on Feb 3rd, 2014 in Products & Services | 17 comments
 

Most postal pundits agree the U.S. Postal Service can’t cut its way to prosperity. It needs to generate new revenue to succeed over the long run. But whose job is it to sell the steak as well as the sizzle? The postmaster general? The Postal Service sales staff? Postmasters, clerks, carriers? Yes, yes, and yes. It would seem everyone has a role to play in reaching out to potential new customers.

Think about it. No one knows the Postal Service’s products and services better than postal workers. They also have daily contact with customers and they know their local communities extremely well. These factors present a huge opportunity to tap burgeoning markets, such as the 23 million small businesses in the country, as our audit indicates.

The Postal Service has established a variety of initiatives to target small businesses, such as Every Door Direct Mail, the No Business Too Small online portal, and Business Connect. Every Door Direct, which encourages mom-and-pop stores to use mail to expand their customer base, has been extremely successful. On the other hand, Business Connect, an effort to harness postmasters’ knowledge and connections in their communities to generate sales, has had a harder time gaining traction. Our work suggests there’s a lot of potential for revenue growth from Business Connect that has yet to materialize.

One problem could be incentives, or the lack of them. Postal employees, like most workers, are probably more likely to prioritize their tasks based on what their managers emphasize and reward. In that respect, many postmasters feel enormous pressure to keep workhours and costs down while keeping service up. So this might be their primary focus. Without the right incentives to encourage sales and customer outreach, motivation might be lacking.

Another problem could be training, or the lack of it. Many employees have never been trained in sales and still others are probably not particularly comfortable with that role. Is the Postal Service providing employees with the training and skills they need when they are asked to reach out to customers in programs such as Business Connect?

Selling the business is to the advantage of everyone who works for it. But if the Postal Service wants to institutionalize this responsibility and require that its employees reach certain targets, then proper incentives, training and support are critical.

Should postal workers be required to “sell” the Postal Service? Would a system of financial incentives, such as those used in the private sector, work best, or would another type of reward be more effective? 

17 Comments


You are missing out on the best sales force the USPS has - a sales force that is already trained and deployed, and comes at absolutely no cost to the USPS at all - Mail Service Providers. Mail Service Providers, in most cases, know far more about the USPS products and services than the employees do. Nothing against the employees, but quite often it is the Mail Service Providers who are training the USPS employees out in the field. It is the Mail Service Providers who already have a relationship with current and potential mail customers, the MSPs who know how to cultivate and grow relationships. It is the MSP that understands the SERVICE part of things, so lacking with USPS at times. Partnering with MSPs, rather than alienating them and trying to circumvent them, would increase USPS profits exponentially. Why reinvent the wheel, and not do it nearly as well as MSPs are already doing? Why not work to partner and extend MSP reach? Why not take advantage of this highly motivated - and free - sales network?

Thank you for your comment Lisa. Do you have suggestions for specific ways mail service providers could partner with the Postal Service, perhaps even directly with postmasters at the local level? How should the Postal Service take advantage of the mail service network to benefit the entire postal industry?

I wrote this before. Advertise on the Postal Vehicles as they travel around their routes daily this would bring in extra income for the Post Office. I am speaking of other business advertisement on our vehicles.
Employees are always thinking what is in it for me? I would answer that by saying your job and help save the Post Office.
Have contest and reward those who achieve the goals. First we must instill in our Managers that they are salesman also.
Follow up on the assignments, goals and instructions. I have noticed that the Postal Service are putting people in positions that have no clue about being successful as a good Manager. Contract or consolidate positions this would get someone attention quick. Let Managers manage their employees and focus on GREAT SERVICE like we had at one time.
The should always be thinking if it is to be it is up to me. Get rid of the Overtime which is costing the Postal Service Millions of dollars. Evaluate city routes like Rural Routes and you would eliminate most of the City Overtime.
Have more contract stations and make it worth contractors time to generate more revenue. The more you generate the greater the reward.
Now the big one. Several employees are on workers compensation claiming OJI who are working outside the Postal Service and still drawing money from the Postal Service or retirement from the Post Office. I know several who are doing this and bragging about it. So do we really care? Rest assured that I do and would still be working if I could do my job without IMPO calling every 30 minutes about something. GET RID OF ALL IMPO POSITIONS NOW. What do they really do that is productive or have to do with moving the mail. As always happy to get my check every month after 37 years service.

We are good at what we do but we need to be GREAT
We should ask our employees do u want to be good or do u want to be great? I expect my wife, children, and Grandchildren to be GREAT. I always expected my employees to be great and my office to be the best, We all are salesmen and should take advantage of every opportunity to make this happen. As you can see the Postal Service has been GREAT don't have to be a greeter at Wal Mart.

