Is the United States Postal Service Still Relevant?

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May 10, 2017 by Mark Hammerstrom

In my last blog I wrote about signing up for the USPS’s Informed Delivery® service newly available to residential mail customers.  At that time the service was just launching across the country.  I have since had a chance to use it on a more regular basis and have found it modestly useful.

By no means is it a blockbuster breakthrough app.  Perhaps I was expecting too much.  After all it is the USPS and innovation does seem to be an oxymoron when it comes to developing more consumer friendly and useful products and services.  The amount of attention the product received in the press, however, led me to believe it may be quite the innovation and a major step forward for the USPS as it tries so desperately to pare the erosion of paper mail and package delivery—its very life blood.

To recap what Informed Delivery® is, the service creates electronic images of the mail that is expected to be delivered into a customer’s mail box that day.  The USPS has set up web access to the service and recipients can also sign up to receive the same images by e mail. Since each piece of mail (with some exceptions) is scanned for sortation and delivery, it does seem a useful extension to use those images for this purpose.  This means that the images can be accessed just about anywhere using desktop, tablet or mobile devices.

Generally speaking, the system works pretty well.  Each day mail is scheduled to be delivered I have been able to access those images fairly early in the morning on the web, although the timing of email delivery tends to be kind of all over the place.  On days there is no mail I get a message on the web site that there is no mail scheduled to be delivered that day.  Mail that is oversized, magazines, larger advertising packages and the like, does not get scanned, so just because you don’t get any mail images does not mean you don’t have mail.

The service is useful in helping to know when any truly important mail is expected and I can make it a point to pick it up sooner than later. On days when I can identify the mail being less important I don’t have to be concerned about picking it up at all.  A nice convenience especially when the weather is nasty.

There are some additional features that are useful. For example, the ability to report missing mail through the website if an image is shown but the actual mail piece not delivered.  Also, when important mail is scheduled to arrive, I can make sure I pick it up so it does not somehow disappear.

Yet that is sort of it.

Which tends to raise the question of how relevant the USPS is to us anymore?  Most of the mail I receive now is advertiser based. There are very few bills as most of our family commerce is done electronically.  Are receiving scans of this type of mail really that innovative?

I admit a focus group of one does not decide the relevance or necessity of an institution as fundamental to us as is the USPS.  This product just seems to be a bit behind the curve and emblematic of the challenges the USPS has in keeping up in the rapidly changing world of communication delivery.

Does that make it irrelevant?  From a business standpoint the USPS continues to be a critical component of what we do at United Credit Service.  We don’t see that changing any time soon.  There still is no other truly cost effective single solution to delivering a hard copy of important customer communications, especially those relating to debt collection.

Perhaps this product is just the first in a new line of innovations which will expand the USPS capabilities to serve its customers well into the future. Yet, its initial impact seems to be more of a curiosity than a truly useful and innovative tool.  The USPS still has a long way to go regain its footing as the preeminent and most important delivery service of critical communications.

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, call 877-723-2902, or check out our YouTube video.



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