on Apr 16th, 2013 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 1 comment
 

Some of our recent blogs have considered the customer experience from a number of different angles – from the mystery shopper program to the reliability of underlying systems that support customer service. This week we ask if technology might have a role in improving the customer experience.

From watching traffic flow on major roads to monitoring home security to Skyping with a friend, webcams have become a regular part of everyday life. What was once seen as Big Brother behavior is now something that most citizens accept as part of living in the technological age. The U.S. Postal Service started using cameras in some Post Office lobbies about a decade ago to help manage wait time in lines, which is part of its larger strategy to improve the retail customer experience.

Employees can monitor the lines at several offices from a central computer screen and when they see a line grow, transmit that information to the affected Post Office. The Postal Service has indicated that participating post offices then address the wait times by directing lobby assistants to help customers or encourage them to use the self-service kiosks, thus speeding up the transaction. Another option might be to open a new counter slot, if staffing allowed it.

What if customers also could view the webcams and see postal lobbies in real time, so they would know which post office in their general area had the shortest lines and find the best time of day? Would it be possible to convert the webcam technology into a phone app that revealed similar information? With access to this information, some customers might time their visits to post offices differently, or choose to use one with a self-serve kiosk, or perhaps request carrier pickup service. The District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles uses webcams to give customers a live “look in” at all of its locations, which lets customers see where volume is heaviest and then choose their site.

On a broader scale, observational research is a tool that businesses are relying on to analyze the customer experience. Using cameras to observe how people behave and interact with the spaces through which they travel businesses are gaining insights on how best to serve customers. Market research companies tout the benefits of seeing customers’ behavior in their natural environment, not getting the “memory” of their experience. The Postal Service could use the cameras in its lobbies as a tool in such research, providing it with data on how people conduct their tasks within post offices. This might help the Postal Service rethink design and layout and lead to new product or service ideas, all of which could improve the customer experience.

1 Comments

It’s not all that clear how much sense it makes to have cameras monitored in a central location so that someone can call a PO and tell them the line is long. The clerks at the service windows can see that. Monitoring doesn’t help if there aren’t the resources available locally to intervene. Sending a clerk to tell customers to use self-service seems like a waste of resources.

As for customers watching, how many customers have more than one nearby PO so that they can exercise choice? It this worked, the PO with the shorter lines would attract more business and the lines would get longer. Each PO should have a good idea of when its lines tend to be long and could post that information for the benefit of its customers.

This may be an example of trying to use technology to do something that could be done better with a little common sense.

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