• on Apr 9th, 2013 in Products & Services | 33 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service has a wide spectrum of customers, from businesses and organizations to every household in the United States. Balancing the needs of these customers is no small task, yet satisfying them is essential to the Postal Service’s success. With that in mind, the Postal Service has made improving the customer experience one of the key elements of its strategic goals.

    For consumers, customer service ranges from wait time in lobbies to letter carrier service to interaction with postal staff at a Post Office. Business mailers might focus on different aspects of customer service, such as delivery performance, interaction with acceptance personnel, or how quickly a service problem is resolved. What customers might not realize is that the Postal Service relies on a number of systems to support customer services and to improve a user’s overall experience. These systems can also reduce manual inputs, increase efficiency, and streamline operations. Often seamless to customers, these sophisticated systems have helped to make mail a reliable method of communications. However, when they go down or work inefficiently, it can lead to negative customer experiences, which might impact future business opportunities.

    For example, business mailers use the Facility Access and Shipment Tracking (FAST) system to set up appointments to enter mail at postal facilities. FAST collects and monitors appointment data for the facilities, which improves the efficiency and effectiveness of appointment creation for both customers and Postal Service management. Business mailers also rely on PostalOne!, a suite of web-based business capabilities that allows mailers to integrate their mail planning and production processes with those of the Postal Service for “seamless” and efficient mail induction.

    Consumers are more likely to use the Postal Service’s website usps.com to research or access services, such as purchasing postage, looking up ZIP Codes, printing shipping labels, or submitting a change of address form. And although retail customers might not realize it, their customer experience hinges on the Point of Service (POS) Retail system, which automates retail transactions at post offices and other retail counters.

    When these systems are working properly, customers may not think about them at all. But if these systems experience an outage, the customer experience could be entirely different. Our office is reviewing these systems as part of an audit and would like to hear from customers. What have your experiences been when using FAST, PostalOne!, usps.com and other types of services? Are they consistently available? Or have you experienced system availability problems?

    For business customers, has system availability or slow response times affected your own internal processes, such as transportation schedules or other mail entry issues? For retail customers, have you had problems accessing information or services on usps.com? We also welcome comments of Postal Service employees on their experiences with these applications and the services they support.

    While the scope of our audit is limited to systems review, we welcome input on the entire customer experience.

  • on Apr 9th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 12 comments

    In 1963, the ZIP Code was introduced by the U.S. Postal Service as a means to deliver mail faster and cheaper. Fifty years later, this system has grown to provide unforeseen benefits as an infrastructure that enables commerce and organizes information. However, the ZIP Code was not universally accepted at the onset. To overcome skepticism from consumers and mailers, the Postal Service launched a creative outreach campaign led by a character called Mr. ZIP. This mailman caricature served as the primary advocate for the ZIP Code and increased public support for the idea enough to overcome the initial resistance from stakeholders. Below we interview Mr. ZIP to hear the story of the ZIP Code.

     


    As Mr. ZIP mentions in his interview, the Postal Service Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center has worked with IBM to issue a white paper entitled The Untold Story of the ZIP Code. This white paper explores the lessons learned from the creation of the ZIP Code and estimates an economic value for the ZIP Code of about $10 billion annually across the entire economy. Most importantly, the paper presents two enhancements to strengthen the ZIP Code’s placement in the modern world:

    • Combine the ZIP Code with the precision of geocodes (latitude and longitude coordinates)
    • Improve the ZIP Codes value in targeting by linking demographic information with the ZIP Code and Utilizing the full ZIP +9 or some variation to offer smaller mailing groupings.

    Combining the ZIP Code with geocodes could allow easier reconfiguration of delivery routes in real time as well as help align government in assisting disaster recovery efforts, tracking population “flight paths” to unaddressed areas, and increasing the capability to link demographics to unaddressed areas. Linking demographic information with the ZIP Code and offering smaller mailing groupings would improve target mailings. This would increase the value of mail for senders and receivers by connecting recipients with mail they want to receive and reducing less valuable broad mailings.

    What ideas do you have for enhancing the ZIP Code to meet the demands of today’s ever-evolving society? How might the Postal Service enhance the ZIP Code to gain internal benefits? What enhancements would place the ZIP Code in a better position to provide the innovators and entrepreneurs new capabilities to meet today’s demands?

  • on Apr 9th, 2013 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 0 comments

    “Mystery shoppers” sounds like a new reality television series, but it is actually one of the tools the U.S. Postal Service uses to gauge customer service. Mystery shoppers are customers unknown to the retail staff and who fill out evaluations on their shopping experience, which helps determine how well retail units are performing.

    The Postal Service’s Retail Customer Experience (RCE) program uses mystery shoppers to objectively collect data on retail customer experiences. This information is used to drive behaviors for improving customer service, increasing retail revenues, and correcting unfavorable conditions. What kinds of things are these mystery shoppers evaluating?

     

     

    • How long did they wait in line? Was it over 5 minutes? This makes up 40 percent of the RCE score.
    • Were forms and supplies available? Were promotional messages neatly displayed? This makes up 25 percent of the score.
    • Was the Postal Service employee attentive and did he or she interact pleasantly with the mystery shopper? Was the retail area neat, clean, and well maintained? This “image” part of the survey makes up 20 percent of the score.
    • Did the Postal Service employee ask the mystery shopper if the package being shipped contained hazardous materials? This represents 15 percent of the score.

    Although not factored into the overall score, mystery shoppers also record their experience in these categories:

    • Product offering – To what extent were mystery shoppers offered certain products and services?
    • Product explanations – To what extent were benefits and features of products and services explained?
    • Overall experience – Mystery shoppers provide their view on the overall experience, including whether their expectations were met and their likelihood to return.

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