Sep 19, 2017

How Postal eServices Help Create an Inclusive Digital Society

Postal

How can the Post Office use its role and heritage to build an inclusive digital society?

As customer preferences change, Posts are turning to eServices to deliver postal and financial services over Internet-aware devices.

eServices also allow Posts to redefine their role in our digital society, respond to competitive threats and capitalize on emerging technologies, such as cloud-computing, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.

According to a UPU study, Posts are increasingly offering postal eServices. About 70% of Posts said they consider electronic services strategically important for the future.

Of course, one significant consideration for Posts when delivering eServices is to take the ‘digital divide’ into deliberation. This means educating customers, many of whom may not be technically proficient, about the supplemental Postal digital services

Defining the Business Case for eServices

Every Post wants to develop its business, attract new customers, and ensure its long-term sustainability. eServices point in this direction.

Where do you start?

Developing eServices is expensive. To mitigate against the considerable investment requirements, Posts must be clear on their objectives before undertaking such initiatives.

The first step is to define the business case. This, to a large degree, focuses on the financials.

  • Who is willing to pay for (premium) eServices?
  • How will the new services effect the existing core business?
  • How much will it cost to develop single v multiple services?
  • How much will be made per transaction for different services?
  • What, if any, are the alternatives?

Preparing Feasibility Studies

The next step after identifying candidate eServices, is to evaluate their feasibility.

In short: Is there sufficient demand to justify the investment in building these eServices?

When helping Postal Organizations with digital transformation initiatives, we’ll create a Feasibility Study to determine the likelihood of success for the new service uptake.

This focuses on regulatory, demographic, geographic, and social factors.

Once completed, it provides us with a GO/NO-GO decision.

Complementing the Core Business Strategy

As a partner to many global Postal organizations, we understand why it’s essential to align digital services with their core business strategy.

Rather than competing services against each other, seamless eService delivery ensures that products/services are transitioned, be degrees, from the physical branch network to a digital platform.

Of course, this process takes time, refinement, and management buy-in.

Identifying Partner Relationships

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In today’s digital economy, the most successful organizations cultivate an ecosystem of like-minded partners, rather than trying to do everything by themselves.  

Posts can encourage existing and new partnerships to contribute their eServices to the digital postal platform.

What advantages do partners offer?

Partners enable Posts to deploy a richer portfolio of services in line with customer expectations. Instead of developing eServices in-house, Posts can selectively choose partners to accelerate and enrichen their range of services.

Typically, partners will have domain expertise outside the Post’s core business, such as:

  • Mobile payments
  • Geo-location services
  • Address validation
  • Mobile marketing
  • Identity Management
  • Localization
  • Augmented Reality

Understanding Customer Expectations and Needs

This brings us to customer expectations.

What type of services are customers looking for?

For this article, we've focused on the general public as the core customer. 

Consider a customer who visits a post office branch every week. Is he/she buying stamps, transferring funds, and/or collecting social welfare?

Probably not. It’s the same online.

In terms of eService product development, this means we need to define services that appeal to different target groups and meet the specific needs and/or expectations of these groups.

Of course, we must also be sensitive to the needs to customers who may not be technically proficient, lack IT equipment, or are unable to access online services, for example, due to bandwidth limitations in remote regions.

As such, the priority for Posts when developing eServices is to:

  • Eliminate and improve manual processes, for example, gathering more accurate customer data when competing forms online, instead of transcribing paper-based forms into systems
  • Cultivate greater customer loyalty by offering convenience, flexibility, and choice
  • Encourage eCommerce transactions, upsells, and repeat purchases
  • Create ‘personalized’ services which address specific needs
  • Integrate with government to distribute funds faster and reduce fraud
  • Offer greater convenience and flexibility, such as mail assessment calculators, mobile tracking, parcel redirects, bill payments, and other such services
  • Reduce complex service delivery using automation and 24/7 access

Developing eServices

eService development is more nuanced than simply ‘shifting and lifting’ physical processes online.  It is paving the way for additional services and income.

