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.
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.
The U.S. Postal Service’s current fleet of more than 219,000 vehicles includes approximately 146,000 delivery vehicles, most of which are long-life vehicles (LLVs). The first LLVs were produced in 1987, and they average about 10 miles per gallon. The vehicles are right-hand drive to accommodate drivers delivering numerous mailpieces to curbside mailboxes. These iconic right-hand drive delivery trucks are nearing the end of a 24-year life cycle and are costly to maintain. In a recent audit, we noted that it cost the Postal Service about $524 million to fix the LLVs in fiscal year 2009.
The Postal Service has more than 10,000 prices contained in a 1,800-page customer manual known as the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM). The DMM provides individual and commercial mailers with information about postal services and standards for both domestic and international mailings. The Price List, also known as Notice 123, contains domestic and international retail and commercial prices for all postal products and services.
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.