259 Cowley Ave, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1Y 0H2

Postcards From The Edge (of Oblivion)

Canada Post is in trouble. It seems that nobody sends mail anymore, and Canada Post has a lot of expensive pensions to fund. Don’t you wonder where everyone was 25 years ago (or thereabouts) when people started sending emails?

I’m sure that 25-ish years ago what the folks at Canada Post told themselves was that nobody would ever pay bills online, that everyone would always want a paper copy to file away in a filing cabinet, and that Canada Post is part of our National Fabric, beloved by Canadians from coast to coast to coast etc.

Email was like the first furry mammal scampering past the mighty dinosaurs. “Look at that goofy little thing,” they must have said to themselves.

I only get mail from the government, and I still get checks in the mail, which I love, as much for the check as for the novelty of opening an envelope.

Canada Post coulda, and shoulda, done a lot of things differently. How did they not become Fedex or UPS?

They made some effort here and there. Susan actually blogged about some of it about a year ago, a drive-through window and onsite change rooms in certain locations. You could try on the clothing you may have ordered online, and if something didn’t fit, you could quickly repost it back and ask for a larger, er, smaller size if need be.

Admittedly, that is a good idea, but it isn’t enough of an idea. Drive-through windows and change rooms are only service improvements, and as we say over and over, service isn’t experience.

Pity Canada Post and the Canadian taxpayer. To keep postal workers employed, they have to deliver junk mail. What else is there? The Feds are in trouble because to save money, they took away home delivery in some places but not all places. So Canadians are now further fractured between those who have it delivered to their doors and those who have to walk to the corner. This is a serious issue; Canada Post employs a lot of Canadians, and Canada Post pays a lot of pensions. Yikes.

No doubt, when they think about how they can provide a better service, they come up with all kinds of great ideas, but none of them are experiences. Better service is efficiency, and efficiency always leads to commoditization. Not sometimes. All the time.

Experience has nothing to do with the offering.

Imagine if Canada Post had been able to see the writing on the wall, and instead of trying to only get better at providing better services, like drive-through windows, they instead converted most of their postal offices into coffee shops.

What was stopping Canada Post from becoming something more like Starbucks? I mean, aside from imagination?

Call the place The Post, mix in some education and remind Canadians of the history of Canada Post, with pictures of mail being shipped across the country in canoes, bush planes and of course via letter carriers in our larger cities (there are three).

Imagine a bunch of Canadians, all swaddled up in their winter wear, sitting around The Post in July sipping hot chocolate, surfing the net and waiting for three weeks of summer. Some of them would be sending parcels and getting mail from their post box, and others would just be ordering lattes and emailing.

I feel for Canada Post, I really do. They are in a pickle. But I can’t get past the fact that they got run over by a train that was blowing its whistle, constantly and loudly for miles and miles, warning them that the jig was up.

There is a lesson here for all of us.

Everything ends. Humans are a messy and innovative bunch. We constantly strive to make things better, quicker and easier with great success. Once we do, we pay less for it. This is not new.

You are now Canada Post (as am I, to a certain degree) and you have your own email on the horizon, some disruptive force that is going to shake your institution to the foundation.

What can you do?

Instead of thinking about how you can keep doing what you’re doing better, consider how you can do what you do in such a way that it is memorable, different, unique, and valued.

Twenty-five years ago, I had never heard of Starbucks.

Pity that someone at Canada Post wasn’t thinking right; there is a lot of profit in a cup of coffee.



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