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You’ve got mail 2.0: Introducing self-service to the campus mailcenter

by Dale Walsh

As campuses continue to address increasing package volume, many are turning to new tactics to cut down on packages’ real estate footprint, enable 24/7 access and improve security.

Since we last discussed campus mail, the United States Postal Service has updated its package volume numbers — and they have real implications for the next era of packages on campus. The number of packages sent each year has continued to surge, increasing by 12 percent in 2015 alone, while flat mail volume continued to fall, down another 4.2 percent.1

Colleges and universities who embrace cutting-edge approaches to mail are rising to meet students’ expectations of immediate gratification (fueled by services like Amazon Prime) and receiving a return on investment. But the deluge of packages poses another challenge — they take up valuable square footage and need to be handled securely.

Handling package overload

With the rise of delivery retail services on campuses, including delivery prescription services, package security is a growing concern among students. Their packages are often mixed in among countless others’ and doled out in an opaque process they may not understand. All of these packages also conflict with the growing concern in higher education around the valuable resource of space.

According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education2“on many if not most of our campuses, inefficient space utilization is the norm.” The need for more space to make room for new and expanded amenities like gyms and innovation incubators can be an opportunity and a challenge. And sometimes, the volume of packages (and the outdated mailcenters that hold them) can be a hurdle to making the most of space.

For these reasons, it's more important than ever that you adopt a modern, secure, self-service approach that balances chain of custody and streamlined use of space. 
Man at desk with mobile phone

Self-service storage solutions

Some campuses are taking the next step with approaches like self-service kiosks that reduce wait time. In fact, at Loyola University Maryland, implementing this approach has reduced student wait times for package pickup from 30 minutes to just two minutes. And “carts full of packages lining the college center” are a thing of the past.3

Taking a progressive self-service package strategy a step further can improve security, management and space usage even more. Providing 24/7 self-service access to condensed package storage spaces, along with a secure chain of custody via personal ID code or card are key elements of this approach.

You can leverage resources such as intelligent lockers to immediately secure packages and only release them to a recipient whose identity is verified. Students are automatically notified, either via text message or email, when a package arrives, rather than them having to walk down to the mailcenter and wait in line only to discover they will have to come back tomorrow and check again. That change alone significantly reduces wait time for package pickup, because it removes those students from the queue. This approach to package self-service also reduces the instances of a glut of packages spending time in unsecured areas awaiting pickup or processing during busy periods like back-to-school and holiday seasons.

Adopting a modern, secure, self-service approach is a valuable strategy in the new era of mail — where balancing chain of custody and streamlined use of space is more important than ever.

Centralized monitoring and management of self-service package storage is another element of rethinking package management. It empowers administrators with control — and frees up resources that can help the main mailcenter operate more efficiently. From a space perspective, you can place a bank of lockers strategically — or even distributed throughout campus — to maximize valuable campus real estate. And once a package is picked up, you can automatically reassign lockers to accommodate another student’s package — turning the traditional concept of dedicated “personal” lockers on its head and making even better use of space in the process.

Trend report

Looking for ways to improve your campus’ auxiliary services? Discover the next steps to take. 
Dale Walsh
Dale Walsh, Senior Strategy Development Manager, Ricoh USA, Inc., is responsible for developing new strategies, solutions and partnerships for Ricoh’s Managed and Technology Services organization, with a focus on emerging markets and technologies. Walsh also has on-campus customer support experience and is a Certified Mail & Distribution Systems Manager (CMDSM), as well as an Executive Mail Center Manager (EMCM) as certified by the U.S. Postal Service. He is an active member of the Mail Systems Management Association (MSMA) and has served as the Executive Vice President of the Atlanta Chapter of the MSMA.
1 U.S. Postal Service. A Decade of Facts and Figures. 2016. https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-facts/decade-of-facts-and-figures.htm 
2 Walter Simspon, CEM, LEED AP. "Cool Campus! A How-To Guide for College and University Climate Action Planning." AASHE. www.aashe.org/files/resources/cool-campus-climate-planning-guide.pdf 
3 Matt Lindner. "Colleges brace for package delivery rush." Internet Retailer. 11 November 2015. https://www.internetretailer.com/mobile/2015/11/10/colleges-brace-package-delivery-rush