Delivering high-quality service and providing excellent customer experiences are performance outcome goals the U.S. Postal Service has established to measure corporate strategy success and continuous improvement efforts.
Mail delivery and retail services present challenges in large populous areas, such as the Bronx, where many people live in multi-family buildings and high-rise apartments. Owners or managers of apartment buildings or other multi-unit dwellings are responsible for providing carriers access to buildings and for the purchase, installation, and maintenance of mail receptacles, authorized by Postal Service authorities. Failure to follow policy is sufficient justification for withholding mail delivery and requiring occupants to call for their mail at the local post office or carrier delivery unit.
Mail delivery in the Bronx and other areas in the New York District is accomplished by using two types of routes ― a foot route and a parcel route. A foot route carrier walks the route and delivers letters, flats, and small packages that fit into their carts. Carriers on dedicated parcel routes supplement multiple foot routes by using vehicles to deliver packages and any other mail that cannot fit into the foot route cart.
When packages cannot be delivered, carriers must complete a Postal Service (PS) Form 3849, Delivery Notice/Reminder/ Receipt, and place it in the customer’s mailbox. Carriers must endorse packages with their initials, route number, and date of initial attempt. Carriers then return the packages to the station for redelivery or pick up by the customer. Customers claim their packages by presenting PS Form 3849 to the retail employee at the location shown on the form. Customers may request redelivery on the PS Form 3849 or online through My Post Office. If the package is not redelivered or picked up by the customer within 15 days of the initial delivery attempt, it is returned to the sender.
This audit responds to concerns raised about mail service at selected offices in the Bronx borough of New York City. Customers complained of long lines, rude retail employees, and misdelivered mail and untimely mail delivery.
Our objective was to evaluate mail delivery delays and customer retail service at selected delivery units in the Bronx.
What the OIG Found
Mail was not always delivered timely by carriers at the nine selected stations in the Bronx. This occurred primarily because parcel route carriers lacked access to many buildings while foot route carriers had access through the use of non-postal keys provided by building owners or managers, a practice that does not comply with Postal Service policy. Additionally, some buildings had damaged or unsecured mailboxes which stopped the carrier from delivering mail to those addresses.
Although station management for these selected locations have attempted to enforce Postal Service policy by requesting building owners to correct access issues or repair broken boxes, many building owners or managers have not responded to these requests.
In addition, retail customers faced long wait times in line averaging seven minutes or more, up to a maximum of 56 minutes. Customers picking up packages experienced even longer wait times, averaging 12 minutes or more, up to a maximum of two hours. Further, our analysis of the Enterprise Customer Care system complaint data showed 43 of 491 customer complaints were not resolved timely. These issues were caused by the high number of undelivered packages, inefficient package storage methods, and station personnel not sending final PS Form 3849 notifications to customers for mail stored at the station.
New York District management has taken some corrective actions and is in the process of implementing additional actions to address customer complaints. These include: purchasing parcel lockers, conducting on-site reviews, implementing service specific retail customer services lines, adding mobile point of sale devices to improve wait time in line, holding “meet and greet” sessions with customers to better understand customer needs, monitoring wait time in line, and notifying station management when wait times exceed established goals.
Successful delivery of packages on the first attempt is important to the customer and the Postal Service to meet customer expectations and to save the Postal Service additional handlings and labor costs associated with redelivering the package or storing and retrieving it for customer pick up.
In other matters, the Postal Service could benefit from additional communication to mitigate customer complaints. During our observations and in conversations with customers and delivery unit employees, we found that additional communication efforts could be beneficial to the residents served by the nine units we visited. A joint effort by Postal Service district management, building owners, and city officials, would serve to show customers that their complaints have been heard and are being addressed.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management coordinate with building owners or managers to comply with Postal Service access and mail receptacle policies, evaluate existing package storage methods, and provide refresher training to staff responsible for the notification procedures of packages stored at the stations. We also recommended management conduct additional community outreach activities to enhance the customer experience.