• on Oct 27th, 2014 in Products & Services | 8 comments

    There’s an adage in business that it’s cheaper and easier to retain existing customers than to find new ones. It’s been estimated that it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than to retain ones. This explains why businesses work so hard to keep customers happy.

    The U.S. Postal Service understands the importance of customer retention. It has ramped up its efforts in this regard, including changing its sales organization, enhancing its use of analytics to see where it risks losing customers, and operating customer retention call centers. Still, customer retention is a challenge in an era of shrinking mail volume. While customer defections decreased from fiscal year (FY) 2012 to FY 2013, the magnitude of this ongoing problem is hard on the Postal Service’s bottom line.

    We recently looked at the effectiveness of the Postal Service’s customer retention strategies and explored whether it could do more to keep customers from reducing their postage spend or from leaving altogether. Our report recommended the Postal Service promote organization-wide collaboration and share information on customers at risk of defecting. We also urged the Postal Service to reach out to former customers.

    Interestingly, dormant customer accounts, the subject of a separate audit report, provide an outreach opportunity. While the audit report did not look at inactive and dormant accounts as a customer retention tool, it seems like a natural fit. Dormant accounts are advanced deposit accounts for business mailings that have been cancelled and closed. The Postal Service cancels the accounts following a notification process that occurs after 2 years of inactivity. What if these inactive and dormant accounts were used as sales leads?

    Many of us are accustomed to hearing from our doctors or dentists if we miss our regular checkups. In fact, we welcome the reminders. Could inactive and dormant accounts trigger a similar “outreach” attempt from postal employees?

    What suggestions do you have for customer retention? What does it take to retain a strong and thriving customer base? Or should new customers be the focus as mailing budgets shrink? 

  • on Oct 20th, 2014 in OIG | 15 comments

    As we celebrate our sixth year of blogging, you might think we’ve covered it all. Surely we’ve hit on every postal topic and angle there is, right? Well apparently not. We have a backlog of issues we want to share and people keep giving us excellent insights and feedback.

    Over the years we’ve noticed that, every once in a while, one of our blogs really strikes a chord with our stakeholders. This past year, we had a few of those moments. The first was our blog on the Harry Potter stamp (Will Harry Potter Cast a Spell on Young Stamp Collectors?). We knew the stamp’s release was controversial. But 226 comments? And more than 57,000 views? Stakeholders care a lot about postage stamps, and social media let them express their sentiments. Other blogs that generated heavy commentary were Network Consolidation Reboot (with a record-setting poll response of over 3,700) and The Road to a New Delivery Fleet, with many of the comments coming from current or retired postal workers. This reinforced one of our earliest blogging insights: Postal workers are passionate about the Postal Service, and they have a lot of good ideas to share.

    However, comments alone don’t measure a blog’s impact. Readership is another good indicator of whether a blog topic resonates with stakeholders. We were surprised to discover that sometimes the blogs with the fewest comments actually got the most views. Our blog asking about the role of a chief innovation officer (The Innovation Unit Dilemma) topped more than 23,000 reads, as did our blogs on the Postal Service’s deal with Amazon to deliver on Sundays (No More Day of Rest for Postal Package Delivery) and on same-day delivery (If You Build It, They Will Come. Maybe)

    Finally, we are finding that the blog isn’t the only place where the action is. Facebook and Twitter continue to see a lot of activity. For example, our blog on the Social Security Administration’s return to paper statements lit up on Facebook even though it generated only a handful of blog comments.

    We mention all of this not to toot our own horn, but to remind stakeholders that this blog serves as an important tool to engage with you on issues that affect the Postal Service. Your input matters to us and informs our work. As we toast our 6-year anniversary, we hope you will continue to share your insights, ideas, issues, and concerns.

    What topics would you like to see covered in a blog? 

  • on Oct 13th, 2014 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 15 comments

    People care a lot about their local post offices, at least if the number of news stories on the topic and the comments we receive on our blog and Audit Project pages are indications.

    For some, the neighborhood Post Office serves as everything from the source of a community’s name and identity, to a spot where neighbors can connect and keep track of each other. Of course the Post Office is also the place where folks drop off holiday goodies and care packages, or buy stamps and other mailing supplies. And rentable Post Office boxes create physical addresses for local entrepreneurs.

    So, it’s no surprise that when the Postal Service decides to relocate a Post Office – whether moving it to a less costly property or consolidating several facilities into one –communities have an opinion about it.

    The ubiquity of its Post Office network is one of the Postal Service’s most valuable assets. But, the Postal Service says more than one-third of postal retail purchases are now made somewhere other than a Post Office, including on usps.com. It’s therefore understandable that the Postal Service is making changes, such as instituting shorter hours of operation, encouraging local businesses to offer some postal services, or consolidating low-traffic facilities.

    The Postal Service recognizes that it matters to customers when their local Post Office is shuttered. And there are specific regulations and guidelines designed to give affected communities information about planned moves, and the right to appeal portions of those plans. But is the Postal Service following the letter and spirit of those regulations and guidelines? Our recent audit looked at the relocation process and we found it could be more transparent. The public may not always have the information it needs, when it needs it, to understand the implications of relocations and make meaningful comments on them.

    What about you? If you have experienced a Post Office relocation in your community, were you satisfied with how and when you were informed? What, if any, changes could be made to make Post Office relocations more transparent or otherwise improve the process? 

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