Mailing Systems Technology September/October 2021

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othing is more inevitable than evolution. Evolution happens in fits and starts as determined by necessity; innovations typically happen gradually and sequentially, with one invention informing the next one. However, every so often, world events spur exponential evolutionary growth. While there isn’t much that can be done to predict the next significant evolutionary shift, there are ways to capitalize on those changes. Cue an unprecedented pandemic that has changed the way humans live and interact around the world. Of the many byproducts of the pandemic, rapid innovation allowed businesses to operate beyond their standard capacities. The boom of e-commerce pushed all mail centers to work harder, processing an unprecedented number of shipments. Mail operations reached a new peak due to the pandemic, and we are now at a point of no return; the post-pandemic mail center must continue to become more robust, powerful, and efficient. We have entered the next normal: a return to stability, but not to the way things were before. Luckily, necessity is the mother of really cool technology. We have been fortunate enough to have innovations and 28


advancements that we’re able to meet the moment when the pandemic began. We can now use these tools born out of the need to keep everyone safe and distanced to enhance our daily lives post-pandemic. Here are three technological trends that may become commonplace within mail centers around the world. The Expanded Usage of Kiosks Physical kiosks may be the most accessible type of automated service to identify. In recent years, they have grown in popularity at chain restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail settings. Yet this integration of automation into our daily lives as consumers is just the tip of the iceberg. The benefits of using kiosks continue to grow, as they often act as the first line of customer interactions, with more intuitive applications popping up every day. Even as the pandemic waged last year, many mail offices maintained business continuity through digital devices that allowed for social distancing. According to the state of Michigan, over half a million interactions were processed through state government facility kiosks in 2020. Kiosks were also an essential tool, along with digital mail, which helped clients stay connected to their

receivables while keeping them out of the office. Kiosks put that next level of distance between those who needed on-site services and facility employees themselves. As the pandemic wanes, the need for kiosk services will continue to be necessary. Now that we’ve seen kiosk usage become more established within mail center facilities and other businesses alike, there are many ways we will interact with them in the future as they become even more ubiquitous. The user experience that kiosks provide to mail center customers should become more intuitive as the years go on. A mail center machine’s programming could suggest complementary services to gain additional revenue during the time of service. Those who are mailing out certified mail could be offered additional services, such as signature and receipt verification. Kiosks could also continue to be the go-to option for peak customer service times as well as offhours. These measures can continue to close potential revenue gaps and allow for a more efficient user experience while also letting employees focus on tasks that distinctly require a human touch. We are only at the beginning of a kiosk renaissance, with more use-cases coming every day.