Preparing for the new normal on campus:
Contact-free solutions to parcel management concerns.

This year seems like a never-ending stress test. There's a new element of risk to the close, person-to-person interactions that are essential to higher education. This has forced colleges and universities to re-examine every aspect of campus life, including mail center operations. What are the lessons learned so far?

One thing is clear: understanding and adjusting to "the new normal" will take time. Long-established mindsets and behaviors don't change overnight. Building confidence among students, faculty, parents and staff is critical. That's why it makes sense to carefully consider actions you can take for ongoing preparedness and efficiency.

Many campus mail centers were already struggling with the volume of incoming parcels. That volume is unlikely to decrease in the near future. It could even grow as students increasingly shop online to avoid crowded stores.

At the same time, new and returning students—as well as their parents—want to avoid long lines and face-to-face interactions at the mailroom. They also worry about the number of people who may have handled their packages.

But students aren't the only ones you need to think about. Your staff have concerns of their own. Working in close quarters and interacting face-to-face with students all day could result in exposure and illness. Consider: is it possible to maintain social distancing in a cramped mailroom? Is frequent hand-washing easy? Does everyone share phones and computers? How often can frequently touched surfaces be disinfected? Will new procedures and solutions improve or hamper efficiency in the long run?

Downward pressure on budgets is the new reality. Even institutions with deep reserves have experienced painful reductions in revenue due to the shutdown. So drones or autonomous robots for parcel delivery may be out of the question. But there are opportunities that you can explore now.

Contactless technologies like digital ID cards have already gained widespread acceptance on campuses across the country. Similar applications can provide a cost-effective way to streamline your parcel management and offer a better experience for students, faculty and staff. 

When you automate receiving, you can reduce risk for staff and move parcels out of the mailroom faster. A single scan creates an accurate digital record in seconds, ending the hunt for packages. Students receive digital notifications that reduce the need to answer calls or place notices in physical mailboxes. Staff can process more packages more efficiently and managers can easily analyze trends to optimize staffing. 

Looking for more ways to minimize the number of hands that touch incoming packages? A contactless pickup solution may be the answer. Smart parcel locker not only simplify delivery, they also reassure parents with visible proof of your efforts to enable social distancing and ensure student health and safety.

Contactless pickup creates a seamless experience for everyone on campus. Students, faculty and administrators all appreciate the convenience of real-time notifications and secure, anytime pickup. Instruction, research and operations can continue to function smoothly, and there's no risk of exposure while waiting in line or signing for packages.

Automatic parcel tracking makes your mail center more productive, with a secure chain of custody that reduces liability risk. Package recipients receive a one-time, secure PIN or barcode that opens the locker. When they retrieve the package, that locker immediately becomes available for another package, for a different recipient.

The long-term effects of the current situation are still unknown, but wise managers are thinking about many possible scenarios and planning accordingly. The disruptions won't last forever, but the benefits of thoughtful planning and smart investments will persist. Your mail center and your entire campus will be better prepared to face the future, whatever challenges may come.

Learn more about Pitney Bowes’ solutions for campus mail centers