USPS Moves in Mysterious Ways to Monitor Employees

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A mystery caller program is one way the U.S. Postal Service is responding to criticisms about service at Business Mail Entry Units (BMEUs), where 70 percent of its volume is passed and 54 percent of its revenue is generated.

The postal service has hired an outside firm to call a sample of its 2,750 BMEUs and ask questions to see whether the postal employees need additional training. Between 9,000 and 11,000 calls are being made each month.

The program, which just completed its pilot phase, is designed to see whether BMEU employees -- who deal with calls about nonprofit, letter and periodical mail preparation and verification and use the Automated Barcode Evaluator system -- are proficient and responsive.

The USPS is to begin surveying mailers when they deposit mail at the back dock, and it is conducting scheduling studies to determine where improvements are most needed. Among the problems mailers have faced are long delays and improper equipment for appropriate application of standards.

The postal service commissioned the caller program to "improve the interpersonal skills of these employees and their interaction with mailers," said Barry Brennan, director of postal affairs at the Mail Advertising Service Association. "It also hopes to improve the environment and the atmosphere all around."

At last month's MASA Mailer Strategies conference, Ron Garrow, president of National Mail Advertising, Rutland, VT, spoke of dealing with "the dictator du jour at the postal service [entry unit] who decides, for no reason at all, that he will not accept mail, even though it is prepared correctly."

The postal service has launched a training and certification course for its 4,500 BMEU and Detached Mail Unit employees around the country.

All 450 BMEU supervisors, analysts, managers and specialists completed a 16-hour management skills training program last month. And, an eight-hour interpersonal skills program will be launched for every employee, along with a 16-hour technical training program, which will result in the certification of employees. These programs should be completed in May.

Rich Casford, president of Whittier Mailing Services, Whittier, CA, offered advice in dealing with BMEU employees who say mailings aren't passable: "I weigh the cost-effectiveness of appealing a mailing that has been rejected for some borderline discrepancy. Often, I decide to pay the additional postage and, instead, save the appeal process for consequential mailings that might affect many mailings."

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