Bitcoin addresses most of the issues in these blogs. Why not try really competing with money service businesses like PayPal and Western Union? Offer bitcoins for sale at the post office and for postal services. I would use it.

Letter carriers are told to maintain street times, or else, no time for talking to customers!!!!!

We selling a service to the custumers that we are told not to provide them with it .we getting into the packages business people are paying for us to deliver their parcels but we can't do our complete job because we gotta maintain the street hours ! The packages volume hasn't gone down like a lot people thought it was going to because of the holidays so we need more time!!!

LISTEN TO THE CLERKS--THEY ARE AREADY THE SALESPEOPLE!
As a January-retired 12 year (2002-2014) member of the Postmaster General's Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee (the 15-member Committee that meets behind closed doors four times a year to select the subjects and designs for postage stamps for submission to the Postmaster general for his approval/disapproval) I was a frequent proponent of utilizing the expertise of USPS window clerks as our "windows" to the consumer base. Who knows better what the American public wants in terms of postage stamps? Window clerks are, in fact, the first line salespeople; they can influence the success of postage stamp sales. If a clerk likes a stamp, he or she will offer it for sale and promote it. If not, it will sit untouched in their drawer. My oft-repeated observation was usually met with ho-hums. (Signed) Cary R. Brick, Clayton, NY 13624-0003.

The issue is time. I have great ideas on how to sell more USPS products, generate business, and maintain business relationships with existing customers to ensure they are satisfied and feel personally attended to. The latter is all I have time to do. Why? Because Area and District executives and OPS have usurped all of this time with mandatory tasks in an attempt to idiot-proof processes to ensure 100% achievement of favored goals. For example, in my district a window clerk is forbidden to leave the window for any reason. Managers, supervisors, and Postmasters have been directed to assume any retail task that makes it necessary for the clerk to step away from the window. So, every time a customer comes to pick up a hold mail, the clerk buzzes us up front and WE do it. This requirement is mandatory even if no one else is in line. They also require us to serve customers in the lobby when there are more than three people in line, and even make us wear dunce vests so they can recognize us over the web cams. There are literally DOZENS of such mandates, and not all of them are necessarily bad ideas at certain times, but when you make them a hard requirement, remove our own judgement from the decision-making loop, and enforce the policies with an iron fist and video monitoring, then you do NOT get to dodge ownership of my priorities and time.

I do not intend to be provacative or incendiary, but the Area and District approaches to management are very similar to those employed by the former military of the Soviet Union. Central control of every minutiae of operations is the hallmark of the current management structure, and it is failing us. The Soviets would have been defeated on the conventional battlefield even though, on paper, their numbers and firepower would have been enough to overcome their qualitative disadvantage. Why? Because NATO forces gave wide latitude to commanders in the field right down to the company level. No amount of central planning can predict every possible scenario and outcome, in fact it cannot be successful AT ALL; the scale of the problem is too vast. The best people to handle a situation are the ones directly confronting it. Now, IF your counter argument is that the local officials are too incompetent, too narrow minded, and too lazy to do what needs to be done, behold the final question. Who installed them in their position in the first place? That's the larger problem, is it not?

I would echo something Lisa Bowes said above and take it a step farther.
The postal network is an open infrastructure that has many uses. The advertising industry has developed products and businesses that use the mail. Selling the value of mail is their job. What the Postal Service can do is make sure that access to the network is available in efficient and effective way for those commercial interests that seek to use the network.
The Postal Service has lost sense of itself as a public service and as such it has lost touch with the idea of providing service and accessibility to folks who would use the network. Envisioning itself as merely an organization tasked to promote advertising mail, as demonstrated through discounts for use of QC codes or the Summer Sale programs narrows the focus of the Postal Service in negative ways.
The Postal Service doesn't do that job very well as Lisa points out and the way it goes about things hurts other aspects of its mission.

The post office has a thing called rural reach. Is where the carriers reach out to potential customers on there assigned route and try to get them to use the post office for there shipping needs. Sounds great right?? Well it does in theory but must postal workers would never do this. Why you ask?? Well Carriers get paid on an evaluation so no matter how much mail they do or don't deliver that day they get paid the same. Evaluation can get smaller and bigger but only do so at mail count time once a year. Also there is no incentive offered to the carrier if they bring in new business. All that happens is that they get more work for the same pay in a Rural carriers case. Do you like to do more work for the same amount of pay???

Its unfortunate the USPS has not bought into this idea.

