In the very near future, finding that missing package might be as easy as going to USPS.com and talking with a robot.

Well, maybe not a robot exactly, but a form of artificial intelligence (AI) known as a chatbot, a system that simulates conversations to field questions and complaints.

For five weeks during this past holiday season, the Postal Service deployed a chatbot on USPS.com to help customers track packages and give them options for next steps once a package’s location was determined. A customer keyed in a tracking number, triggering a chatbot that provided location information and follow-up suggestions, such as reporting a missing or damaged parcel, or signing up for Informed Delivery for a preview of the day’s mail.

There are plenty of advantages, including letting customers solve problems outside of normal working hours and avoiding long hold times or a voicemail system. In addition, the experiment provided the Postal Service with valuable knowledge it can apply to broader AI plans.

USPS officials gave a presentation on its holiday chatbot effort at a recent event hosted by the Office of Inspector General called “Artificial Intelligence and Possibilities for Improvements to the Postal Customer Experience.” The event included a panel of experts who discussed a range of issues on AI, from how to define AI and machine learning to framing actual ways USPS could use AI for customer service.

Suggestions included adding an improved, simplified search bar at the front page of USPS.com, and leveraging Postal Service buying power to explore a more dynamic procurement of cloud services to help manage bandwidth.

A panelist from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) noted that past collaboration between NIST and the Postal Service to develop and test optical character recognition was enormously successful. An interagency collaboration around AI could help the Postal Service gather support and pioneer the effort in the government sector.

Do you like using chatbots, or do you prefer to contact companies through other channels? How about in-person interactions: Would you want to use an AI-powered smart kiosk in a retail store, or do you prefer to speak to a clerk? How might the Postal Service use AI in customer service? In operations?

Comments (11)

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  • anon

    Yes, you are right that. Artificial Intelligence and Possibilities for Improvements to the Postal Customer Experience.” The event included a panel of experts who discussed a range of issues on AI, from how to define AI and machine learning to framing actual ways USPS could use AI for customer service.

    May 08, 2018
  • anon

    Yes, you are right that. I like using chatbots, but I also like to talk to real live people when I go to the post office. For in-person interactions: I don't mind using an AI-powered smart kiosk in a retail store if the clerks are busy, but sometimes I prefer to speak to a clerk and I think it is better to always have both options available.

    May 02, 2018
  • anon

    I used the chat option in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain assistance with my problem and found it most frustrating. I asked whether I was interacting with a human since I suspected this was a chat bot but received no answer to my question. Can you please verify that was a chat bot. I also called USPS for technical assistance but again unable to receive assistance with my problem. The ‘technical’ representative was limited in his knowledge. He seemed to be although claiming to be on the east coast of USA. What was the truth? Lastly, some of my difficulty may be in using a tablet instead of a computer. Many people only use cell phones and maybe tablets these days. It would be important to support such customers by optimizing your webpages for such devices.

    Mar 21, 2018
  • anon

    Who can we contact to file a complaint against the local post office, that WONT send it back to the very people we're complaining about? Every number we've called, and every online email complaint we have filed has been sent back to local and nothing is being done. We have SEVERAL complaints: 1. a carrier attempting to steal 3 packages 2. packages being marked as delivered when they are not or marked as attempted delivery when no carrier has been on the street for the day, 3. clerks who call you a liar, get loud and aggressive and hang up on you when you ask for their name 4. Postmaster straight out tells you he doesn't care when you call to inquire about a package marked as delivered and no package has been delivered. Something needs to be done.

    Feb 10, 2018
  • anon

    Yes. I like using chatbots, but I also like to talk to real live people when I go to the post office. For in-person interactions: I don't mind using an AI-powered smart kiosk in a retail store if the clerks are busy, but sometimes I prefer to speak to a clerk and I think it is better to always have both options available. The Postal Service could use AI in customer service for busy times like when the customer just needs to buy stamps or do something simple, or outside of normal hours of operations. It is important to not use AI to totally replace people though. We need human interactions face-to-face and people need jobs too.

    Feb 07, 2018
  • anon

    I couldn't imagine any worse customer service than speaking to numerous people on numerous occasions about damaged and missing mail, being told that you'll be contacted by a supervisor only to never hear from anyone, e-mailing complaints and never getting any response, and to have an ongoing situation completely ignored. So you folks might as well take it one step farther and take the worthless humans that you hire completely out of the picture. Maybe a robot will get something resolved for a change. Good luck with that.

    Feb 03, 2018
  • anon

    There is concrete evidence that the political party in control of city hall is using the city postage meter/permit /taxpayer money to send out political flyers and have been doing so for a number of years. It is my understanding that there is a separate postal rate for political mailings which should only be mailed from a separate political postal permit. Where/To Whom should I be reporting this information?

    Feb 01, 2018
  • anon

    Might as well be a robot. Because the USPS or the USPSOIG doesn't answer their mail. Well, maybe sometimes. Combat veteran says no honor USPS, abuse of authority. No respect

    Jan 29, 2018
  • anon

    I would like to talk yo someone about mail fraud regarding a birthday card I sent.

    Jan 29, 2018
  • anon

    If you were victimized by mail fraud, please file a complaint with the Postal Inspection Service online or call (877) 876-2455.

    Jan 30, 2018
  • anon

    The USPS doesn't take responsibility for it's employees. They will never do anything for you. I'm sorry

    Jan 29, 2018

Recent Comments

  • 18 hours 45 min ago
    In most of these comments, I have noted that people are upset with USPS as an overall company and do not take in the underlying factors that will cause your package to arrive late (as said in the...
  • 18 hours 49 min ago
    Hello, Natyisha. Thanks for your message. For employee misconduct, we recommend filing an online complaint with our Hotline. You can access the online complaint form by selecting the "Contact Us...

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