Giving Customers Greater Access

The Postal Service has installed automated equipment in lobbies to better serve Post Office customers. In the 1990s, the focus of this effort was the integrated retail terminal (IRT), a computer that incorporates an electronic scale. It provides information to customers during a transaction and simplifies postal accounting by consolidating data. Postage validation imprinters attached to the IRTs produce self-sticking postage labels with a barcode for automated processing.

In 1998, the Postal Service started rolling out the POS (point of service) ONE system. By 2005, more than 60,000 retail terminals were installed in more than 15,000 facilities nationwide. By providing state-of-the-art computer technology and connecting retail units through phone lines or satellite connections, POS ONE provides real-time information and faster, more efficient service.

The Postal Service also has taken advantage of personal computers to help small businesses and home office users. In March 1998, the Postal Service authorized tests of PC Postage. Developed and distributed by USPS-approved vendors, PC Postage produces information-based indicia — digitally-encoded, two-dimensional barcodes that postal customers can print directly onto envelopes or address labels. Users have access to postage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from their homes or offices. In 2004, the Postal Service began market-testing Customized Postage, which enables customers to personalize PC Postage with digital images.

In 2002, the Postal Service launched Click-N-Ship on its Web site, www.usps.com. Click-N-Ship lets customers create shipping labels, calculate and pay postage, and insure packages online. In its first six months of operation, customers used the service to produce more than one million shipping labels. In January 2006 a mailing list feature was added to Click-N-Ship, allowing users to create group mailing lists and store up to 3,000 addresses.

In 2004, the Postal Service launched the PostalOne! system on its Web site. PostalOne! gives business mailers access to a streamlined process for mail entry, payment, tracking, and reporting.

In 2004, the Postal Service also deployed 2,500 mailing kiosks called Automated Postal Centers (APCs) nationwide. Like ATMs in banks, APCs offer customers an alternative to counter service in busy Post Offices, providing self-service mailing with an integrated scale and a touch-screen menu.