Objective

Our objective was to evaluate key factors affecting the customer experience at Postal Service retail units and identify opportunities to enhance the overall customer experience.

The Postal Service’s vast number of post offices is the largest retail network in the country, spanning more than 30,000 Postal Service-managed retail spaces. These offices drew over 857 million retail customers and generated about $9.7 billion (14 percent) of the Postal Service’s $69.6 billion operating revenue in fiscal year (FY) 2017. Research consistently shows that focusing on the customer experience is a successful growth strategy, as companies with loyal customers grow more profitably through their existing customer base than do companies focusing primarily on trying to recruit new customers.

A joint study by the Verde Group, Wharton School’s Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative, and the Retail Council of Canada identified five key factors that contribute to a positive retail customer experience:

  • Engagement: Being polite, genuinely caring, and showing an interest in helping customers by acknowledging and listening.
  • Executional Excellence: Patiently explaining and advising, checking stock, helping find products, and having product knowledge.
  • Brand Experience: Maintaining an exciting store design and atmosphere, consistently providing great product quality, and making customers feel they are connected to the products and services offered.
  • Expediting: Being sensitive to customers’ time in long check-out lines and proactive in helping to expedite the shopping process.
  • Problem Recovery: Helping resolve and compensate for problems, upgrading quality, and ensuring complete satisfaction.

This audit expands on retail customer service data the Postal Service collects through customer surveys and mystery shoppers to identify root causes and corrective actions that could improve postal customers’ overall retail experience.

What the OIG Found

The Postal Service has opportunities to enhance customer satisfaction in each of the five factor areas affecting customer experience. Our auditors visited 136 retail units nationwide as customers, based on a statistical sample. We were dissatisfied with our overall experience at 32 of them (or 24 percent). Based on these results, we estimate customers at about one in four retail units across the country would have negative experiences. We also found that customers would be more likely to have positive experiences at retail units in rural areas rather than those in urban areas.

We attributed our overall dissatisfaction at the 32 retail units to the absence of one or more of the five key factors to a positive retail customer experience. The factors most frequently missing were executional excellence, concerns with brand experience, and problems engaging with employees.

The top reasons for our overall positive experiences at 94 of the retail units (69 percent) included friendly and knowledgeable retail associates who could complete our transactions and facility cleanliness. We had neutral experiences at the remaining 10 post offices (7 percent), which were mainly driven by interactions with the retail associate. Specifically, the retail associate was able to salvage a negative experience we had entering the facility, or the associate negatively impacted an otherwise positive experience.

In addition to visiting the 136 retail units, we reviewed results of the Postal Service’s Retail Customer Experience (RCE) program. Under the program, mystery shoppers evaluate the customer experience at about a quarter (7,500) of all retail units. The RCE program uses a 100-point scale to evaluate each office. The average overall score for RCE in FY 2017 was 93 out of 100. Unlike the RCE program, the site visits in our audit represented all retail units. Instead of using points like the RCE program, we evaluated units using the five key customer service factors, weighted evenly, under the premise that a negative experience with any of the factors could lead to dissatisfaction.

We also analyzed the results of a FY 2017 OIG customer survey, studied social media reviews for 205 randomly selected post offices, and evaluated FY 2017 Postal Service point-of-service survey results. The additional analyses revealed issues similar to the ones we experienced during our visits in the key factors affecting retail customer experience:

  • Engagement: Customers’ positive or negative engagement with retail associates was a pivotal factor in their overall customer retail experiences. At 16 of the units we visited (12 percent), the retail associate did not greet us in a friendly manner, maintain a positive demeanor, or use a polite tone of voice.
  • Executional Excellence: Retail associates at 24 of the units we visited (18 percent) did not provide useful information about our transactions or inquiries. On social media, issues related to executional excellence was the primary driver of negative reviews.
  • Brand Experience: We observed facility maintenance concerns at 35 of the units we visited (26 percent). Positive customer comments from point-of-service surveys indicated that the cleanliness of the post office influenced their overall satisfaction.
  • Expediting: We waited in line over five minutes at eight of the sites we visited (6 percent) and more than 10 minutes at three of the units we visited. Customers on social media also reported excessive wait times.
  • Problem Recovery: We were unable to contact seven of the units we visited (5 percent) via telephone using the numbers posted on usps.com. We also experienced an ongoing issue trying to redeem a money order after a retail associate misprinted the date. Resolving the problem took several weeks and many communications, which created frustration and negative sentiment toward the post office.

