Distribution: USPS wants your parcel business

When it comes to parcel delivery, the U.S. Postal Service aims to get leaner, meaner and more technologically advanced.

During a conference call on July 1, Postmaster General John E. “Jack” Potter discussed USPS’ plan to reorganize itself over the next year by creating a new shipping and mailing services division. The new unit will consolidate all product management, product development and commercial sales, and will allow USPS to take a more competitive position in the shipping market. The USPS is also establishing a new customer relations department to better meet the needs of businesses and individual mailers.

Potter said the reorganization is partly to prepare for the May 2009 rollout of USPS’ new Intelligent Mail barcode system, which will improve operations and enable customers to track letters and parcels as they move through the mail stream. The 65-bar code will be required starting in May 2009 for companies looking to earn the maximum USPS automation discounts. It replaces the POSTNET and PLANET barcode now in place.

Potter said part of USPS’ job over the next year is to educate consumers and business owners about the benefits the new barcode system will bring, including low-cost proof of mailing, wherein mailers can get advance notice about when their high-value mail pieces will reach their destinations; and payment tracking, which lets a company see when an individual customer’s check (or response) is on the way back. As part of the restructuring, USPS will consolidate all Intelligent Mail barcode activities under the chief operating officer.

“I’m hoping to see our ability to use pricing in a very strategic way — both for our market dominant and competitive products,” Potter said. Ideally, his aim is to “take negotiation of contracts from what is a very few contracts negotiated centrally and move those contracts out into the marketplace.” He also imagines “stronger partnerships and alliances with other organizations outside of the USPS to go out into the marketplace.”

Furthermore, Potter expects the agency to develop “a more effective game plan on how to reach out to the mid-market — because while we do an effective job with very large customers, and we’re as good as any in dealing with consumers, it’s that mid- and small-size business market that is a real opportunity.”

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