Friday, 14 January 2022

Solution Spotlight: Postal services in the palm of your hand

The UPU is developing mobile apps to help posts reach their customers directly, to help create efficiencies, and to move further into the digital age in a cost-effective way. First up: an app to help facilitate the exchange of electronic advance data (EAD).

The EAD Mobile App, for electronic advance data, allows customers to complete a customs declaration by entering required data on their phone from anywhere. The data is then sent automatically to the Customs Declaration System.
“So far, we have always provided IT solutions to the Post regarding customs,” said Stéphane Herrmann, Lead Technical Account Manager for Mail Products and Services. “But now we are targeting the customers, also, to make it easier for the Post. There will be more and more IT tools for the customers because what we want is to get rid of the paper forms.”
Since the release of the EAD Mobile App in December 2020, more than 40 posts actively use the EAD Mobile App, with almost 10,000 active devices.
With electronic advance data, or EAD, customs in the receiving country knows ahead of time what it will get. The destination country can perform risk assessments and financial assessments ahead of time and select parcels for inspection in advance.
“With only paper documents, you can do that only once the mail arrives at the destination country,” Herrmann said. “If there's no electronic customs declaration, you have no idea of what you're going to receive.”
While customs declarations may include some optional fields, there are seven mandatory fields the sender must enter into the EAD Mobile App: sender name, sender address, recipient name, recipient address, number of units, total gross weight, and description of the contents. The post must also add a mail identifier.
Without these fields populated, the customer will not be able to validate the customs declaration.
“If the customer fills the customs declaration, there are less risks of mistakes than if it's something done by the employee of the post,” Herrmann said. “It's also a question of responsibility, because when you click ‘OK’, you take the responsibility of the information you have captured.”
The app also provides a cost-effective means for posts in developing countries to keep up with the advances in technology.
For instance, some posts may set up a tablet in their post office lobby, on which customers can complete the declaration, validate the form, and go directly to the counter and hand over their parcel, Herrmann explained.
“It requires a new tablet and it's quite cheap compared to the price of computer and printer,” he said. “So, what we're doing is to help, in fact, the developing countries to ensure that they are not left aside with the transition to electronic exchanges.”
Guyana Post Office Corp. began using the EAD mobile app in January 2021, the first mobile app the post implemented for use by customers, said Thalissa Grant-McClure, Public Relations Officer.
“The staff welcomed the new technology as it reduced manual work and they adjusted quickly,” she said. “Our regular customers also quickly gravitated to the mobile app.”
It was important for Guyana Post to utilize this technology to continue delivery to the United States and Europe, Grant-McClure said. It enables the Post to meet requirements for international standards and avoid penalties.
While the app helps streamline the customs process, customers may still require help from postal staff. Some customers are unable to use a computer and therefore unable to use the app, Grant-McClure said. Others may require assistance to walk them through the process, either in person or online through the Post’s social media platforms.
“The implementation and utilization of this app is in keeping with our vision for technological development in the Post,” Grant-McClure said.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Union Postale.

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