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.


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If you want to know what customers want, you have to ask the people on the front lines. They know what the customers want more than anybody else. Window clerks, carriers, and small office postmasters. This obviously has never been done, since SSA's have to run off a spiel to each and every customer that has been dictated to them, for fear that somebody might be a mystery shopper. Customers hate this, and I am sure many have been chased away because of it.
A retail analyst who hasn't worked a window in many years, or in some cases ever, is not going to know what is best for the customer. They are only going to roll down what has been told to them by HQ.
If you really want to know what a customer wants, stop by an office and ask the clerks there.

I agree with Lenny wholeheartedly! Ask the SSAs and the customers. We spend more time reciting questions, signing off logs, scanning packages 3 times each, the list goes on... Those who design all these duties have completely lost sight of customer service. I see more and more of us in the trenches being overworked and thus unable to be pleasant and offer this "best in class" service to our customers. Also, the postal service has dropped the ball on training those of us that are in the position to educate the customers about our products and what we have to offer. We need face to face training like we used to get, not a pile of memos that we aren't given enough time to read. The most enjoyable part of my job as a window clerk is to be able to help my customers find the product(s) they are looking for. I am not given the tools to do this anymore.

Agree wholeheartedly with Window Clerk. In small offices, they want to give us the least number of work hours they can get away with, then expect us to do 10 things "in between" customers. Scan, check the scanner, bring up the internet page, print it out proving you scanned, file it. Something that should take 2 seconds takes 5 minutes. This is not "running like a business". Customers constantly complain they can't get to the PO when we are open. Not everyone is ready to move to the internet, and resent us trying to force them to. Product visibility is OK, but now is causing more problems. Now, after Fedex and UPS deliver we have a whole bunch of customers come in and ask for their package ecause they saw it on the internet that it was at the office. So we have to go back and sort through the carriers hampers for parcels which should be getting delivered tomorrow. Then we don't have time to do the closeout and dispatch duties because we have spent all the time getting these packages. They have cut the clerks to the bone, now they are enacting complicated dispatch procedures and placarding to cut time at the plants, without giving us the time to do it. We need time to slow down and help the customer, not do a lot of reports to prove we did something so the big boss gets a bonus for 100% regardless of the cost.

Get rid of the stupid Mystery Shopper

Personally, one of the common grievances around my town is the hours of the Post Office. Too many people are jammed into our Post Office on Saturday morning because of the lack of time they have to make an appearance on week nights because of how early they close. And then when the office closes at noon, many get turned away.

I happen to agree with these gripes.

I had to travel out to another office about 30 minutes away to get a passport and photo taken, waited in line for around 15 minutes and then they announced that passport services would be closing for the day so they let me jump the line.

I was glad about that at the very least, but still, I feel bad for everyone and their working hours that conflict with their ability to mail a package at their convenience.

@Lenny-Thanks for your comment.

@Window Clerk-Thanks for your comment.

Personally, one of the common grievances around my town is the hours of the Post Office. Too many people are jammed into our Post Office on Saturday morning because of the lack of time they have to make an appearance on week nights because of how early they close. And then when the office closes at noon, many get turned away.

I feel bad for you overworked window clerks----as you are aware, there are clerks out there who spend their time reading magazines and discussing last weekends barbecue with the postmaster. I heard a telecon where a poom was begging the postmasters to release their unneeded clerk hours to those offices who need "all hands on deck". Sorry guys---not gonna happen---not as long as the local postmaster is making the schedule. If they release their hours they are in danger of losing these hours permanently. It's tough to read People magazine when you have to get up every 20 minutes to help some customer mail a package!

Personally I think if the PO wants to stay in business, they need to start thinking IN the box; they need to lower the cost to send packages to stay competitive--honestly how many of us will choose UPS or FedEx because they may be cheaper? Lots! And yes, the "if it fits, it ships" boxes the PO offers are great, IF you have a heavy package you need to send far away. Otherwise it's like the Dollar Store. Surely we all know we may get a bargain on some dollar items but others should sell for much less--so it balances out for the store. To be fair, let's give the PO credit where it's due, because honestly it's EASIER to send a package through the postal service. There are always some who will choose 'ease of use' over cost.

The fact that Snail Mail (sorry, I didn't coin the term but compared to email and instant messages, it fits) is moving the direction of the dinosaur should have been foreseen when it was suggested years ago that we go to a paperless-money society. Thus sprang e-banking and online bill pay. Now those places were paying attention! They went with the flow. So PO this is what I say--I hear the grievances about short Saturday hours so why not dump Saturday delivery but open the PO all day to customers? You could always be closed some other day of the week to compensate. People will learn to deal. And let me back-track a bit--the USPS isn't all bad by any means--you guys did a great job of jumping on the on-line band wagon (consider this blog for one). It's the BEST PLACE to buy stamps (honestly I am more than willing to pay a buck to have my stamps come to my house or office--it's WELL WORTH IT with no hassle and more stamp choices). I also use the website anytime I need to put in a Stop Mail order. I frequently pay for and print postage for packages on line too. I bet most people don't realize what you CAN do on the website. So kudos on that one! But you have to remember that those advancements using technology will have an impact on the need for brick-and-mortar postal buildings. Again, it's foreseeable.

Still the sad fact is having a postal service as it is now is quickly becoming obsolete (if there is less mail to deliver...well you do the math). If I were the Postmaster General I would be carving out an agreement with UPS and FedEx to hire a certain percentage of the postal employees (we would assume some would retire). We, the customers, would then choose our carrier like we choose our phone or electric company. Be proactive. Don't wait for extinction.

I live in a city of over 20,000 people. We are are fortunate enough to have fast curtious clerks who work hard and do a great job. The postal workers on the front lines, i.e. the carriers and clerks, are the ones who take the brunt of the cut backs by working longer hours and having to increase routes. I would love to see a solution, but it's an antiquated system whose cost of operation can only go up. I like the idea of reducing delivery days from 6 to 5 or even four if it somehow wouldn't affect anyone's ability to earn a living.

The Postal Service has heard from many customers over the years about what they need. The answer always is "we can't do that" or "the Commission won't let us do that" or "we will study it." One thing Bernstock did was say "ok I hear you to some of the requests" from customers. Yet the HQ bureaucracy killed the vast majority of those efforts. After all, "we don't do things like that" or "people might critize us."

More studies aren't needed. Or, perhaps more accuratley, before the Postal Service tries to "better understand" what customers might want, they have to be prepared to ACT, to actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk. 99% of the time they don't walk the walk.

I've found to postal service very necessary for internet based businesses. For instance I like the option of carrier pick-up for paypal related transaction. This is a wonderful service from our government

lets hope that the us postal service s a bit sharper than the british royal mail which is frankly a joke these days.

Let us all be thankful that the postal system we have are better than those like in the third world.Even snail mails gets lost.