Student Shopping Habits Are Creating a Surge of Packages On Campus
Campus mailrooms have been seeing a huge shift in what’s coming into the mailroom due to the ease of online shopping. Amazon, Target, Chegg, Stitch Fix, and others have made it so easy to shop online that campus mailrooms are seeing a flood of packages and far fewer letters.
According to Michelle Strain, Director, Administrative Services at Mount Allison University, “In the last 10 years, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease of 90% in letter and publication mail and a dramatic increase of 80% in parcel mail driven by online shopping. It’s completely switched!” Mount Allison manages close to 200 packages a day, which is almost 10% of their student population.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease of 90% in letter and publication mail and a dramatic increase of 80% in parcel mail driven by online shopping. It’s completely switched!”
Tracy Shadowens, Senior Coordinator, Admin and Conference Services at California State University, Fullerton stated that they’ve seen a steady increase in packages over the years, with an increase of 38% from fall 2015 to fall 2018.
Mailboxes for Each Resident Are Becoming Obsolete
The old way of doing things was to add a notice that the student had a package to the student mailbox and then the student would go pick it up. In today’s world, due to shipping notifications and the lack of letters, mailboxes are becoming obsolete. Students are being notified online that their packages have arrived and they go right to the mailroom.
Michelle said that they plan to remove the 2300 mailboxes this year and create a student social gathering space with seating in that freed-up space. Likewise, Brandi Smith, Assistant Director, Residential and Event Services for Cornell University, has also had discussions about removing their mailboxes.
Another change is with more packages comes an increase in parcel weight and size. “Parcels are much heavier than in past years,” said Brandi. Michelle stated, “Parcels and shipments are of every size, from small ones with one item of clothing to large ones like a washing machine!”
Processing Packages Requires Efficiency in the Online Shopping World
Students expect to get their packages shortly after they receive a courier notification. “Because students are tracking their shipments on-line, they know we have them. Now we scan a parcel, send the email notification, and within minutes sometimes, the student is there to get it,” said Michelle. As a result, campus mailrooms must be efficient in their processes.
In addition, certain times of the year require mailrooms to process more packages than others. “There are peaks at move-in, late November care packages from parents and Valentine’s Day, of course,” said Michelle.
How Are Campus Mailrooms Handling the Shift
All three schools use StarRez’s Package and Mail Tracking Solution to manage mailroom package tracking, which has enabled them to become more efficient with the process. Brandi stated, “StarRez has made processing our packages much easier and has also increased the speed at which residents come to claim their packages.”
Tracy agreed, “Because of it, we’ve reduced employee labor costs in the time it takes to log packages, the staff needed to process this quantity, and the amount of errors that occurred and needed to be researched/fixed. We used to do everything by hand, but the package scanning helped us tremendously.”
“StarRez has made processing our packages much easier and has also increased the speed at which residents come to claim their packages.”
Best Practices at Work
Here are some of the best practices that the schools have incorporated.
- At Cornell University, they’ve incorporated a thoughtful process flow, have the mail room area set up with good labeling and documentation, and keep things simple. They use custom fields to mirror their service locations and match their process. “By doing this, we’re able to prepare the back of the house in order to set up the front of the house for success. We identify features about the parcel, such as “P” for perishable and other easily identifiable features, to make it easier for the staff to find in the back of the house,” stated Brandi.
- At Mount Allison University, the bookstore, mail, print shop and shipping/receiving are all one department with shared staffing and cross training. “The operations and services fit together so we can serve our campus community more efficiently. For example, if a student orders a bookstore course package, we print it in the shop, and rather than put it in their lock box as we did in the past, we scan it, email the student and the student comes to the counter to pick it up,” explained Michelle. In this way, the area is a one-stop shop for students.
- Another best practice that Michelle has implemented is related to efficiency. “At first, we thought we’d batch the email notifications to give us time to arrange the parcels in the pickup area.” Once they realized how quickly students were picking them up, they decided to handle each item as it came in. Cornell University has implemented a similar process on campus and processes roughly 600 parcels a day for students living in on-campus housing.
- A student at California State University, Fullerton wrote a blog post that describes the change in their process, from improved turnaround time to increased efficiency to reduced paper. Read more about their process changes here.
Perishable Goods Must Be Handled Differently
Purchasing perishable goods through delivery services like Amazon Pantry or boxed food services like Blue Apron or Plated has become a trend in online shopping. These types of parcels must be treated as a priority when they arrive in the mailroom due to the nature of their contents. The schools process them in a similar way as other packages, but they’re marked as urgent and a priority for processing. The mailroom at California State University, Fullerton also calls the owner immediately.
Reporting Features Help to Make Decisions
StarRez’s Package and Mail Tracking solution provides many different reporting features, which all three schools use. Brandi said, “We use reports to help establish trends in peak package receipt so that we can staff appropriately. Reports are used to give monthly metrics to leadership and to try to stay on top of trends.”
Gina Byun, Senior Admin Analyst with California State University, Fullerton stated, “We have a report that shows the parcel type description and count, and a report that shows which students have the most packages not picked up. We also run reports to see who has a package more than seven days outstanding, and we notify them that their package will be returned.”
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