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EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 116 - April 04, 2004 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 7

USPS Reaches Out to Small Businesses with 'Business Line' Program


By Ina Steiner
EcommerceBytes.com

April 04, 2004
 



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The U.S. Postal Service is testing a program for its small-business customers called USPS Business Line. The program allows small businesses to sign up at no charge and allows them access to a special line when they visit their local post office.

The goal of the program is to improve access, and the hope is that it will also speed up residential lines. Small businesses generally have longer transactions and specific needs. Clerks who are assigned to help customers in the Business Line receive special training on the needs of business customers. Clerks are also trained to introduce business customers to services that may help them, including online services. Clerks hand out special promotional material, and the hope is that the customers will be better informed and establish better relationships with the clerk assigned to the line.

Businesses who sign up for the program may continue to use any line they want. The USPS spokesperson compared the Business Line at the Post Office to a merchant line in a bank. Business Line customers can go to the residential line, but usually they don't mind waiting in the Business Line because they like to deal with the same clerk, according to the USPS spokesperson. She said an unforeseen benefit to the Business Line is the networking that takes place among the business customers.

"We take customer exit polls to get feedback from both residential and business customers." If the program is deemed a success, it will roll out to targeted locations based on demographics. The program does not necessarily make sense for every location.

eBay seller Lou DiDona signed up for the program in Pennsylvania. He uses online postage and has postal pick-up at his location. He only goes to the Post Office when he needs to mail international packages.

Despite what the USPS spokesperson told AuctionBytes, DiDona is under the impression that he can not go to any other counter now that he has signed up for the Business Line. He said he must show his Business Line card when he goes to the special line. He said his overall experience with using USPS Business Line has been positive. "It seems however that many people who bring in many more packages than I are somewhat skeptical, and have not signed up. I guess that's because once you sign up, that is the only line at the PO you can use when bringing in commercial packages."

This is the kind of information that the USPS is looking for as they decide to go forward with the program or not. If you'd like to add your two-cents worth, here's a link to our Packing & Shipping forum: http://www.auctionbytes.com/forum/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=13

USPS Business Line is available at 78 out of 38,000 post offices in the United States. A spokesperson for the USPS said the program's evaluation period will end at the end of the fiscal year 2004 (September).

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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