• on Jun 28th, 2010 in Products & Services | 50 comments
    For decades, the Postal Service offered vending machine service to supplement its retail operations. Vending machines meet the needs of customers who want to purchase stamps without waiting in line. While the lack of stamp vending machines has resulted in customer frustration and a surprising number of newspaper articles, the problems are particularly acute in economically depressed and more urban areas. Although Automated Postal Centers (APCs) provide many services including the sale of stamps and directly applied postage for First-Class letters, APCs require credit cards, which people in economically depressed areas often do not have. In addition, some customers find APCs to be intimidating to use. Finally, APCs sell only booklets of stamps or individual stamps in denominations of $1 or more, yet many disadvantaged customers may want to buy just one First-Class Mail stamp.

    So with an apparent need for simple vending machines, what should the Postal Service do? In the past, the Postal Service had problems with the legacy machines it owned. They were costly and difficult to maintain and operate. The answer may be to contract this activity out. Commercial vending machines, like those selling soda and chips, are generally not owned and operated by the organizations on whose property they are located. While Postal Service unions and management associations may have concerns, private operators might be very interested in acquiring stamp vending machine contracts for a percentage of gross sales (or similar) while taking sole responsibility for vending machine maintenance and support. In addition to the convenience vending machines would offer, they might also help window clerks operate more efficiently. Diverting low-value stamp sales from windows would increase revenue per labor hour and allow the Postal Service window clerks to focus on more important functions. With shorter lines and happier customers, the work environment of a window clerk would likely improve. This idea could be a win-win for all concerned. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Jun 21st, 2010 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 15 comments
    The economy has changed dramatically over the last 12 months. The Postal Service’s financial situation has changed, as well as its target markets and the fortunes and requirements of its customers. If the Postal Service gathers appropriate data to fully understand customers’ needs and desires, and offers relevant solutions, customers are more likely to choose the Postal Service as their primary supplier of mail products and services. The customer experience includes attributes such as access, convenience, products, services, price and relationship with the Postal Service. Unpleasant experiences can reduce brand loyalty. Understanding and addressing these customer “pain points” is critical to helping to increase customer retention and revenue streams. The challenges are to ensure that every potential and existing customer with a need for postal products and services is aware of the Postal Service’s ability to deliver value, and that the Postal Service captures sufficient information to respond to their needs. Whenever and wherever possible, the Postal Service must understand what customers want and need, and they must meet customers’ expectations. If the Postal Service is to move toward a “best in class” sales organization, it needs to focus on excellence of execution and delivering value to customers.

    What can the Postal Service do differently to better understand customer needs in various markets? What can the Postal Service do to enhance the positive customer experiences and reduce the negative experiences? We’re excited to begin the conversation and hope you’ll chime in with thoughts and comments along the way. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Office of Audit’s Sales & Service team.

  • on Jun 7th, 2010 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 13 comments
    A number of media news articles in the last year have examined reductions in Post Office retail hours around the country. They report that some Post Offices are cutting back or eliminating Saturday hours, opening late in the morning or closing earlier in the afternoon during the week. The Postal Service faces significant legal and political constraints when it tries to close Post Offices, but faces few constraints when it acts to cut back on the hours a facility is open. However, eliminating hours amounts to a partial scaling back of retail service. When contacted by media, local Postal Service spokespersons have said districts have no specific targets for reducing hours and potential savings have not been calculated. After notices are posted that a Post Office plans to cut hours, some districts refuse to provide the media with a list of facilities where hours have been reduced, citing competitive issues relative to UPS and FedEx.

    Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), has come out against this approach, noting that cutting hours is a sure way to make the Postal Service’s financial condition worse. She said the Postal Service should be doing more to attract business, rather than making it more difficult for people to mail packages and letters because of reduced hours. So, is cutting Post Office hours the best way for the Postal Service to address declines in mail volume and the limits it faces on closing Post Offices? Is this part of a national Postal Service strategy or taking place solely by Post Offices on their own directive? Does the Postal Service owe the American people a real accounting of the service cuts it is making? What do you think? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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