Bahamas Postal Service On A Roll

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September 10, 2008

The Bahamas Postal Service has cut into the business of private couriers by as much as 15 to 20 percent over the last 12 months on the strength of an increasingly competitive express mail service ? one leveraging the department's membership in a massive international cooperative and the improved efficiency it fosters.

"Despite what people may think," said senior superintendent Jim LaRoda, "the Postal Service isn't just idling along.

"Over the last two years, we've made significant inroads in winning a bigger piece of the business now going to private couriers by demonstrating the kind of increased efficiency that translates into shorter turnaround times and greater consistency in meeting deadlines."

The revenue gains reflect the service's success in convincing a growing number of Bahamian businesses, especially retailers, to use its express mail service to import their wares. What LaRoda calculates as a eight to 10 percent revenue gain from retailers alone.

The sales pitch reeling in those customers focused not only on the cost-competitive edge of the public service and its quicker turnaround times but also the international Internet tracking system employed by the likes of FedEx and UPS, as well as post offices across the U.S. and Canada.

Those North American players are also part of the Universal Postal Union, and more specifically, a 150-country cooperative formed around the delivery of expedited mail and cargo. Membership allows the Bahamian post office to send its customers cargo place that even FedEx won't go, said LaRoda.

It also, in effect, keep his team on their toes, with all members agreeing to a comprehensive ratings system and the monthly as well as quarterly efficiency audits that decide them.

That system of double-checks ? audits being performed by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers ?continues to win The Bahamas a coveted Bronze rating.

"That shows that we are increasingly in the upper echelons of dependability," said LaRoda, suggesting the archipelagic nature of this country and the department's reliance on private air carriers will likely always present a challenge in terms of bringing absolute consistency to delivery times.

Still, this may be one instance where a Bahamian operation is well ahead of its First-World competitors in preparing for the revenue zap of the Internet.

While the U.S. Postal Service, in particular, has transformed its expedited mail service over the last year in an effort to compete with private sector players, it, in fact, has had very little choice given the reach of e-mail.

"Use of e-mail and Internet communication isn't yet as developed here in The Bahamas as in (developed) countries," Assistant Post Master General Robert Sumner told Guardian Business Monday. "We've actually seen an increase in the volume of regular mail we process over the last year, mostly from bills for credit cards and utilities, although we have seen a slight decrease in the amount of private mail being sent."

That overall revenue buffer is likely to dwindle as Bahamians increasingly call on Bahamian business to offer Internet payment options and even more of us keep in touch with friends and family without benefit of "snailmail".

"We are well aware of the electronic billing and its possible effect on volume," said Sumner, "but we probably won't see a significant decrease in demand as a result for another ten years given the level of computer literacy."

Nevertheless, he and LaRoda remain focused on diversifying their offerings now ahead of that sea-change.

"We are now developing a proposal to present to the private sector in order to better introduce them to our express services and how we can offer them a cost-effect strategy for receiving and shipping outside of using a courier and the need for a customs broker."

By VERNON CLEMENT JONES

News date : 09/10/2008

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