So you think you have it bad as a CSP with thinning margins and revenues under pressure? Just thank your lucky stars you are not in the postal business. ‘Snail mail,’ as it is affectionately known, is going the way of the dodo and even the increases in package deliveries due to the online retail sales explosion is not enough to make up the difference. Sounds a bit like voice vs. data, doesn’t it?
It seems that some postal entities are fighting back, and even enlisting CSPs in their attempts to stay in business. Whilst many post offices have been closed down to save costs, others have been converted in retail outlets for everything from stationery and postage bags to mobile phones and PC peripherals. For many customers they are still a favored place to pay bills, do some banking and have a chat, in a world that is becoming increasingly impersonal.
The demise of the US Postal Service (USPS) has generated many grand ideas including the creation of a national e-mail address that people get when they are born, similar to a social security number. Instead of, say, a Gmail address, people would have a USPS address. In addition, each branch location of the USPS could offer fee-based communications services from an Internet-enabled kiosk.
Then there is the ‘digital mail revolution’, that makes it possible for participants to receive digital versions of real-world, physical mail. Two of the more popular options for digital mail include Zumbox and Earth Class Mail.
In the UK, a modernization program for over half the country’s post offices is underway to make them more appealing and offer more services. Post offices there are at the heart of many communities, providing much needed services that attract 20 million visits per month.
Australia Post has just announced a new strategic partnership that will see Telstra become a participant in the Australia Post Digital MailBox. As a result, Telstra will enable Australia Post to offer customers access to their Telstra communication documents like account statements and bills.
The agreement will also see Telstra provide the capability to deliver more of its own products and services through the Australia Post IT network, which will assist in the roll out of Australia Post’s retail superstores across the country. There are also plans for the Digital MailBox service to be hosted on Telstra’s Australian-based secure cloud computing platform.
Digital MailBox will allow Australians to connect with service providers they have a relationship with – such as banks, utilities and government entities. They will be able to receive statements and bills, set reminders and make payments online, using any PC or mobile device, anywhere, anytime as well as using the Digital MailBox as a personal digital vault to upload and easily find important documents.
The service will also allow businesses to connect securely to their customers through a secure digital delivery service to consumers as part of an integrated physical and digital marketing and communication platform.
In this way, the Post Office takes advantage of its image as a secure partner to become, in essence, a super-biller. The concept is not new and has been tried in places like Singapore in the past, but the ‘trusted partner’ was a private company and the service did not take off. Perhaps having the Post Office as that ‘trusted partner’ or ‘brand’ will attract not only customers to have their bills centrally-managed and processed, but also attract major billers to deliver their ‘monthly messages’ electronically.
But will these actions be enough to save Post Offices there and around the world, and what’s stopping CSPs from offering similar services? We will have to wait and see.
First published at TM Forum as The Insider, 1 June 2012