the counter itself. In other words, these additional engagement points both increase the effectiveness of the post and improve the customer experience.
Effective customer engagement
According to Escher’s Future of Posts 2019 report, digital solutions have already changed the way that the average person interacts with postal organizations. Innovation has, the report said, put convenience and ease-of-use at the top of the list, with customer experience a critical part of future success within the postal industry.
The caveat is that the reality of providing a 24/7 service is not always effectively carried out, especially by posts in less-connected locations. As a result, long-established means of customer engagement and interaction can, more often than not, be part of a legacy infrastructure that is slow to scale up to demand.
With that in mind, the process of digital transformation and the concept of customer experience should now be ingrained in the collective postal company consciousness, irrespective of location or level of technology adoption. The traditional ways of conducting business have served the postal industry for many years, the key now is to adapt to the brave new world that 24/7 connectivity has given us.
To find out more about how Escher’s suite of tools can make your Post more effective and provide the customer experience that the connected society requires, please contact us here.
Topics: Customer Experience