April 19, 2017 by Mark Hammerstrom
The United States Postal Service (USPS) provides a critical service to the collections industry. Like most businesses, we rely on it for just about everything: from meeting regulatory requirements, debtor communications and remittance receipt.
While electronic delivery of both information and payment continues to increase by the day, it is hard to imagine a day when there would not be delivery of mail as we know it.
However, the word innovation combined with the USPS usually is an oxymoron (meaning the two just don’t naturally go together and more often than not are contradictory). When I walk into a local post office, or see the mail truck coming up the block, leaking oil, my first impression is that not much has changed.
Yet a great deal of the innovation on the part of the USPS is on the back side. Much of their focus has been on improving speed and efficiency using enhanced bar coding and mail piece scanning. Not only does this provide a faster and more efficient process to get the mail where it needs to go, it also provides a better method to track mail through the system–both in-bound and out-bound.
Recently I saw the USPS was introducing a new service called “USPS Informed Delivery®.” I was surprised to see it prominently featured on many national newscasts as well as reported widely in the press. Generally, the reports focused on this as a unique innovation that could change how consumers remotely view and manage their mail using the latest electronic tracking methods.
According to the USPS: “Informed Delivery® provides participating consumers with access to their household’s mail wherever, whenever — even as they travel — on a computer, tablet, or mobile device.”
The concept sounded interesting so I decided to enroll in their beta test. Enrollment was pretty straightforward. No personal information was required, although for security user name and password are required as well as address verification. Following enrollment, I was sent to the website to access images of the mail to be delivered to my home.
I searched for images for each day available on the web site and found no mail at all. Presuming that it may take a few days to process my enrollment, I pretty much forgot about it over the weekend when–voila!–here comes an email with images of the letter-sized mail expected to be delivered to my house on Monday. I walked out to my mail box later in the day and, sure enough, the important letters imaged in the email were there waiting for me. So far so good.
The next day, while waiting for the daily email, I remembered the website. I went to see if the images were posted there. Sure enough the website was populated with mail for that day, and much earlier than when the email ultimately arrived.
The email provides static images of the mail pieces, showing who they are from and delivery information for the addressee. However, some other interesting features were incorporated into the web site. For example, the ability to report that a particular piece of mail was not delivered. Also, the USPS touts the future ability of consumers to use imbedded links in the mail image to access promotional information and the like. That may be an interesting feature to further link the paper and electronic worlds in the future.
So, innovation or oxymoron? Time will tell. I found the product interesting and somewhat useful in the sense I could get advance notice of what is coming in the mail today and I could do that from multiple platforms. True innovation? I am not sure about that, but it does use an attribute of an existing system to provide a useful service to residential customers at no cost to them. At this point interesting but by no means groundbreaking. How useful it will be remains to be seen.
The service is said to become available across the country on April 14th. Registration and use of the product is free. If you are interested go to: https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action, or Google USPS Informed Delivery for more information.
Founded in 1950, United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service, licensed revenue cycle management and debt collection agency in Wisconsin providing effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Visit our website at http://www.unitedcreditservice.com, call 877-723-2902, or check out our YouTube video.