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The Amazon Effect on the University Mailroom

 

A closer look at how Amazon is prompting change in campus mailrooms and how to prepare accordingly

C ollege move-in day used to be a big deal. Students would arrive loaded down with boxes, furniture, and plenty of helping hands to get settled. But now, many students are trading their boxes and moving trucks for a trip to the campus mailroom, where they’ve ordered most of the things they need online and had them shipped directly to the school.

It’s a smart move for those who’d rather skip the traditional moving experience. But for mailrooms, the growing influx of student packages is proving the need for package tracking software and urging campuses to rethink their mailroom strategy.

Online Shopping: Growing Trend, Growing Problem

Today’s college students are buying more online than ever before. Everything from dorm room furniture and supplies to textbooks to groceries and clothing are entering campus mailrooms in droves, and mailroom workers are scrambling to deal with the fallout.

Services like Amazon Prime Student that cater specifically to college kids are only fueling this growth. It’s tough to compete with free two-day shipping, mobile shopping, and lower-than-retail prices on just about everything the college student needs.

And given Amazon’s massive investment in last-mile delivery services and technology, it seems like the e-tail giant is preparing for online shopping trends to continue climbing.

One of the biggest problems with this is that most older mailrooms were built at a time when the majority of mail pieces were small, flat, and easily fit inside a 3x5 mailbox. They simply aren’t designed to deal with collections of large packages, and workers are forced to get creative on how to store items for pickup.

In addition, workers are also finding their traditional pen-and-paper package logs and notifications aren’t feasible to keep up with the inrush. With hundreds of packages entering the mailroom each day, handwriting notifications for each one can easily be a full-time (and expensive) job.

Lehigh University’s executive director of university business services Mark Ironside notes they’ve seen an increase of 10% or 12% each year for the past 10 years, and it shows no sign of slowing.

What’s the Cost of Accountability?

When exploring solutions to the mounting mailroom crisis, one aspect that leads the conversation is accountability. More than 26 million people in 2018 reported having their packages stolen right off their front porch. And while that’s not exactly a cause for alarm in a secure campus mailroom, there’s still a high level of accountability placed with the mailroom and the school at large.

Mailroom workers who accept packages on the students’ behalf are expected to protect each parcel until it can be delivered to its rightful owner. This not only means distributing the package, but also storing it in a way that’s not susceptible to theft or damage.

There’s a huge gray area regarding where the liability lies when accepting packages on behalf of someone else.  But even if you’re not directly responsible, consider the impact that a lost or damaged package could create. Students expect their items to be safe, but when issues occur, it can fall back on the school’s reputation and image of a student-centric environment.

Accountability has a cost, and for university mailrooms, that cost is twofold: your obligation to students increases, which can also send your operating costs upward.

How Campuses Can Streamline Operations with Package Tracking Software

There’s no doubt that the way campus mailrooms have always operated is no longer working. To combat the problem, mailrooms should first look at maximizing the space, tools, and human resources they already have to accommodate the flood of packages. Some mailrooms have even eliminated the small individual mailboxes in favor of smart lockers or extra package storage space.

For some schools that were buckling under the weight of all their student packages, they were able to avoid hiring extra help by implementing package tracking software.

Mailroom tools like Notifii’s delivery tracking app are designed to streamline the entire process, from the moment a package is accepted until the student comes to pick it up. Mailroom workers can use the package tracking software to scan packages as they arrive, which would notify students via text message instead of relying on paper notifications. The time spent on each package is slashes from minutes to seconds, freeing up valuable resources, keeping lines shorter, and placing a higher level of accountability and confidence in the mailroom.

Check out our recent case study on how we helped USC transform their mailroom operations in just one day!