The U.S. Postal Service has a substantial network of about 35,000 retail facilities, including post offices, stations, and branches. The Philadelphia Metropolitan District includes over 250 retail units with a combined retail revenue of over $175 million for fiscal year (FY) 2016.
Retail and customer service operations are integral parts of the Postal Service’s ability to retain customers and ultimately generate revenue. The Postal Service aims to provide customers with a positive retail experience and efficient customer service operations.
The Postal Service measures workhour efficiency with its Customer Service Variance (CSV) model, which helps assess retail customer service productivity. The timeliness of mail to customers can be impacted on the availability and condition of mail provided to the post office. The Integrated Operation Plan (IOP) and Mail Arrival Profile (MAP) are tools that managers use to ensure mail timeliness.
Our objective was to assess retail and customer service operations in the Philadelphia Metropolitan District. We selected this district as it was one of the most inefficient districts in the country during 2016 based on retail and customer service operation data.
What the OIG Found
While the Philadelphia Metropolitan District has made productive gains in its retail and customer service operations, opportunities for improvement remain. During our visits to 10 units, we identified deficiencies that could contribute to ineffective retail and customer service operations. Specifically, concerning retail service:
- Five units did not meet the Postal Service’s retail wait-time-in-line (WTIL) target.
- Four units did not answer the telephone, which corroborated concerns from a district customer service manager that telephone calls were not being consistently answered.
We also found customer service operational concerns related to mail timeliness and scanning:
- Units did not always meet timeliness requirements. Specifically:
- Six units did not prepare redirected mail for timely dispatches.
- Six units did not meet the target time for distribution of mail to letter carriers.
- Three units did not have mail ready for collection by Post Office Box customers.
- Mail was not properly scanned. Specifically:
- Eight units did not perform required “Notice Left” scans for 20 out of 229 mailpieces.
- Five units did not perform required “Arrival at Unit” scans for 27 out of 114 accountable mailpieces.
- Four units did not perform “Arrival at Unit” scans for 14 out of 410 distribution mailpieces.
- Three units did not perform “Accept or Pickup” scans for 23 out of 190 mailpieces.
These conditions occurred because district and local management did not adequately monitor retail and customer service operations. For example:
- Units did not use lobby assistants to help customers with transactions.
- Units did not have updated, signed copies of the IOPs and MAPs to facilitate staffing and mail transportation requirements.
- Local management did not adequately monitor mail processing and scanning procedures.
These deficiencies negatively impacted retail service and the efficiency of customer service operations. According to the CSV model, units we visited used 91,857 more workhours than earned in FY 2016, costing the Postal Service almost $3.8 million.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management develop strategies to monitor retail and customer service operations by:
- Instructing postmasters and customer service supervisors to use lobby assistants to reduce customers’ WTIL and to promptly answer telephone calls.
- Coordinating actual mail arrival time and condition with those outlined in unit IOPs and MAP.
- Actively monitoring employees to manage workload and ensure efficient mail processing procedures.
- Instructing unit employees to follow required scanning procedures and ensure the procedures are followed.