Susan M. Plonkey, The Acting President, mailing and shipping services, for the U.S. Postal Service as of June 3, talks with senior writer Jim Tierney about her new position and plans to fix what’s ailing the USPS.

Q: What do you view as your biggest, most immediate challenges?

A: The most immediate challenge facing the Postal Service is avoiding potential insolvency. Without fundamental structural changes to our business model, cumulative losses could reach more than $238 billion by 2020.

While there is no one single solution or quick fix that will resolve the USPS’s current set of challenges, our action plan contains steps available under current law that would reduce the projected gap by $123 billion by 2020.

To close the remaining projected gap of $115 billion over the next 10 years without cost to U.S. taxpayers, the Postal Service will require legislative and regulatory changes that will provide greater speed and flexibility to respond to marketplace dynamics.

Q: How can the USPS grow volume?

A: We’re engaged in marketing activities that demonstrate how mailers can harness the power of mail with the power of the Internet.

Product development is another strategy for growing mailing services and shipping services volumes. We recently established a single shipping services team to drive volume and revenue growth, and created a product visibility and operational performance team.

Q: What types of USPS products have the most potential to add volume to the mailstream?

A: We see direct mail and shipping services as the primary areas of volume growth going forward. As the economy recovers, these product and service lines are well positioned in the market, particularly from a value and cost proposition. Our global shipping business is also poised for growth.

Q: At the ACMA’s National Catalog Forum in April, there was talk of treating catalogs as a single product. Do you think this can happen?

A: We are developing a way to clearly identify, track and measure catalog volume. We see a need to better reflect in our systems the way mailers use our products. Catalogs are primarily a mix of carrier route and Standard Flats, with some bound printed matter and slim-jims.

We have developed a working definition of a catalog and plan to introduce a new entry on the mailing statements in 2011 that clearly identifies catalog volume in our financial systems. This will provide a first step toward future product, pricing and incentive enhancements.