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Consumer uptake for USPS parcel terminal service “very slow”

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

The trial of automated parcel locker terminals at the US Postal Service has seen a “very slow” uptake by consumers, according to an audit by the Inspector General.

The Postal Service launched a trial under the brand “GoPost” in Northern Virginia in February 2012, and since then has deployed 13 of the terminals that aim to make it more convenient for consumers to receive parcels.

The free service allows customers to have parcels – such as e-commerce purchases – delivered to a bank of lockers located in shopping centres or post offices, for collection 24-hours a day. They receive a personal identification number with which to access the parcels from the right locker.

An additional 12 parcel locker terminal locations are planned for the trial, which has expanded to New York this year.

Assessing the project, the USPS Office of the Inspector General said the concept had “significant potential” given the huge growth in Internet shopping in the United States.

But, it warned that the registration process for the GoPost service was “complex”, and that the Postal Service had not attempted to simplify it, even when two in three people gave up on their registration before finishing.

The OIG said USPS management had been reluctant to improve the registration process because the plan was to limit the initial functionality of the trial to evaluate operational strategy.

The Postal Service was also criticised for failing to learn lessons from foreign operators trying out the parcel locker terminal concept.

Registration


A cumbersome registration process put off two out of three people from using the GoPost service, the OIG report claimed

While operators like Australia Post and Deutsche Post DHL require customers only to register online for the parcel terminal service, USPS requires its customers to pre-register online, then receive an access card through the physical mail, then visit a post office to verify identity in person, in a process that can take 10 days to complete.

Of 2,929 interested customers, 1,936 gave up on the process, the OIG said.

The GoPost units have averaged between one and 64 parcels per location each month, according to the OIG report, but the Postal Service did not set volume targets or implement a system to gauge customer satisfaction from the trial. Customer feedback received at the call centre, via emails and at delivery units has been positive, according to USPS officials.

The OIG report noted the importance of good locations for parcel terminals – one of the USPS locations was in an area of low parcel volumes, another location meant consumers passing by would only see the rear of the locker terminal unit. Other posts have had more success with locker terminals in areas of high parcel volume and high foot traffic.

The OIG warned that the 15-day waiting period allowed for consumers to pick up their parcels could be too long if parcel volumes grow. Australia Post allows as little as 48 hours for customers to pick up their parcels, the report states.

Revenue ideas

The report from the OIG also makes various suggestions for how USPS might make more revenue from a GoPost service. The Postal Service could allow consumers to purchase postal products from the terminals – using debit or credit cards – could charge fees for overdue collections, and could allow rivals like FedEx or UPS to deliver to the terminals for a fee.

Responding to the report’s findings, USPS vice president of channel access Kelly Sigmon told the OIG that the Postal Service is working on streamlining the authentication process for GoPost, to avoid the need for customers to visit a post office during the registration process.

USPS is also exploring more features and enhancements to create more revenue from the service.

Related links

This could include the ability for a customer to pick up a parcel from a GoPost terminal after a missed first delivery at the customer’s home.

Sigmon said USPS routinely monitors information from other operators on the use of parcel lockers. “Where applicable we have incorporated the best practices into the development of the lockers and will continue to incorporate those practices into future development,” she said.

Source: Post&Parcel/USPS OIG

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