on Sep 23rd, 2013 in Products & Services | 19 comments
 

Until the early 1970s, citizens applying for passports had to wait in long lines at one of 10 U.S. Department of State passport offices or at a federal or state court. The traveling public was not happy about the inconvenient locations of these offices or the hours’ long wait to submit an application, and they let their elected officials know. The solution allowed post offices to accept and process passport applications on behalf of the State Department. The passports were then mailed directly to the applicants.

This arrangement has proven to be a highly successful marriage of government services. With many post offices offering passport services, it has become far more convenient for citizens. Today, customers can go online to find the nearest post office with passport services and also find the number to call to make an appointment. (Most post offices require customers to make an appointment for passport service.)

The execution fee for a passport is $25. In fiscal year 2012, the U.S. Postal Service processed 5.7 million passport applications for revenue of $142 million. With the additional services it offers, such as passport photos and return postage, the Postal Service’s total revenues from passport services in 2012 was $182 million. It is a nice chunk of change for a service the Postal Service does not need to market aggressively. Still, the Postal Service has seen a significant decline in passport revenue over the past 4 years. In 2008, it earned $283 million from passport services.

The decline in passport revenue could be attributed to a few things. First, the weak economy has undoubtedly reduced international travel over the past 4 years. It could also be that 2008 was an especially strong year for passport revenue because changes taking effect in 2009 required a passport to return to the U.S. from travel to Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean. However, postal staff reduction and facility closures could also be playing a role. Customers have complained about waiting too many days or weeks for a passport appointment at their Post Office or about being directed elsewhere for service.

Why do you think passport services revenue has declined so dramatically in the past few years? Is there a way the Postal Service could improve the process? What changes could it make to maximize passport revenues?

19 Comments

It is very difficult and inconvenient to use the USPS to renew/get new passports. The hours are very restrictive and the cameras are often inoperable. Past experience has taught all of us to go someplace else.

Correct me if I am wrong but, isn't part of the slow down due to the huge influx of applicants, that occured a few years ago, as a result of people desiring to beat the rate increase?

Why does the OIG start these projects with out doing the full research? What was USPS annual passport revenue before the new reuirements went into effect? If everyone who needed new passports in 2008 and 2009 applied back then you should see a return to normal a few years after that. OIG doesnt tell us what normal was. Also when it come time to renew your passport you can not go down to the post-office and process a renewal in the same manor that you do in applying for your first passport, so there is no renewal or repeat business. Can the OIG tell us what percent of Americans now hold valid passports? If its 80% for example then your opportunity in the future is only 20%. If the postal service had that answer then they may be able to predict what percent may apply for new passports in the future.

I think this isone of the services the USPS does well. We needed to get passports for our kids, which you can't do by mail, so we made an appointment and were seen right at our appointment time. The clerk was well-versed in the process and even helped us fix our applications, which we'd filled out wrong in one spot. One downside was that the PO didn't have a camera for pictures, and the people in front of us had to leave to get a picture and come back. But this seems like the ideal way to structure things: make an appointment by phone or online; meet with a clerk who is an expert on the process; then wait for your material to arrive at home. (We actually got the passports sooner than expected.)

Honestly the post office just like other big corporations and companies .Always attempt to do this under the guise of helping but you do it half way . What you should do is really dedicate yourselves to doing it .hire part time people to operate kiosk style booths in the post office that speak the languages of the community they serve and allow those kiosk to be totally dedicated to passports only you can have 2 four hour shifts this way it is cost effective for your company . Also you can run commercials on you tube offering the services along with videos explaining what you need to expedite the process thus making the lines move quicker . It will work and increase revenue if your offices dedicate themselves to really doing it .

I greatly suspect that at least a major factor for the decline in pass port revenue it due to most American's, as I have, are fearful of foreign travel because of the threat of terrorism.

Could it be that in the areas where people would be most likely to need passport services from the Postal Service that hours and access have been cut?
It might also be that the increasing presence of untrained non-career personnel at offices reduces the confidence people might have in these sorts of services. Post offices are increasingly short staffed and postmasters are increasingly bogged down with mandates such that in many places any service that requires a bit of effort or time becomes a bother.

