• on Apr 9th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 10 comments

    In 1963, the ZIP Code was introduced by the U.S. Postal Service as a means to deliver mail faster and cheaper. Fifty years later, this system has grown to provide unforeseen benefits as an infrastructure that enables commerce and organizes information. However, the ZIP Code was not universally accepted at the onset. To overcome skepticism from consumers and mailers, the Postal Service launched a creative outreach campaign led by a character called Mr. ZIP. This mailman caricature served as the primary advocate for the ZIP Code and increased public support for the idea enough to overcome the initial resistance from stakeholders. Below we interview Mr. ZIP to hear the story of the ZIP Code.

     


    As Mr. ZIP mentions in his interview, the Postal Service Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center has worked with IBM to issue a white paper entitled The Untold Story of the ZIP Code. This white paper explores the lessons learned from the creation of the ZIP Code and estimates an economic value for the ZIP Code of about $10 billion annually across the entire economy. Most importantly, the paper presents two enhancements to strengthen the ZIP Code’s placement in the modern world:

    • Combine the ZIP Code with the precision of geocodes (latitude and longitude coordinates)
    • Improve the ZIP Codes value in targeting by linking demographic information with the ZIP Code and Utilizing the full ZIP +9 or some variation to offer smaller mailing groupings.

    Combining the ZIP Code with geocodes could allow easier reconfiguration of delivery routes in real time as well as help align government in assisting disaster recovery efforts, tracking population “flight paths” to unaddressed areas, and increasing the capability to link demographics to unaddressed areas. Linking demographic information with the ZIP Code and offering smaller mailing groupings would improve target mailings. This would increase the value of mail for senders and receivers by connecting recipients with mail they want to receive and reducing less valuable broad mailings.

    What ideas do you have for enhancing the ZIP Code to meet the demands of today’s ever-evolving society? How might the Postal Service enhance the ZIP Code to gain internal benefits? What enhancements would place the ZIP Code in a better position to provide the innovators and entrepreneurs new capabilities to meet today’s demands?

  • on Apr 9th, 2013 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 0 comments

    “Mystery shoppers” sounds like a new reality television series, but it is actually one of the tools the U.S. Postal Service uses to gauge customer service. Mystery shoppers are customers unknown to the retail staff and who fill out evaluations on their shopping experience, which helps determine how well retail units are performing.

    The Postal Service’s Retail Customer Experience (RCE) program uses mystery shoppers to objectively collect data on retail customer experiences. This information is used to drive behaviors for improving customer service, increasing retail revenues, and correcting unfavorable conditions. What kinds of things are these mystery shoppers evaluating?

     

     

    • How long did they wait in line? Was it over 5 minutes? This makes up 40 percent of the RCE score.
    • Were forms and supplies available? Were promotional messages neatly displayed? This makes up 25 percent of the score.
    • Was the Postal Service employee attentive and did he or she interact pleasantly with the mystery shopper? Was the retail area neat, clean, and well maintained? This “image” part of the survey makes up 20 percent of the score.
    • Did the Postal Service employee ask the mystery shopper if the package being shipped contained hazardous materials? This represents 15 percent of the score.

    Although not factored into the overall score, mystery shoppers also record their experience in these categories:

    • Product offering – To what extent were mystery shoppers offered certain products and services?
    • Product explanations – To what extent were benefits and features of products and services explained?
    • Overall experience – Mystery shoppers provide their view on the overall experience, including whether their expectations were met and their likelihood to return.

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