Sep 19, 2017

Post Office Self-Service Technology - 24hr Customer Convenience

Omni-channel, Postal

How can Postal Organizations respond to rising customer expectations for convenient, always-on services? Automated self-service kiosks, with a wide range of postal services, may provide the answer.

For decades, the branch network provided traditional postal services, typically 9-5, five days a week.

However, in recent years, the combined impact of the Internet, branch office consolidation, and more hectic customer lifestyles has challenged Posts to refine their business models.

Posts are now looking at self-service kiosks (SSKs) to provide customers with alternative ways to perform postal services away from the traditional postal retail counter. In general, SSKs are available in the post office lobby or easy-to-access public areas, such as shopping malls.

In strategic terms, 24-hour kiosks enable Posts to:

  • Increase the depth, breath, and range of omni-channel product offerings
  • Capitalize on the rise of eCommerce-driven parcel deliveries, and
  • Provide the technical flexibility to anticipate future needs; for example, the Internet of Postal Things (IoPT)

Evolution of Self-Service Kiosks

The promise of kiosk technology has taken time to be realized. Early implementations struggled as customers were unfamiliar with the concept of self-service technologies, staff training was inadequate, and technical glitches sometimes affected transactions.

Today that’s changed.

Kiosks are now everywhere: self-checkout kiosks when shopping, check-in kiosks at airports, even self-ticketing kiosks at movie theatres.

The acceptance and ubiquity of interactive kiosks has opened the door for Posts to re-approach their kiosk strategies.

In Singapore, SAM kiosks are strategically located around the island offering services to pay bills, fines, top-ups, buy stamps, and weigh packages. Kiosks are available at train stations, shopping malls, even selected private condominiums.

Kiosk Requirements

While every kiosk’s requirements are different, most include the following components:

  • Transaction Management — ability to coordinate self-service applications for different transaction types, such as letter and parcel postage, stamps, self-checkout, government services and more.
  • Accept Payments — accept different payment options to pay bills, fines, licenses, top-up, stamps, packaging, and labels. The range of payments options may include card, cash, digital wallets, and stored value cards.
  • Integration — devices and peripherals integration with scales, label dispensers, barcode readers, post and receipt printers. Platform integration with legacy POS systems to extend customer service capabilities.
  • Administration — automated processes to coordinate price and product updates, schedule backups, and restore operations. Replication to reduce manual resource requirements.

Strategic Benefits to Postal Operators

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Facing the twin challenges of cost reduction and revenue generation, Postal Operators are investing in kiosk technologies to rejuvenate the Post Office, capitalize on emerging technologies (Big Data, IoT, AI) and social trends towards eCommerce-driven parcel deliveries.

As part of digital transformation strategies, kiosks ensure that Postal Operators can:

  • Generate revenues by offering lucrative financial and government services
  • Reduce costs associated with counter resources and paper-based processes
  • Develop new channels to attract customers and form cross-border alliances
  • Exploit eCommerce and parcel delivery opportunities
  • Centrally manage nationwide loyalty programs; manage customer and business accounts

Broadly speaking, Posts deploy SSKs in the following locations:

  • Onsite — available in the post office lobby. Customers can skip the line and access postal facilities out of hours
  • Offsite — available in public area, such as shopping malls, airports, train stations, hospitals, and universities. These reach customers who cannot visit the branch network but require postal services, for example, students who wish to send or receive books on campus

24-Hour Post Offices

In recent years, the Post Office has moved from standalone Point of Sales to a unified, customer-centric Point of Service approach.

This has resulted in Post Offices strengthening connections with existing customers, while attracting newer customers who previously may not have been able to visit, or were unaware of, the range of services available from the Post Office.

24-hour kiosks help Post Offices to:

  • Extend the number of locations and opening hours to access postal services
  • Migrate customers from manual to automated services
  • Increase the number and value per transactions
  • Strengthen long-term relationships with customers
  • Complement range of services offered at the Post Office
  • Synchronize offers, loyalty, and rewards with other channels

The Isle of Man Post Office ‘Pay & Post’ self-service kiosks in Douglas helps customers pay utility bills, make transactions, and choose the correct postal rates for their mail.

Marty Quine, General Manager Retail Network, Isle of Man Post Office, said: “Through these kiosks, customers now have a quicker, more efficient option that will see transactions completed in a matter of seconds. Not only is this a huge benefit to those people who like to manage their own transactions, it frees up counter staff to give more attention to customers who prefer to discuss their needs face-to-face.”

Empowering Customers

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For time-poor customers, kiosks provide the flexibility to access the same range of services found at the Post Office without visiting the branch during opening hours.

Canada Post’s self-service kiosk enables customers to buy stamps and shipping supplies—and to avoid lineups at the counter. In-store kiosks assist eCommerce users who want to scan and send out packages quickly without having to wait in line.

For customers it minimizes wait times, speeds up transactions, which ultimately leads to increased transaction volumes.

Self-service kiosks enable customers to:

  • Weigh, calculate and buy postage
  • Send items by express, priority and first class mail
  • Look up ZIP codes and obtain postal service information
  • Obtain express mail, certified mail, and return receipts
  • Top-up prepaid, accounts and transfer monies

Recommendations

In today’s connected economy, customers expect speed, choice and flexibility. 24-hour kiosks ensure that Posts improve customer engagement, accelerate eService delivery, and increase revenue generation.

Self-service automated kiosks offer Posts a cost effective way to respond to customer expectations and anticipate future trends. This approach delivers lasting value to the core business: technology that grows with the postal business, and puts the customer’s needs first.

As a total solutions provider to the postal industry, we help clients define their kiosk strategy. This ranges from training lobby assistants, designing SSK signage and placement, to identifying barriers to implementation.

Interested? Learn how kiosks can help your Post.