By the way, OIG Williams was quite impressive in his appearance before the Senate last Thursday.

The economy definitely had a negative impact on the number of passports issued. A larger cause is that the Postal Service doesn't do a good job advertising this service. Sure - there is a link at the bottom left of usps.com but without creating awareness that the Postal Service offers this service many people wouldn't know to look there. The Postal Service does an excellent job promoting Priority Mail. It needs to have an advertising campaign to introduce/reintroduce all the products and services (including passports) it offers .

I totally agree with, James Bookman, and Mark Jamison. We do everything half hearted. {substitute another body part for heart if you wish} It is almost as if everytime the decision is made to do something new, there is someone all too anxious to make sure it doesn't work. When you see a program work in isolated places, you will find dedicated workers that quite often invested their own money, and took on extra responsibility to complete the job. Usually there is some curiosity as to why this area was succesful. Instead of endorsing the succesful methods, we will beat them back with the rule book, until they are "normalised".

If we can have carriers out delivering mail till 11pm in Newport News Virginia then we can keep the lobby open as well and service those patrons needing passports. .....we had carriers out deliving mail till 11pm on 9/23/2013

postal management feels passport work is a waste of time.

REMEMBER IT IS ALWAYS MANAGEMENTS FAULT,MANAGEMENT MAKES THE RULES!!!!!

When the post office started doing passports my office jumped on line. We did very well, we had three window stations.
Almost every day we had many appointments, and at times we did walk ins. Then the reduction in force started , three clerks were excessed, the middle window station was eliminated. With the shortness in staff, management did not want to pay overtime to process the passport applications. When time came to renew or take the the online training again, conveniently it was overlooked. The online renewal training process could not be taken again until it was offered again in the future. Fast forward now to current time, our office is still on the website as a passport office. We have not done a passport application in almost two years. People come in everyday or call, wanting to make an appt. for a passport and we have to send them to another office. It's a shame when something was working so well and customers liked it, then the rug was pulled from under them. It seems like the post office is creating it's own demise. What happened to service, giving the customers what they want not sending them somewhere else. I want to keep my job not give it to someone else.

Fewer people are using the Post Office for passports becaue the customer service is absolutely terrible. A couple of years ago we needed to get passports for our children. So, we called the nearest Post Office that provided passport services. All we got was a recorded message that said an appointment was required. There was no option to talk to a live person at all. We left two or three messages on different days and never received any call back.

I then found that passports could be applied for at the county government office. The service there was surprisingly good. They actually answer their phone! And, the wait time in their office wasn't long at all. I would never even consider using the Post Ofice for passport services again. Not a chance!

Why would anyone think that a Post Office, which always has long lines, poor service, and union employees who don't care about customers, would be anyone's choice for any service when they have an alternative?

Staffing. Our station could do passports all day long, our passport office is used for storage, computer long gone. Only one passport qualified clerk, doing them by appointment, hour per day...that's just one of thousands of missed revenue opportunities.

My youngest daughter was given the chance to go to Germany for 3-1/2 weeks leaving in late June in mid-May. I called my Post Office to schedule an appointment the next day at approximately 8:30 AM. The station manger answered the call. After stating the purpose of my call, he asked that I call back after 9:00 AM. When I called back the station manager ask that I hold and then advised me that the next appointment time was seven week from when I called, which was 1-1/2 weeks after she was scheduled to leave. So we got up early on the following Saturday to go to the larger Post Office, which previously had walk-in for passport application, only to find out appointments were now required. I took down the phone number and attempted to call for an appointment later that day to no avail. To obtain her passport we went to the Passport Agency two days before she left and got her passport the same, which means USPS not only lost the $25.00 application fee but also lost the Priority Mail Postage for sending the passport and returning of the original documentation.

