Boxes piled up

New tech, old school: Why campus mail centers must go digital

For many campuses, it’s time to move out of the 1950s.

Millennials are often seen as being miles ahead when it comes to technology. And it’s not without reason: young people often drive trends that have a massive impact on businesses. From Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to the rise of wearable technologies, millennials have brought on the consumerization of IT throughout all of our lives. This trend is especially true at higher education campuses across the United States, and administrators are quickly realizing the need to adapt their institutions for next-generation students — beginning with modernizing one of the key touchpoints of student satisfaction: campus mail centers.

Administrators are quickly realizing the need to adapt their institutions for next-generation students — beginning with modernizing one of the key touchpoints of student satisfaction: campus mail centers.​

The changing face of campus mail centers

According to the U.S. Postal Service, total mail volumes have declined by 39 percent* since 2008. But total package volume and delivery have grown by 21 percent. These stats show how much changing technologies and the growing influence of e-commerce have changed the core purpose of U.S. mail solutions.

It’s not too far-fetched to imagine today’s higher education student having never sent an actual physical letter. Millennials born in 2000, six years after Amazon’s founding, not only may not have ever sent a letter, but they likely have also never known a life in which they could not order almost any goods they desired online.

So while some may view the campus mail center as a relic of a bygone era, the truth is that they are actually far more important than ever today. And most Americans agree: according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll, more than 75%* of adult respondents believe that packages sent to students are safer delivered to a campus mail center, rather than to a dorm or off-campus apartment.

While many higher education administrators may recognize the urgent need to offer a modern, safe campus mail center for their students (and those students’ families and friends), administrators may, unfortunately, be forced to tackle the problem with facilities engineered for the mail and package needs of yesteryear.

Total mail volumes have declined by 39 percent since 2008. But total package volume and delivery has grown by 21 percent*.

Putting campus mail centers to the test

Campus mail centers that were designed for a volume of mail that looks markedly different today than it did even twenty years ago typically lack the space and infrastructure to both store and distribute packages to students. Consequently, many campus mail centers are plagued by long lines and angry students unable to pick up packages they were expecting. Mitigating service delays and failures at campus mail centers with outmoded facilities comes with increased staffing needs and additional tangible and intangible costs.

Increasingly, higher education campuses are benefitting from new smart technologies to better accommodate student needs. For example, small scanners worn on the finger to scan barcodes are helping to improve package receipt and delivery times. Other innovations include automatic email notifications for students, ID card scans for easy package pickup, and new methods of storing mail that eliminate the need for thousands of unused mailboxes designed for letters. Innovations like these are not only cutting costs, but they are also helping to improve the student experience — a critical factor as colleges and universities aim to attract the best and brightest.

Along with the adoption of these new technologies that change the way we work and live, higher education organizations of all sizes and types must understand the importance of managing information mobility, and campus mail centers are no exceptions. The ability to share, use and transform information at any time and from any place is a key component of any strong information governance policy. For universities and colleges, this may include everything from handling digital student records to managing information privacy and data security.

As smart technologies continue to unlock incredible possibilities on higher education campuses, streamlining campus mail centers for information mobility is critical for maintaining next-generation student satisfaction.

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  1. * College Students Receiving Packages Not "Old School". Harris Poll on behalf of Ricoh. 2015.