The communication line between the USPS, Labor Representatives, and Staff, has historically been none existent. In a time when the USPS needed ideas to change its service model, process mail more efficiently, streamline its operations, to offer a better product faster and quicker, all was done opposite of this effect. Instead we closed Post Offices, consolidated mail processing plants, and shipped employees all over the United States. While liked by some, others sit and ponder, what could have been done differently? Our business model is as old as some of the machines we work on, or the USPS vehicles we deliver mail in, and/or the detailed Managers that are sent in to prove mail volume is down. (Its to easy to fudge the numbers, change the delayed mail report, and alter the total amount of mail ran on a machine, all by the click of the button)! Its also easy to put mail on a truck so it don't get counted, or drive mail around that did not make it into DPS for processing, or that priority mail piece that should have arrived at its destination processing facility for delivery that day, just goes for a ride in a postal vehicle to its proper post office and delivered the next day! None of this is new, no one is ever held accountable, because all you have are Managers that are detailed to the areas to change what needs to be changed so the District/Area Office obtains its fictitious goals. Who set these goals? If you are the maker, guess who sets the results? We have the largest infrastructure in the world to process and deliver mail all over the United States and bring goods and greetings to and from around the world. But can not figure out how to make this happen quicker, faster, efficiently, and at a reasonable cost! Technology is here to provide or hope to enhance our life, and continue to move this generation forward, but how can you adapt to this technological change when none of our communication infrastructure talks to one another?

I agree its all of our job to sell our service, but how do you sell something when your leadership doesn't allow the time to make a successful sale, or provide a customer the SERVICE we need to give them, only to put them aside and tell them to go to USPS.com, or take a name and number, and someone will get back with them (you hope)? My statement above is only part of the issues that plague us, and trying to make a positive situation out of everything that is negative becomes a daunting task day in and day out!

Goal #1- Do away with the redundancy in process model...i.e. operation support! (Its lacks the vision to adapt a quicker, faster, reliable infrastructure and process model!

Goal #2- Readily have all your products available online, in the existing retail network! (you can not visualize a box or package unless its in-front of you)!

Goal #3- Make people part of the process! Its going to take people to do all the above!

Goal #4- Keep it simple stupid! We have been moving mail for almost 300 years, why do we see change as a drastic horror story? Its in the message and messenger!

Goal #5- Reward your employees. Sometimes a thank you and acknowledgment goes along way!

Goal #6- A 5 year plan needs real data, not an assumption! Projections are goals not targets! Revenue is what it will take to keep this boat afloat!

I doubt you will have much advantage from using the postal workers who currently "serve" us. Those folks in the bulk mail department are a constant torment to my secretary when we send in our bulk mailing.. Imagine having someone drop your bundled mail on the floor to see if the rubber bands break! Or threatening to fine us because a rubber band crosses over an address! Just yesterday, the head postal clerk questioned whether or not a super bowl watching party at one of the pastor's houses was acceptable for us to promote in our mail or on our website. Yes, he questioned us for having a web address on our document that lead to information for one of our outreach services. The arrogance of the man was to say that this wasn't a part of our articles of incorporation! He was judging what we did to deem it worthy of going in a bulk mailing!!! The gall!

So these are the people you want to self promote the post office?? For a company that is loosing money, if there was another way or another server, we would be so done with this attempt to control religious expression!

Thank you very much for useful information.

King Regards.

From the rural carriers mailcount guide 2013: ""Carriers are not required to go to the customer's door to collect mail for any reason other than a carrier pickup request...." Does this sound like we want to cultivate new business? As you know, the mailcount is the method for determining rural carrier salaries. Contrary to this quoted mandate most carriers want to serve their customers and do this service even though they are not rightly paid to do this.

On a side note.....One would have to assume that the "sales force" would want to cultivate the carrier force. One would assume that the salesfolks would make it a point to meet with carriers, explain what they do, explain what kind of leads they like and give help to carriers to help increase business.... One would also assume that leads would at least be followed up. The bare minimum would be contacting the lead and giving feedback to the carrier lead generator as to the status of the lead. None of this happens. As a long time outside salesman I do know that I have had egg on my face in front of customers who have never been contacted.....Perhaps a look-see into how the salesforce operates at the district level could be an eyeopener for you. Check the salesforce and then ask the lead generates their opinions.

(Enough of this emphasis on selling. A good idea if followed, sells itself. Let's hope the people who know about the post office's internal machinery come up with some.) I am speaking as an outsider who is sure of one great idea the post office has come up with. You add urgently needed extra income for the mail service by adding an urgently needed extra service, that was once a proven success. The postal mail service became a postal savings service as well. It was a place for small savings and for cashing or writing small checks or money orders, a few simple non-bank tasks and it did them well. It should keep out of the way of private banking on the one hand, and on the other hand, make sure that a strict control operates to insure private bank profitability that is also forwarding the public interest, the postal service's commitment, in any lawful jurisdiction where the depositors/borrowers may be the same. That is absolutely doable. The modern problem is that political interests have lost sight of what is inherently in the restricted public domain and what is inherently in the broader private domain. That should be spelled out in advance so that Americans can look forward to many years of safe financial service from both public and private sources.

Useful information. Thank you for sharing.

Best

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