Conversations about digital transformation in posts usually focus on increasing revenue and decreasing costs. Today, posts are counting on technology to serve a new purpose: ensuring business continuity during times of challenge and change.
There’s no question that posts are an essential service. Aside from keeping people and businesses connected, posts deliver critical packages. Last year alone, USPS delivered 1 billion prescription packages across the U.S. People also rely on posts to manage the last mile of vital e-commerce items including food staples, baby food, medical supplies and cleaning products. Furthermore, many posts are key partners in global efforts to expand financial inclusion, providing citizens and small business with access to banking services.
The necessity of posts is magnified by their local presence. While private companies can set up massive distribution centers and delivery fleets, they don’t have the network of local branches that posts possess. Case in point: Customers can turn to their local post office for packages that require age verification, something that would be incredibly difficult for a private company without an extensive physical presence to accomplish.
In short, posts play an irreplaceable role when it comes to keeping communities fed and healthy. But this requires an incredibly reliable network that keeps posts operational during challenging times, whether those challenges are extreme weather, healthcare crises or power outages.
So how can posts preserve access to vital deliveries even under challenging circumstances?
Setting Up Smart Delivery Lockers For Package Pick-Ups
Popularized by private companies like Amazon, storage lockers allow customers to pick up packages from a secure “third place” other than work or home.
In situations where there’s a labor shortage due to an emergency, storage lockers allow posts to continue delivering packages on a skeleton staff. Instead of delivering to multiple homes, postal workers can serve fewer locations while serving the same number of people.
Setting up parcel storage lockers also limits the number of people visiting post office branches. This is helpful in circumstances where posts need to redirect limited resources to sorting centers or delivery routes and don’t have enough people to fully staff their physical locations.
With parcel storage lockers — also referred to as smart lockers — customers can securely drop off packages for shipment, and those packages can be picked up by postal workers at the end of the day.
Finally, smart lockers and other self-serve pick-up drop-off (PUDO) locations ease the pain of failed deliveries, which can be devastating in an emergency where customers rely on critical products.
Using AI And Machine Learning To Safely Schedule Shifts
Every day, we learn more about how artificial intelligence is helping researchers compile, organize and analyze data about the novel coronavirus.
This technology can also help essential businesses understand their operations better so they can make smarter scheduling decisions.
For instance, in an emergency situation where staff numbers are limited, posts need to quickly prioritize which areas of operation require the most staff. Data collected and analyzed from across a post’s network can help business leaders understand peak times at every location and use this data to keep things operational.
Embracing AI and machine learning tools can also help posts understand how to scale back their services during any crisis or disruption. As posts around the world turn to contactless delivery and storage lockers, it would be helpful for them to know which solutions are best suited to which areas. This can help posts prioritize where to set up storage lockers or self-serve kiosks.
Establishing Partnerships With Third Parties
Under normal conditions, partnering with third-party retailers is a smart choice for posts. In our current situation, such a partnership can be incredibly useful.
Most businesses that posts would partner with — pharmacies and convenience stores — are already classified as essential services. By facilitating postal transactions, they limit the number of people traveling out of their immediate area for important errands.
To return to an earlier point, hyperlocal postal services also relieve the hassle of picking up missed deliveries. In an emergency situation, front-line workers such as first responders, personal support workers or medical professionals still work, potentially missing deliveries. Rather than traveling to a post office, they can pick up their missed packages while grabbing their prescriptions or food.
It’s Not Too Late For Posts To Start Embracing This Technology
It’s natural to wonder if this conversation is futile. Don’t most data science projects take a year or more to put into place? Wasn’t the time to set up partnerships and self-serve lockers months ago?
These are fair questions, and the answer is yes — starting years ago or even months ago would have been ideal, but choosing to start now is not futile.
As the old expression goes, “The only constant in life is change.”
Even if businesses are caught off guard by one challenge, they’re guaranteed to experience many more in the future. Consequently, it’s important that essential businesses like posts are prepared and know how to marshal their resources and talent to fulfill their missions despite any circumstances that are thrown their way. For posts, that mission is delivering to the billions of people who depend on them. Embracing the right technology and partnerships is the best way to do so.