When I read that the U.S. Postal Service announced that at least 223 mail processing facilities could close or be consolidated in the coming year as part of a three-year, $15 billion cost-cutting plan, I realized just how much this development would affect business operations.
Our company, TargetGov, provides services and products to help other businesses be very successful in the commercial and federal government contracting markets. We regularly use local post offices to ship products nationwide and, as a result, we see these closures as a negative operational change that would limit access to a vital resource and impact our customer service by causing delivery times to increase.
Closing postal facilities and eliminating Saturday service also affects us by increasing shipping costs for the product we sell as well as those we buy online. In order to serve our clients with quick order turnaround and speedy deliveries, we will adapt and use other services such as FedEx and UPS more often, but those costs are often two to three times higher.
We already operate on tight margins due to the current economic climate, and because we cannot absorb additional overhead, we are left raising prices for products that must be shipped and increasing shipping times, both of which are troubling alternatives for small business owners.
On the flip side, from a straight-forward business perspective, my eyes were opened when I learned that the U.S. Postal Service has about 6,000 delivery bar code sorters and many of those machines are only being used about a third of the day, instead of the full 16 to 20 hour days for which they were designed. From that angle, closing some offices, consolidating work and cutting labor hours to meet the shrinking market make great business sense.
I realize that this affects jobs and workers, so this is not a cavalier attitude. We need to learn from the past and not just complain about the changes. When cars replaced horses and carriages, the people who made buggy whips either went out of business or learned to manufacture new products or provide new services to reflect the changing needs of the market.
The agency is in exactly that position today. My business now e-mails invoices and more than 13,000 newsletters instead of using the postal service. While I personally still send an occasional birthday or sympathy card in the mail, other communications with colleagues, friends and family take place via online social networks and e-mail. We simply do not need the same level of postal service as we did in the past, even if it is an inconvenience and affects some of our bottom lines.
Our business will adapt, and we will use other services to deliver our products if the post office no longer offers what we need to support our customers. Moreover, if the U.S. Postal Service customer service continues to decline, using other sources to provide better, more responsive service will be a welcome, if somewhat expensive, change.
Gloria Larkin is president of TargetGov, which provides government procurement, business development and marketing services to businesses across the country.