Postal Service considers customer experience improvements

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The US Postal Service is planning to improve the customer experience as part of its broader effort to create new revenue sources, postal officials said November 17 at a Mailers Technical Advisory Committee meeting.

“A major goal of mine is that I want us to provide a better customer experience,” said Patrick Donahoe, deputy postmaster general and COO, who will become postmaster general December 3. “[The USPS should consider] how we do some basic things around mail acceptance and how we deal with customers at the acceptance units. We should look at changing some of those things.”

While the Postal Service reported its strongest delivery performance scores in FY 2010, which ended September 30, it did not score as well in terms of customer experience. In particular, small- and medium-sized businesses rated their customer contact as satisfactory only 52% of the time.

Paul Vogel, president of mailing and shipping services at the USPS, said an improved customer experience is key to growing revenue.

Vogel, who spent two years in the private sector before returning to the Postal Service, said, “My experience has been, and what I am hearing from customers, is that we are too difficult to do business with.”

He said the organization has too many rates and regulations, adding that the USPS' Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), which includes all of its 1,300 rate cells and regulations for mail at discounted rates, is four inches thick.

“There are all sorts of things we can do to improve the customer experience,” Vogel said. “Some of this requires changes to the DMM, rule changes and new technologies. There are some easy things too, like better communications about our products and services.”

Although the Postal Service regularly looks at simplifying its mail preparation rules and complex rate structure, that effort worries some commercial mailers, who feel it threatens the USPS' worksharing program. That initiative provides discounted postage prices to mailers that do mail preparation work before entering their mail into the system.

One mailer at the MTAC meeting asked Vogel where worksharing fits into his vision of a simplified postal system.

“I don't know,” Vogel answered. “How do we simplify the process so an average smart person can do business with the USPS? It's too difficult to do business with us. I see worksharing as a component piece of a vibrant business, but I don't know if the way we do worksharing now is the simplest way to do business.”

Vogel cited the “Summer Sale” program, in which the USPS gave pricing incentives to encourage Standard Mail volume growth, as an example of a simplified pricing approach.

 “I think it was absolutely the right thing to do, but I wonder why we only do it in summer,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the fiscal year the US Postal Service reported its strongest delivery scores. That fiscal year was FY 2010.

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