Customers had negative experiences at post offices because management has not established a culture heavily focused on customer service at all retail units. For example, retail associates are awarded their positions based on seniority, rather than their interpersonal or customer service skills, and most are not required to take annual customer service training. In addition, because the National Performance Assessment does not emphasize customer experience-related metrics, customer survey results account for a small portion (up to 3.5 percent) of the retail unit’s total score.

Providing a negative customer experience affects the likelihood of an individual returning to a retail unit, as well as their decision to use the Postal Service for higher-revenue, business needs. A lack of organization-wide focus on retail customer experience could negatively impact the Postal Service’s brand, customer retention, and revenue.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended Postal Service management re-evaluate the proportion of a unit’s National Performance Assessment score directly attributable to retail customer service, take steps to cultivate a stronger retail customer service culture by integrating customer-focused practices into daily operations, develop and provide annual customer service training for all retail associates, and benchmark with organizations known for their retail customer experience and determine the feasibility of the Postal Service customizing these practices.

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Comments (27)

  • anon

    on Friday August 30 i went to the Prairieville, La. post office (70769 ) A good visit. I did not have to wait to get served. Friendly service. Quick in and out.

    Aug 30, 2019
  • anon

    I think the mystery shopper idea is ludicrous. I KNOW why I am going to the post office, I KNOW what I want/need … "how do I get this letter to such and such a place in the fastest, least expensive way" … I don't want to stand there and listen to the clerk asking me a bunch of questions … can I interest you in ______ or ______. I just want to get in and out. USPS quit wasting money on the program.

    Jul 10, 2019
  • anon

    missing package last activity on priority parcel post 20Mar 3x and 21Mar 1x WASHINGTON HEIGHTS STATION 10033 CALLLED STATION 3X TO SPEAK TO RUDE INDIVIDUAL NAME BRITTANY OR WHITNEY whom could only advsie me to sit and wait for my package to be returned due to insufficient mailing address to sender . this box statES RETURNED TO SENDER NO ONE FROM POST OFFICE HAS RETURNED ANY CALLS.. PER BRITTANY NO POSTMASTER AT LOCATION 10033. I EVERYDAY SHE IS MAD..SO AM I YOU HAVE LOST OR STOLEN MY PACKAGE

    Mar 28, 2019
  • anon

    If the IG wanted to get a true "snapshot" of postal employee behaviour I would recommend having someone just walk into a USPS PUBLIC lobby with a video recorder, acceptable behavior IAW poster 7, and see postal employees lose their minds and encourage other customers to do the same. I would reccommd watching a few recent YouTube videos of customers being mistreated, lied to, and calling the police on the un aggressive folks recording. https://youtu.be/dHoktEDetD4 https://youtu.be/SVUFUXlEhMg

    Mar 15, 2019
  • anon

    No doubt. I was trespassed from The Silver Springs Post Office for filming. You can search on YouTube for the story. I was intimidated and called a thief. I was subsequently placed in the back of a sheriff's car for a First Amendment Protected Activity. I have had similar experiences in other post offices. I must say, what sort of mannerisms are being tolerated at these facilities? I wonder what other violations go on given the lack of public scrutiny?

    Apr 13, 2019
  • anon

    How you measure 'satisfaction' needs to be stated. You are glossing over too many details of how certain qualitative designations are identified. If I wrote a paper like this, I would be crucified.

    Mar 12, 2019
  • anon

    Our mail is being continually misdelivered to a house two doors down...we have spoken in person to the carrier, the substitute carriers, the complaint supervisor...but it continues. Does this happen at the post office sorting station? Is it the carrier is incompetent and cannot tell a 3 from a 2?????????????// Our package was kept by the people even after the post office sent them evidence that the post office had misdelivered the package. More letters and package were misdelivered even after this fiasco. How much more mail is being lost to us? No one seems to be able to answer this.

