The United States Postal Service, still way far from profitability, plans to close more than 3,600 branches soon, with thousands of other facilities and stations under review. Older consumers in rural communities are up in arms about the loss of this essential public service. Death notices have been posted – and rallies, initiated to save the local gathering places.
What happened? Together with the recession, the digitization of America did in Ben Franklin’s institution. As did the high cost of employee benefits and, most probably, bureaucratic inefficiencies.
Yet name us one person who doesn’t like to receive snail mail at home and at the office. Who doesn’t eagerly grab the latest copies of Esquire and People, of Oprah and, yes, The Economist. And who doesn’t thrill to get the occasional hand-written letter, the overseas postcard, and, of course, birthday and holiday greetings.
In our view, online “everything” isn’t the panacea. Some of the most effective internal and external communications are delivered by the office mail supervisor and the friendly post-person. That effectiveness can be measured through the item’s long shelf life, helping drive retention of messages. It can also be seen in colorful pictures that seduce us into dreams and planning, and say “touch me.” Even packages with deliberate calls to action – even if it’s only “order me” – usually delight the recipient.
And then there’s the deliverer. In study after study, consumers say that it’s their postal service person who goes above and beyond the call of duty. They welcome the human touch, the open welcome provided by the mail carrier, and the opportunity to talk.
Our USPS representative at home is moving on to another, easier route. He thanked us for our magazine subscriptions, for regularly using the post office, and for checking in with him every day. That combination of humanity and “touch-able” mail needs to be savored, and saved, inside and out.