Edited by Michael A. Crew and Timothy J. J. Brennan
Chapter 20: Accessibility/proximity in the digital age: what does it mean for postal networks and postal services?
Postal services ought to be ëaccessibleí to users. This principle, part of postal universal service definition, is written in the Postal Directive for EU member states and in the US Code 39 for the United States Postal Service (USPS). In practice, this accessibility concept has been translated into quantitative or qualitative terms related to the size and localization of the postal outlets network (Borsenberger et al., 2011) but also through the obligation for postmen or postwomen to visit each address every working day throughout the whole territory (doorstep services). Compared to other services, postal services seemed to be particularly accessible (Boldron et al., 2008; Cohen et al., 2008). However, the world has changed. Modern lifestyles have modified customersí needs. The most striking effect of this change is the decrease in the mail volumes and in the number of customersí visits to post offices. This has led to the rationalization movement engaged by postal operators for 10 or 20 years. This movement was characterized by a reduction in the size of the wholly owned network and an increase in the number of partnerships with private entities (such as local retailers) or public administrations (such as city halls), which provide the most frequently used postal services to complement their own activities. From this perspective, information and communication technology (ICT) seems to redefine the accessibility and proximity concepts and questions on the relevant criteria.
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