    Mar 09, 2019
  • anon

    Our mail is being continually misdelivered to two houses down. This is happening at the sorting level and then the delivery. What is happening to the post office? Why can't it hire competent carriers???

    Mar 09, 2019
  • anon

    Most of my life the post office has been a frustrating chore. I LOVE the twin lakes p.o. in Federal way, wa. The people who work there are upbeat, positive, speedy and helpful. Even the music is great! I get help and hints on the best way to handle a mailing. Two thumbs up for this office!eA

    Jan 27, 2019
  • anon

    Only ONE teller at Dunwoody P O on a Saturday. Line went out door...could hear people in back area laughing and playing music. I only had to pick up mail. Nobody answered door at pickup counter - so was forced to wait in line it's been 40 minutes so far!! The one teller refused to take 'group' pickups all at once to help line go faster...claiming " somebody will be up soon"...NEVER HAPPENED! It just now going on 45 minutes and I still have another 10 people in front of me.....very bad station.

    Jan 26, 2019
  • anon

    My my mail has been missing now over 2 weeks i went to the post office and no one knows anything and no help

    Nov 20, 2018
  • anon

    Everytime I enter the post office in the Bronx there is an issue with the Customer service. This seems to happen only in the urban areas. I need post master Marcellina Del Pizzo’s number and email. This is unacceptable and inconsiderate to the community. We all deserve the best service wherever we spend our money.

    Nov 17, 2018
  • anon

    ISSUE: Post Office at EAU GALLIE, 681 Saint Clair Street, Melbourne, FLorida 32935-9998. The service is not good. The front staff are very unfriendly and hard to deal with. It's like the staff doesn't like their jobs and would rather be somewhere else. What a shame. Few people know about this issue page so you probably don't get many complaints. Hint: go there undercover.

    Nov 16, 2018
  • anon

    I have a general complaint about USPS policy and cannot find a place to put it so I am posting it here. I would like to make a formal complaint, but it isn't about anything on your list. It is about your policy of not delivering to addresses located on a private road. It is 2018 and EVERY package delivery company will deliver to my address without any problem except USPS. If my package comes from USPS and they cannot fit it in the box at the end of the road for any reason then I have to pick it up from the post office. This uses additional gas, makes me wait in a line, and is just inconvenient and stupid as the box is 100 yards from house. The guy cannot go 100 yards up a perfectly maintained road? You are generating a ton of bad will with this policy. I tell everyone NOT to use USPS for anything because of how you treat me. But when I order something I don't always have a choice or it isn't clear who the carrier will be. Deliver my damned packages! Quality and customer service my ass.

    Nov 09, 2018
  • anon

    The tracking service you have sucks!! Your site is not user friendly! I already know the date of the package delivery, but wanted to know where it is now. I won't be using USPS to ship packages again. I'll use ups or FedEx from now on.

    Nov 09, 2018
  • anon

    As I stand in line at the Aldridge. Station in Ft Lauderdale, I am amazed at the ineffectiveness of the employees. Patrons are directed to leave their packages in an unsecured location, If you leave the package in an unsecured location the post office has no liability. Employees are surly if they have to scan a labeled package. Employees are surly if a customer leaves a package on the counter to be scanned. Amazing how the unions protect the inefficient employee.

    Nov 01, 2018
  • anon

    I live in Secaucus NJ. I also have a home in Naples Fl.every time I forward my mail to my Naples home I have a problem. This last time some of my bills were returned to sender and told this was an incorrect address; subsequently my bills were not paid on time and I was charged a late fee. Please let me know how I can alleviate this program. Thank you.

    Oct 29, 2018
  • anon

    Thank you for your message Rich. If your issue has not yet been resolved by the USPS Office of Consumer Affairs, please file a complaint with our Hotline. You can access the online complaint form on our website. This will allow us to look into the matter for you.

