• on Aug 10th, 2009 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 42 comments
    The Postal Service has a long and proud history in public service. It has always been viewed as part of the federal government, yet has also been told to “act like a business” and to be self-sufficient. These distinctions can lead to interesting real-world implications, such as the degree to which retail associates should “upsell” or otherwise assist customers as they transact postal business. On one extreme, some claim that retail associates should do everything to find the lowest price for the customer. On the other extreme, some believe that retail associates should maximize the revenue from each transaction, and if that means selling more than a customer “needs,” then so be it. Of course, there is a wide area between these two extremes, and the Postal Service is challenged to meet these sometimes conflicting goals of providing public service and maximizing profit. But are these goals really conflicting? What balance should the Postal Service strike between finding the best value for the customer and maximizing revenue? What factors should be considered in striking this balance – transaction time (keeping the line moving), customer satisfaction (the customer feels good about the transaction), ease of use (keeping the transaction and choices simple), public service (an obligation to find the best deal for the customer), standardization of retail experience (providing routine guidance to retail associates), or other factors? There are a wide variety of transactions, so striking the right balance is difficult. Nonetheless, by looking at specific examples, one can see the implicit tradeoffs. For instance, if a customer is mailing a rather heavy box that the retail associate presumes may contain books, should the retail associate ask the customer if it is solely books and offer the reduced Media Mail price? Or should the retail associate encourage the use of Express Mail or Priority Mail, and suggest additional special services? What are your thoughts about how the Postal Service should serve customers while generating revenue? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Jul 27th, 2009 in Labor | 61 comments
    Should the Postal Service be allowed to freely award employees for a job well done? The Postal Service operates as a businesslike entity, but it is also part of the government. Appearances count — particularly in tough economic times. The Postal Service has an interest in recruiting and retaining talented employees to remain competitive, but what is appropriate? Competitors of the Postal Service are free to award employees with pricey gifts, tickets to major events, conferences held at resorts and other perks. These are rarely subject to scrutiny by Congress or provoke significant comment in the media. The Postal Service also uses incentives to reward employees for good job performance. While most Postal Service awards have been modest, Postal Service managers have authorized designer watches, espresso machines, global positioning systems, box seat tickets to sporting events, and personal computers as awards for their employees. Tell us what you think about spending of this type. Is this acceptable spending for the Postal Service? How should the Postal Service recognize employees' good performance during these tough economic times? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Suspicious Expenditures team.

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