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Category: Service Performance, Retail, Sales & Marketing

Addressing the Diverse Needs and Wants of Rural America: Opportunities for the U.S. Postal Service

September 16, 2019 (RISC-WP-19-009)

  • Rural customers value the social aspects of the Postal Service in their communities — more than half of rural customers know either their postmaster, clerk, or carrier by name.
  • The majority of rural and non-rural customers want weeknight post office retail window hours, but rural post offices offer a disproportionately small share of weeknight hours.
  • A majority of rural retail hours occur at facilities that lack retail survey data, which could hinder the Postal Service’s ability to assess and cater to rural customer needs and wants.

For more than 200 years, the Postal Service has been a mainstay in rural America, which the OIG found values the Postal Service for not just its package and mail services but also its presence in the community. For example, more than half (56 percent) of rural customers know either their postmaster, clerk, or carrier by name. The OIG found that this type of familiarity drives positive experiences at post offices generally.

To examine how rural Americans currently engage with the Postal Service, the OIG fielded a nationally-representative survey of rural and non-rural Americans, hosted a moderated online discussion board, and conducted interviews with Postal Service employees and executives.

The OIG’s research found that rural customers are more likely than non-rural customers to say USPS is valuable to their community. Rural customers, however, are less likely than non-rural customers to have mail or package delivery service at their physical address. Because customers in rural areas may be more likely to have to go to a post office to pick up their packages, parcel lockers could be increasingly important in rural areas. Furthmore, rural customers want additional non-core post office hours, specifically weeknight retail window hours.

These insights tell part of a larger story of what rural customers want from the Postal Service today. Gathering periodic feedback from rural customers could help the Postal Service ensure retail products and services reflect customer input. By better understanding the needs and wants of its rural customers moving forward, the Postal Service can continue to provide quality service for all Americans.

Tom Coleman, John Althen, and Christopher Backley contributed to this report.

Report Recommendations

# Recommendation Status Value Management Response OIG Response USPS Proposed Resolution

R - 1-- Vice President, President and Retail Operations should assess the feasibility of partnering with state and local governments to offer additional hunting and fishing licenses in rural areas

Closed $0 Disagree

R - 2-- Vice President, Marketing, should assess how to cost-effectively and proactively solicit rural customer preferences nationwide where retail survey data are currently unavailable

Closed $0 Agree

R - 3-- Vice President, Delivery and Retail Operations, to identify a cost-effective means of tracking parcel locker utilization in rural areas

Closed $0 Agree

R - 4-- Vice President, Delivery and Retail Operations, to develop actionable metrics to identify underutilized large PO boxes in rural areas and create a plan to convert some of those boxes into parcel lockers as appropriate

Closed $0 Agree