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Death by Snail Mail: The Future of the Post Office in a Wired World

Rough times ahead for the mail

Canada Post faces questions about how traditional mail can find its footing in a world dominated by email.

Tweet thisWill the postal office always have a place? Letter mail has been in a steady decline in Canada, falling to 5.08 billion in 2009 from 5.45 billion in 2005. Canada Post says letter volumes have declined 17 per cent per address over the last five years, yet 200,000 addresses are added each year.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers thinks Canada Post needs to come up with new services such as banking, especially in far-flung places where the post office is the only business in town. “While Canada has simply talked about postal banking, most of the rest of the world has been doing it,” said a 2010 union report submitted to Canada Post. “Each year, 1.5 billion people use the services of postal banks and more than 400 million have postal bank accounts.”

"Fifty years from now, I can hardly see the post office doing what it does today." Tweet this

- Opher Baron, a professor of operations management at Rotman

Others say privatization is the answer. Rotman professor Opher Baron says privatization permits organizations to move into new areas, especially to find ways to make money.

“You don’t want a government organization to move into a profit-making organization,” Baron said, adding Canada Post and the United States Postal Service must to focus on how to add value to their services. “Canada Post has a wonderful way of getting to the end customers. They do it effectively with shipping, sorting, they know how to get a small package to me,” he said.

“On its own, it doesn’t give enough value, because people don’t know who I am,” said Baron, adding the postal service could use its knowledge for more direct marketing, recording what types of parcels customers get. “You need to know who the end customer is.”

Over time, the post office will adapt. “Fifty years from now, I can hardly see the post office doing what it does today— sending tons of mail to anyone. It won’t have added value and it won’t be economical,” he said. “They might scale back their services. You might get mail every couple of weeks.”

Opher Baron is a professor of operations management at Rotman. Read the full article in the Toronto Star.

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