September 21, 2021 (RISC-WP-21-010)

  • The Postal Service’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system attempts to quickly resolve a customer inquiry without transferring the caller to a customer care agent.
  • Between fiscal year (FY) 2018 and the first eight months of FY 2021, the IVR system’s containment rate – the rate of calls not transferred to agents – increased from 62 percent to 78 percent.
  • IVR post-call survey results from FYs 2019 and 2020 indicate an increase in customer satisfaction with the IVR system.
  • The Postal Service could enhance current IVR system metrics by including metrics for the rate of complete, contained calls and the rate of incomplete, abandoned calls.

The Postal Service’s customer care phone number, 1-800-ASK-USPS, is one of the primary channels for customers to connect with the Postal Service. When customers call 1-800-ASK-USPS, their call is initially handled by an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. Using voice commands or keypad inputs, customers can navigate the IVR system to get information or complete tasks, such as finding the location and hours of post offices or tracking a package.

The Postal Service’s containment rate has increased steadily since FY 2018, peaking at 78 percent in the first eight months of FY 2021. Increasing call containment results in reduced customer care costs because an agent does not handle those calls.

Survey results suggest that customer experiences with the Postal Service’s IVR system are improving. Between FY 2019 and FY 2020, customers reported improved satisfaction with the IVR experience and more customers reported their inquiry was resolved. However, opportunities exist for continued improvement. In FY 2020, roughly one-quarter of IVR survey respondents were very dissatisfied with their IVR experience.

To enhance current IVR system performance metrics, the OIG recommends including metrics for the rate of complete, contained calls and the rate of incomplete, abandoned calls. The agency does not include the rate of callers who abandon their call before reaching a resolution among its performance metrics. Analyzing this data could help identify parts of the IVR system’s call flow that negatively impact customer satisfaction and experience.

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Comments (4)

  • anon

    abysmal ivr. will say business hours but don’t specify when youre calling within open office times so you can talk to a human, and when its after hours so your stuck with the stupid robo voice. no option to take survey to give proper feedback on this. waiting on a time sensitive package that has now suspiciously disappeared off my informed delivery emails because it wasnt delivered on time. disgusting service. appalled. and this was priority mail.

    Jun 27, 2022
  • anon

    I'll share my experience as one whose call was "contained"--i.e., I did not speak with a customer care rep no matter how many times I said "agent" or "human" or "no", and whose call did not reach resolution. None of the options were good so I chose "track a package" even though I had already tracked the package. The IVR system would not let me proceed without the tracking number, would not let me back up to a broader list of options, and would not connect me to a human. So yeah, I hung up. Besides that, I hadn't even called the 1-800 number; I had called my local post office and it bypassed that. (I've never known them to answer the phone anyway.) Later I found this text on my phone about a visual IVR link and I googled that and that's how I found this page. USPS is so deeply, deeply flawed.

    Apr 30, 2022
  • anon

    I was conned by a company thru the internet. Never got the product. However when I filed a dispute. They send a fake post mark and signature saying it was delivered. I cannot read the tracking number. How can I do anything to prove they have conned me.

    Oct 20, 2021
  • anon

    The mailman is not putting my mail in the mailbox he's throwing it onto the porch. This is unacceptable especially in wet weather.. post office 22041. Lunchwood road Falls Church Virginia. This has been going on for a while needs to end one way or another.

    Oct 12, 2021

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  • Joy Sanzone, Alex Cullen, David Neu, Paola Piscioneri, and Emily Bowen contributed to this report.