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Next steps for Businesses, e-commerce and charities

Do you use mail to support the activities of your business or charity? If you do then there is little   doubt you experienced some impact on your business as the threat of a mail disruption loomed this summer.

But it’s all settled now, right? Everything is good to go and we have found peace in our time.

Well maybe not. This could all come back again in just 2 years when the union agreement comes up for review.  

Are you ready for a repeat performance when the union and management face off again?

For many small businesses the mail is very important – as cheques continue as an important channel for billing. Maybe your business is one of them and you saw cash flow go flat because you did not get invoices out or see any cheques coming in.  I have a friend with a small 15 person business who uses $10,000 a year in stamps to send cheques and invoices. What I just described is exactly what happened to him.

Perhaps your printing presses fell silent and you were forced to layoff staff because your advertising clients put the brakes on mail campaigns. I saw this happen at one of Canada’s largest printers down the street from us.  

And let’s not forget about charity fundraising. Because charities must respect every dollar, many  delayed outgoing mail campaigns. And the ones that did launch landed with a thud as donors scoffed at putting cheques in return mail envelopes that might never arrive at their destination.  

It’s not just a what-if fantasy. Some of our fundraising clients definitely reported this unfortunate outcome.

And what about e-commerce companies who use Canada Post for home delivery.  They were sent scrambling for alternatives, which they found could not handle the increased capacity or complexity.  I had a few parcels of my own that seemed to suffer as alternate carriers to Canada Post struggled under the increased load.

Physical mail has a unique appeal and it’s got great value.  My small business friend says that his small biz vendors and colleagues just prefer the mail.  Many of them just haven’t jumped on the digital transaction train. And advertisers understand that the physicality of mail plays a special role in this digital world.  It’s an important part of the mix and plays a great role in promoting business in a way that digital-only cannot.  For further proof, see the recent Canada Post white paper, Connecting for Action,  which uses neuroscience to illustrate the power of physical mail.  

Research has shown that most Canadians prefer paper bills and statements, so this latest upset forced many of us to turn to digital, despite our preferences.  Just the hint of a strike provided an incentive for utilities and telco’s to invite people over to the non-paper channel, reducing overall revenue for Canada Post.

Must we all go digital?

Of course we don’t want to be forced into a channel where we aren’t entirely comfortable or that does not perform well.  If we lose the flexibility to reach out and promote Canadian businesses and charities effectively, we all lose.  Parcel post is the future as parcels delivered for ecommerce companies in Canada are expected to experience double digit growth again this Christmas season.  We can’t just digitize a pair of shoes we’ve ordered online.

If mail were the internet, there would be riots if a disruption occurred for even a few minutes.  We expect almost full-time service for our online delivery channel and we should expect no less from our postal delivery channel.  

Does anyone remember a time when we had no internet for a few days or a threat of it being cut because of labour disruptions or government inaction?  The mail service can be understood as a communication channel.  One we depend upon.  Canadian’s are the shareholders of the service.  So as shareholders I’m suggesting we speak up about why this service is so important to our future.

Here’s my proposal.  If your organization depends upon Canada Post, now is the time to speak up about it.

The Federal Task force has just finished their cross country hearings. It’s too late for that but there is an online Task Force questionnaire and I’d suggest writing your Member of Parliament.   I’ve completed the online questionnaire and found it takes about 5 minutes but the questions are mostly irrelevant to the issues I discuss here.  You do have a nice place at the end to add some Comments and this is the best place to express your concerns.  You could just copy and paste parts of this blog in there if you don’t feel like writing something original.

Let me explain…

I’ve written about this before (see Why the Fed’s Task Force is Consulting The Wrong People) but I think their focus is wrongly placed on the recipients and not the senders of post.  If you are a big user of the system, then not only are you a shareholder but a client.  You make up part of the 6.3 billion in revenue from organisations that pay for postage.  Those who pay for the postage should have an important say in the future – I’d suggest more say than the recipients.

You have until October 21st to let your voice be heard

So as a shareholder and user, I’d suggest it is important to let your opinion be heard.

You have until October 21st to respond to the online questionnaire presented by the task force.

And then I’d write your MP.  Here’s the list.  Until now they’ve mostly heard from homeowners, the recipients of mail. But  the sector is powered (and funded) by you, the people who pay for the postage.  

Let your voice be heard as they’ll soon be voting on changes that will affect the future of a channel that supports your livelihood.