    Oct 30, 2018
  • anon

    I am astounded at the negative comments re the USPO in Sugar Land, Tx. - my observations over the last 15 years doing business there show a rapid deterioration of service & efficiency, showing lack of courtesy if not outright rudeness to patrons. Is not ANYONE in charge to require order & courteous efficiency?? I have attempted to get a name, any name, of the person in charge of Sugar Land offices or Ft Bend offices. — no luck. I am a highly educated person trying to manage the maze of red tape of government road blocks to get some responsible answers. Please respond. Thank you. Hopeful but doubtful to get a response.

    Oct 09, 2018
  • anon

    I just wanted to mention the awful service rendered this afternoon at my local post office in which a woman behind the desk was talking to a friend and exchanging numbers and asking another postal worker to retrieve her cell phone so she could get her cell phone number because she couldn't remember it while a long line was forming and then, after she finished with her she proceeded to wrap pens with tape and only after she finished with them then she asked if someone needed to be waited on. All the while the young gentlemen assisting her kept the line moving. Finally, after I was waited on I asked why no one picked up the phone when I called and she stated we don't answer phones we don't have time for that. (huh) I only had to come in because I received an email stating I missed the carrier and I should direct them on the form (they should have left but didn't) what to do. These are not the kind of people that should work for the public at all!!! very unprofessional

    Oct 09, 2018
  • anon

    Hello, Carla. Thank you for your message. Please file a complaint directly with the Postal Service at emailus.usps.com/emailUs/iq/usps/request.do?forward=emailUs. Just choose the tab marked "Personnel."

    Oct 10, 2018
  • anon

    I had ordered a ring for my husband" whom is an Iraqi war vet" on the 29th of september from a seller from Miami Fl. It was shipped out and once it hit the Opa Locka Facility it has just stopped. I have read some real horror stories about that facility how packages just go missing there. This is the kind of stuff that makes me not want to ever order anything again!

    Oct 08, 2018
  • anon

    lost packages, packages hanging out mail box where local mail man will not leave on porch.Told me It's not his job. I'm in a wheelchair and the local mail man leaves my packages on street if can't stuff it in regular mail box.Today my clothing bag delivered cut open and clothing dirty not damaged from the big delivery mail truck. Can anyone help?

    Oct 08, 2018
  • anon

    I cannot believe that the USPS is still in our government’s employ. What an absolute terrifying waste of my tax money!! Why I am still surprised at one horrible experience after another, is a surprise in itself. For example, if an item needs to be signed for, then why wouldn’t the mail carrier—oh I don’t know— RING THE DOORBELL?!? Or, knock on the door?? I understand that mail delivery is not rocket science, but I assume everyone has been blessed with even a minute amount of common sense. I have been proven wrong...thank you USPS. The depths of your inefficiency knows no boundaries.

    Oct 06, 2018
  • anon

    I am having a difficult time receiving mail in Louisville Ky. over the last several years I have had to chase my mail down to several different post offices. Now a days packages that are bigger than a few inches are being returned without even attempting to make a delivery. Since UPS and FED-ex never have a problem delivering, I will start using them more often. Been at this same address for years and the mail has the correct address when I get it!

    Oct 06, 2018
  • anon

    The worst customer service I ever experienced. For years the package pick up at MORRISANIA STATION 442 EAST 167TH STREET BRONX NY 10456. Has been plaqued with long lines and poor customer service. For years absolutely nothing has been done to help this community post office. I have seen managers come from all over to assist this post office yet to no avail. I encourage you to send someone from the postal service to see the poor quality in customer service. The workers are very slow and are often coming in after 9am and then heading out to obtain their breakfast while customers wait on line for packages. There is usually one person to retrieve packages for 40 plus people awaiting on the line. Please please look into this matter as soon as possible. Thank You

    Oct 05, 2018
  • anon

    The USPO is the one government agency the Trump administration has not yet screwed up that I can see. I hope he and his evil minions are leaving our amazing USPO alone to do it's important work. I use the USPO exclusively for all mail, shipping and I recently purchased business envelopes that are pre- addressed with prepaid postage and business cards and checks. I hope to some day SOONER RATHER THAN LATER to be able to bank at the USPS because of the relationship to community, access to rural areas and the USPO as a brand to be marketed as a trusted leader in all things from mail and shipping to Financial Services.

    Oct 04, 2018