The Man Who Invented Email

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Photo by Donna Coveney

So the argument about not wanting the post office reading your email…

Shiva: Somebody’s already reading your email, in this instance. Who’s reading your email? You currently have temporary workers coming in and out. Mid-market companies are outsourcing to a call center, which outsources to the Philippines or India. You already have that going on.

I don’t want to be jingoistic, but this economy has problems. Why are we laying off 100,000 people? It’s absolutely insane, when these people are trained in processing mail. You can move them to the email platform. There’s a huge need.

Same basic sorting process.

Shiva: Same basic sorting process. If Franklin was around, he would have done email. The protocols that he had to put in place—he had to set up individual nodes, set up delivery times, there’s a security issue and there’s the issue of how fast you respond.

This is all the stuff companies face. Companies have service levels now. If you send an email, the company should respond within four hours. Most companies don’t respond within two days. It’s perfect for the Postal Service. It’s a mind-shift for them to think, “Why are we sorting other people’s electronic mail?” But it’s basically taking a trusted service and moving it online.

And I did a calculation: I think they could easily generate $6 billion in revenue. To process an email usually costs around $2 to $3—that’s what outside companies charge now for a small volume of messages once you work in all the overhead. Obviously if you can do more volume, it costs less, and the Postal Service can do it for less because they have so many people. It’s just a killer service that’s waiting there.

What’s the end result? Certain mail gets put in certain folders?

Shiva: Certain folders and you can choose certain responses. You can have your email sorted into various buckets, or you can have the response selected and ready to go. So they could offer two levels of service. One is that they’d prepare a response that you could approve. The other is that if you trust them, they could just send the response out.

If it’s someone asking a billing question that could be handled without intervention: great. Otherwise it could be escalated. This is being done right now by call centers. I don’t believe there’s enough security there—I’ve been in enough of them. They have a 70 percent turnover rate in call centers. I don’t think the Postal Service has that high of a turnover rate.

Similarly, the Postal Service already does a lot of direct marketing. So they could own the direct marketing channel, too, and do more of the verification piece.

So the big issue is getting the Postal Service on board with services like this.

Shiva: Yeah, I think the Postal Service still has an opportunity but the issue is what’s going to incent them to do it. I think there’s a lot of thrust to just cut jobs and follow this very mundane economic approach versus being innovative. It’s pretty sad when you really think about the number of people they have trained just sitting there.

You can read more about Shiva and check out early articles and documents on his website…

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2 comments
natarajg007
natarajg007

TIME is such a filthy magazine that it just posts any crap without verification. Just that next time it might post that I INVENTED MANKIND!

Mattes
Mattes

@natarajg007 Are you actually trying to say that the information contained in the article is false? That Shiva did not do as has been documented?