The eService development process involves the following steps:

  • Idea Generation — consult the Feasibility Study to gauge the demand for the service, specific features, and priority.
  • Concept Development — use prototypes to define the user experience when performing activities, for example, buying an item.
  • Testing — perform tests to ensure that the eService works as intended on different devices and operating systems.
  • Analysis — refining the eService with feedback from UAT and workshops.
  • Launch — release the product, often following a soft launch.

Scope of eServices

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As mentioned earlier, the range and sophistication of eServices depends on different factors, such as the technical infrastructure, customer appetite, IT proficiency, and government endorsements.

As Posts move from traditional to digital channels to satisfy the changing marketplace, customer uptake for the eServices is increasing. According to UPU, international Posts are developing the following range of eServices.

Postal eServices

  • Digital Mailbox — send, receive, and store electronic messages by an authenticated mailer to authenticated addressee
  • Digital Signature — digitally sign documents to guarantee authenticity and integrity
  • eDirect mail — deliver advertising and/or other promotional communications
  • eRegistered mail — legally binding proof of sending and delivery of messages
  • eStamp — electronically paid postage. Typically, a barcode or RFID tag
  • Hybrid Mail — coordinate the delivery of physical and electronic mail
  • Notifications — send event-based email, web, or SMS notifications
  • Track and Trace — track and trace items by status and event

Finance eServices

  • Account Management — self-service account management capabilities
  • Bill Payments — make bill payments via the Post’s website or on mobile devices
  • eInvoicing — electronic invoice for services and products provided by the Post
  • Money Transfer — account-to-account fund transfers from sender to payee

eCommerce eServices

  • Philatelic — purchase philatelic products (stamps) online
  • Web shop — purchase postal goods online, then deliver to a physical address
  • Subscriptions — subscribe to newspapers and magazines online.
  • SSL web certificates — the Post issues SSL certificates for securing websites.

eGovernment eServices

  • Digital identity — Posts issue a digital identity secured with electronic authentication, cryptography and public key infrastructure
  • License renewal — approve and renew licenses electronically
  • Pensions — customers receive pensions via postal payment system
  • Passport application — apply for passport through the postal website
  • Medical files — manage medical files and other health-related information
  • Customs documents — provide necessary information to requiring authority before importing or exporting an item

Measuring Success

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As is often said, ‘What gets measured is what gets done’.

At the start of this article, we looked at how the Business Case and Feasibility Study helps justify the initial investment in the eServices project.

But how do you measure the success of eServices after they’ve been launched?

When designing eServices with postal partners, we make sure to define KPIs, benchmarks, and other targets.

Baseline information also keeps project stakeholders objective, as it establishes an agreed starting point that later helps identify strengths and weaknesses in different processes.

This means that after deploying the eService, you can compare the numbers to measure the success criteria and use this to justify additional investment.

From a customer’s perspective, you’ll want to analyze:

  • Level of satisfaction — review customer complaints, questions, social media, and returns to understand where the service could be improved
  • Perception — ask for feedback from customers to determine what they perceive to be the most significant benefit and value provided by the eServices.
  • Experiences — examine trends and behavior in relation to shopping cart abandonments, successful registrations, levels of engagement, frequency, and other criteria that points towards a successful customer experience

To improve eServices, we rely on data analytics to provide us with accurate, near real-time business intelligence on:

  • Processing — time from initial starting point to final decision/action
  • Gains — time saved/gained compared with offline tasks
  • Frequency — number of times the eService is used on different devices
  • Response — time to process customer requests, respond to social media comments
  • Performance — achievements in meeting targets such as revenue

Using this feedback, we can continually refine the eServices and adjust them in line with customer expectations, trends, and new technologies.

Summary

For most Posts, they are still in the migration and discovery phases as they transition from paper-based processes.

However, in the long term eServices can serve as the foundation of smarter cities by improving access to government, health and education services as part of an inclusive digital society.

Likewise, the impact of eServices on the Post’s total revenue is likely to increase as eServices go mainstream, gain greater acceptance, and ultimately become the default way to perform transactions.