How Your Small Business Can Use Technology to Replace the Post Office

If trips to the post office are a regular part of your business day, you may be concerned about the news that many post offices will be scaling back operations this year. Over 3,700 post offices may soon close, which could leave you without a place nearby to mail packages. But even more alarming to small businesses is the post office’s decision to stop next-day first class mail service. This could slow payments from your customers, affecting your cash flow and hurting your bottom line. But with a few useful tips, your business can beat the postal service’s cutbacks and make things even more convenient for you and your customers.

  • Use e-postage: The U.S. post office has made mailings easy for small businesses. From the post office’s website, you can have boxes sent to you, calculate shipping costs, and print out postage — all from the convenience of your office. You can even schedule a delivery. No more trips to the post office, burdened with packages, or waiting in long lines. One problem with this method of doing business is that you’ll have to ship Priority Mail instead of first class, so there will be an increased cost to your customers in many cases, but you’ll no longer have to pay for mailing materials.
  • Switch to electronic payments: If you aren’t already encouraging your customers to pay electronically, now is a great time to start. Many of your customers likely already have the option of using their own online banking, but if your business is still receiving checks in the mail from these services, it’s time to go online. Not only should you set your bank account to accept electronic debits, but you should also set up the option of direct debit. By having your customers’ accounts automatically debited for the amount due each month, you eliminate postal slow-downs and forgotten payments. It’s a win-win for both you and your customers. Since some customers are uncomfortable with that, however, consider allowing customers to make payments through your website. A service like PayPal can set this up for you if you’re still a small operation.
  • Send invoices out sooner: If you’re still sending paper invoices, consider mailing them out as soon as services are rendered. Or send them out earlier in the month. Offer customers bonuses for switching to electronic invoices. You’ll save on postage and your customers will receive an email with a link to pay online. This cuts the post office out of the entire process, saving you valuable time.
  • Reward timely payments–or punish late payers: While it might not be reasonable for a company to pay out some sort of reward for those who pay on time, it doesn’t hurt to thank those dependable customers occasionally. Many companies give two different payment amounts for those who pay on time. By telling customers if they pay by one date their amount is several dollars lower than if the pay after that date, you encourage them to pay on time to save a few bucks.

There’s no denying the post office will have to make some changes. As it cuts back on services, you can adjust your way of doing business to avoid it affecting your bottom line.

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Stephanie Faris

Stephanie is a freelance writer and young adult/middle grade novelist, who worked in information systems for more than a decade. Her first book, 30 Days of No Gossip, will be released by Simon and Schuster in spring 2014. She lives in Nashville with her husband.

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