The New York Times just reported that the US Postal Service will soon stop delivering First Class mail on Saturday. Reduction of store hours is a common tactic used to “stem the tide of losses” for failing companies. Borders bookstore (RIP) cut back hours across the nation before closing its doors with finality.
My question is – does reduction of service to customers ever really result in turning around a failing business scene?
In this case, the proliferation of email and other messaging services is being blamed for the reduced volume of First Class mail. Email is, of course, fast, convenient and cheap – so, how exactly will making the postal service less convenient and slower make it more valuable for its customers?
I believe that the Postmaster General would better spend his time creating a way to make First Class service more valuable – not less relevant.
How about an advertising campaign that demonstrates the power of a heart-felt letter? Contrast a birthday card received in the mail with a generic “Happy Birthday!” on Facebook – which, because it requires no time or effort to remember, makes it basically meaningless.
Much of our history as a nation can be read through the letters of its great leaders. Letters from famous personalities are very collectible. Not so emails. Emails, in fact, are generally associated with scandal and secrets revealed. “The Patraeus Emails” will not find their way into the annals of history, whereas schoolchildren will read the letters of George Washington for as long as there is a United States of America.
The first step out of financial crisis for the US Post Office is not cutting back on their service. They must renew the nation’s love affair with the letter. They must do this through effective advertising by someone who understands the value of the service. The gripe with “snail mail” is that it is slow and there is no telling if the letters will arrive on time. Advertising can turn this into the very reason to use the service. Handwritten letters take time to create. There is no delete button – a letter with a single mistake must be rewritten or the mistake must stay. The extra effort to mail a letter – to remember an important date with enough time to then take a card to the post office and have it delivered on time – is what makes it a valuable and thoughtful gesture.
I hope that the US Postal Service survives this crisis. I mail a lot of cards and letters to people I care about – because they mean something that will never be replaced by a mere text or email. I believe the service could survive – if only they will acknowledge the value of their service and properly promote it.