My wife and I also needed our passports for an upcoming trip in December. After receiving new birth certificates and marriage certificate I attempted to call to schedule appointments for us to submit our applications. After many attempts to get someone to answer the phone an individual finally answered the phone only to advise me that nobody was there and took my name and number to have somebody call me back, which they never did. On one of my attempts I left the phone ring for 20+ minutes. The next day, after the person took my name and number, I called again and got appointments in less than five minutes. When we went to our appointments the clerk initially told me that I needed a new birth certificate, which I explained that I had already requested and received a new birth certificate and it had less information than the one I had with me. I also had both my Hospital Birth Certificate and my Baptismal Certificates with me, which the US State Department website were acceptable if the parents’ names are not on the Birth Certificate. I also had a receipt of registration for my Birth Certificate, which included my parents’ names. I advise the clerk to check the US State Department website to see what information was acceptable if the parents’ names are not on Birth Certificate. Initially, the clerk took my Birth Certificate and the receipt to submit but upon seeing our Marriage Certificate, the clerk returned my Birth Certificate and the receipt and submitted our Marriage Certificate instead. The clerk also required my wife and I to list were our parents were born, even though the information was optional on the application nor would the clerk allow us to request the 52 page passport. (When I went to the Passport Agency to obtain my daughter’s passport, her application was changed from the 28 page to 52 page by the clerk there.) Needless to say, I received a letter from the US State Department stating that I had to submit my Birth Certificate before a passport could be issued. So I sent all of the original paperwork I had taken with me to apply for the passport and mailed it to the Passport Agency. I called the supervisor of the clerk that originally processed my application and explained the situation. The supervisor told me that the USPS would submit the additional paperwork for me at no cost. I explained that had already mailed at my expense to avoid further delay. As a customer service organization, the feel the supervisor, USPS, should have offered to refund the postage.

The USPS should put in place an automated telephone system for passport application appointment (similar to the Passport Agency), a web base appointment system, where customers may enter when they would like an appointment or a ZIP Code of where they would the appointment and the “calendar” would advise the customer when/where the appointment(s) are available or have as many of the retail window clerk trained for processing passport applications as possible and then just have passport applicants proceed through the line and if the next available window retail clerk is not able to process passports you just wait for the next clerk that can. It would be more customer friendly and less costly to allow customer very easily schedule an appointment either through a web base or automated phone system than to require them to make numerous calls to many post offices or even one post office to obtain an appointment.

We did 10 + passports a day, then we had people retire they didn't replace them.
We started having appointments and took 8 a day but only 4 on Saturday .

Our office cancelled Saturdays now due to
Less clerks. Our office is in an affluent neighborhood and could do
15 passports on Saturday. We get calls non strop for say appointments
And after 4,

Management opts to not offer them due to not enough clerks.

I'm a recently upgraded level 18. My neighbor level 21 office was having a string of poor Mystery Shops. Processing passports is not the 12.5minutes that you are credited for. Often it is much longer, and that affects WTIL. So the office stopped taking passports and directed customers to my office which is about 4 miles up the hill. It's basically just myself and one clerk who is the passport agent. During our peak period at the start of summer, we were processing an average of 12 per day with a maximum of 16. We purchased a passport camera on EBuy and it's been a huge money maker. WalMart and Costco does photos for $5 and we charge $15. But most customers would rather have us do it because it's more convenient and they trust that we know what we're doing.

Passport service has been a boon to my office by earning more clerk hours, not to mention customers like the atmosphere of a small office. The other benefit is that now we have more new customers coming over to our office rather than standing in a long line at big office.

We also get good support from Hawaii state passport agency when we have difficult and unique situations. Doing passports in small offices can be a godsend for revenue generation and earning more hours. It's also a great strategy in relieving the long lines in big offices.

I tried to call my PO and Neighboring PO's for an appointment several times. The phone is never answered. City Hall which is across the street ,take walk ins, had me finished in minutes.

The idiots at the post office gave me the texas 713 2263555 number and after 45 minutes of hearing your call is very important to us ....... i found the way around it for all of the US call 877 487-2778 you will be able to get your appointment in 10 minutes after calling I was able to get mine for 4 days later!!!!!

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