Customer Service Is the Crux – What the USPS can Teach all of us About Business

Have you been reading the latest news about USPS? It’s pretty intense. Evidently the United States Postal Service Net Loss for July was $1.3 Billion and Year to Date Loss reaches $7 Billion. And just yesterday, they published a report that they were going to close 252 processing facilities. Some believe this is just another scare tactic, whereas most believe this is the inevitable end of terrible planning. In the following link, the APWU (American Postal Workers Union) fights back by claiming that these closures will “dismantle the mail-processing network.”

And if you are interested if the postal service in your area will suffer, here is the list provided last night of the site closures expected –

Here’s the rub, USPS pays people a lot and since those people have a strong union, they also receive amazing benefits. Unfortunately, many studies have suggested that Americans prefer UPS and FedEx over USPS due to the lack of customer focus. In fact, those studies have suggested that line up for close to twenty years.

keywords for siteUSPS executives are claiming it has to do with the virtual world. That less people are using stamps and more people are paying bills or purchasing online.

I don’t buy it. I, like many people, believe it is because the USPS has put little focus on customer service. Going to the local post office is like going to the DMV. The only difference being that you have a choice when it comes to mail. When I see 25 people in line and one teller I skip across the street to UPS. I am glad to pay 3x more to send a package because my time is worth that much to me.

Now, I don’t usually jump on current events. It’s not what this blog is about. However, I recently dealt with a ridiculous issue with USPS. And by the headlines, it sounds like I am not the only one.

Last week I made a purchase on Amazon. It was $33 with no shipping. Yet when the mail carrier tried to deliver the package (I wasn’t home) they left a note that there was “postage due.” It was a Saturday so since my local post office was closed I called the national 800 number for USPS. I waited on hold for 35 minutes to talk to a live person.

I asked the person about how to make a redelivery and what to do with this “postage due” amount. The representative informed me that redelivery was set and that I should write a check to the original vendor for the $11.55. That seemed a bit odd to me… considering the original vendor was in Las Vegas but this is a USPS employee, certainly she knows the answer.

So, I get on Amazon and let the vendor know that I was being charged $11.55 for something that was supposed to be free shipping. The original vendor immediately refunded me *the entire purchase price* for my inconvenience. I was thrilled and will obviously go out of my way to purchase from them in the future.

Back to USPS, Monday rolls around and my redelivery happens. The mail carrier doesn’t know why I had “postage due” and takes my check. He asks me if I am sure I was suppose to write the check to the original vendor instead of USPS. I inform him that I was told to do so by a representative from USPS. He was puzzled, but unsure and so he left.

Twenty minutes later he returns to my house and again asks me “are you sure?” to which I respond by offering to write a new check. We are only talking about $11.55 and at this point I have better things to do than worry about this. He says no, and again leaves.

One hour later I get an extremely angry phone call on my houseline from my local Post Office. The person on the phone doesn’t identify himself or what he is calling about. I pick up the phone and he starts off with, “I want to know the name of the person who told you to write the check to _____, instead of USPS.” I am mystified that I am getting yelled at by a complete stranger.

I let him know I called the 800 number and that I was more than happy to write a new check. He lets me know that my mail carrier will be back the following day to get the right check. He mentions 3x that I did the wrong thing. Are you kidding me? Out of this whole scenario I am the only person not to blame.

So no, the problem with USPS is not virtual shipping or the union. It is a complete disregard of your customers.

The irony in all this is yesterday I got a call about my phone experience last Saturday. So USPS is putting money and time into checking customer service levels on their national line. But who is watching over the local carriers? And how does a local carrier not know how to deal with “postage due” issues?


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Amie Marse is the founder of Content Equals Money. She lives in Lexington, KY with her two dogs: Billie and Lily. She has been writing content for her web based clients since 2005. She launched Content Equals Money in Oct of 2010, home of conversion focused content writing services. She loves to chat about small business development and how to make content equal money!

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    1. It will be interesting to see how 2012 shapes up for USPS. I hear grumblings from people that they might be getting a bailout or something. I’m not that politically savvy so I have no idea how realistic those grumblings might be.

      I run a pretty small business, and even Content Equals Money has a lot of plates spinning. I can’t fathom the nuances on a company as big as USPS. So it might very well be “a perfect storm” of issues. All I know is I go out of my way to use anybody but USPS…

      Random note – I heard yesterday that Greyhound does shipping now. Evidently you can put stuff on a Greyhound and it goes on a regular route? Sounds odd…but interesting.

    2. Haha, yes! I wish they would just learn 🙂 Thanks for the comment Margarete 🙂

    3. Amie, I feel your pain :-).
      The interesting thing to me is the huge difference between postal workers. Some are so very nice and go out of their way, others are ready to chomp your head off. Same thing with competence. Sadly, due to the Union, there is no way to fire these people.
      As far as I’m concerned, we better fight unionization, especially for government and semi government agencies because there is no choice in many cases.

      I live off the beaten path and my home is a 1/2 mile from the boxes. Occasionally, a package does not fit my super sized box and the one young lady  bounces her vehicle down my road and delivers with a delightful smile. When her substitue is on duty, not only does she never get off the paved road, she even will cuss you when you wait by the mailbox to retrieve your mail, complaining about her job. When I suggested she quit and let somebody else have the job who appreciates it more, she went almost “postal” on me.
      I now make a point to request that all my packages be delivered by UPS, FedEx or DHL even if it costs more.

      From one of your satisfied clients.

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