Chief executives and other high-level representatives from posts and the wider postal sector discussed the industry’s future during the UPU’s World Leaders Forum held on 24 and 25 October in Amsterdam, as part of the annual Parcel+Post Expo.
Speaking during the Forum, UPU Director General Masahiko Metoki noted that the event had “become an essential platform for postal and logistics leaders from all continents and markets to share ideas and strategies.”
Guided by the theme "Across borders and beyond limits: Blueprints for lasting innovation," panellists focused on four key areas: logistics and cross-border e-commerce, diversification strategies, sustainability and trust and security. In a first round, CEOs and heads of restricted postal unions defined a vision for each topic, while, in a second round, high-level industry experts discussed tangible ways in which posts, the wider sector and the UPU could work together to achieve these visions.
Logistics & cross-border e-commerce
The Forum’s first topic gathered leaders from Saudi Post, Belize Postal Service, Spring Global Delivery Solutions and PostNL, and Posta Slovenije, as well as experts from Zonos, Cainiao Network and the UPU.
Speakers focused on the importance of cross-sector partnerships to deliver effectively on customers’ changing and increasing expectations for e-commerce services – particularly concerning the reliability and quality of those services.
“Thinking as a traditional postal operator is not going to allow us to achieve our vision of becoming sustainable,” said Saudi Post President Anef Abanomi. “Don’t try to do everything on your own – look to partners … Join forces to create incremental value that will be shared,” he added.
Speaking on improving customer experience, Posta Slovenije Executive Management Member Ivana Vrviščar emphasized that postal operators should focus on soft skills related to customer experience and avoid an approach that gives too much precedence to technology and tools alone.
On improving trust with customers, speakers indicated that partnerships would be critical for ensuring that all parties in the supply chain had the right data required to provide a seamless experience for customers. They noted that the UPU played a significant role in facilitating the exchange of data, interoperability between partners and development of standards.
Leaders from the South African Post Office, Seychelles Postal Services, Postal Union for the Mediterranean (PUMed) and Kazpost JSC, as well as experts from Geomain, e-Boks and the UPU, provided their insights on how postal services could balance their portfolios to become a one-stop-shop for customers.
Panellists discouraged postal operators from resting on their laurels by solely focusing on traditional postal services, but instead finding ways to use their expansive physical and growing digital networks to connect customers with new services and e-commerce partners. They again underlined the importance of reliability of services to maintain customer trust when diversifying.
They highlighted the UPU’s role in providing its members with an overview of possibilities for diversification.
“The UPU provides the platform for postal operators to unite together and provides information about what’s going on in other parts of the world,” said Seychelles Postal Services CEO Mariella Buisson, who added that, without the research and support of the UPU, small postal operators as in Seychelles would not be able to tap into new opportunities.
To outline the sector’s vision for sustainability, the Forum gathered leaders from PosMalaysia, CTT Correios de Portugal, and PostEurop as well as strategists from Omniva, Austrian Post, Posten Bring and the UPU.
They focused on the need to move away from viewing sustainability as a separate programme towards integrating it into a postal operator’s overall business plan. Likewise, leaders must make this vision clear to employees so that they understand and perpetuate their organization’s purpose and cultural transformation, while employees should be encouraged to express their sustainability expectations to their leadership. Communication with a post’s board of directors, as well as its customers, is also key.
While they noted younger customers and employees joining the postal workforce had an increased interest in sustainability, they recognized there remained a gap in encouraging customers to select greener product and service options if they came with an increased cost or reduced convenience. They underlined the importance of focusing first on increasing a sustainability shift in B2B services and working with partners on reverse logistics.
“We can make the green network pay for itself many times over by making it work for other services,” said UPU Sustainability Services Expert James Hale.
Trust & security
To discuss trust and security in an increasingly digital environment, leaders from the Pan African Postal Union (PAPU), Cpost International and the Asia Pacific Post Cooperative (APPC) gathered, followed by a panel of experts from Omniva, Amazon Web Services, Escher and the UPU.
Acknowledging the potential of digitization for enhancing security initiatives within postal services, such as limiting illegal goods from entering the postal stream, they oriented their discussion towards ensuring that customers would be protected and included in the transformation process.
While digital tools could build trust by facilitating and simplifying processes, customers’ needs should be a driving force in their development.
“As an industry, our historic approach of one-size-fits-all is probably at an end,” said Asia Pacific Post Cooperative Managing Director Sid Hart.
Panellists also reinforced the message that tailored services must be supported by a foundation of honesty, transparency on data use, and, as always, a reliable and high-quality service in order to maintain trust in the digital transition.
They highlighted specific customer groups where posts may need to work to address the digital divide, again underlining the need to ensure and communicate the protection of personal privacy in data collection. Meanwhile, the UPU could support by translating physical to digital trust and security through standards and technical solutions.
To watch the full recording of the 2023 World Leaders Forum, please visit the UPU’s YouTube channel.
The next UPU World Leaders Forum is expected to take place during the 2024 Parcel+Post Expo in Amsterdam. More details on the event will be available shortly.