Residential and business customers contact the U.S. Postal Service through various toll-free telephone numbers for information on hours, prices, service issues, or other postal-related inquiries. These numbers received over 52 million calls in fiscal year (FY) 2014, 16 million of which were routed to the four Postal Service Customer Care Centers (Care Centers).
The Postal Service finished insourcing its Care Centers in March 2014, and has about 1,500 agents nationwide handling calls. Care Center agents typically either immediately respond to customer requests or route calls to local operations staff. Managers oversee Care Center operations and review select calls for quality assurance. Care Center operations cost $129 million in FY 2014, including $13.2 million in contractor costs for training, reporting, and other functions.
Care Centers are crucial for retaining customers and revenue and the Postal Service identified three performance metrics for its Care Centers: customer satisfaction, timeliness, and quality of information.
Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Care Centers and determine whether there are opportunities for improvements.
What The OIG Found
There are significant opportunities to improve the Postal Service’s Care Centers. First, quality assurance reviews are insufficient, as 75 percent of them were not completed as required in FY 2014, and only shorter calls were chosen for review. Care Center managers stated this is a result of system issues and limited time. Second, there is no standardized, consolidated reporting process in the field to improve employee performance management and monitoring. Third, the Postal Service does not have a meaningful performance metric for evaluating the quality of information provided to callers.
These issues collectively limit effective management and assessment of Care Center performance. We estimate $1.05 million in Care Center costs in FY 2014 as disbursements at risk due to insufficient quality reviews.
Finally, the Postal Service should periodically assess the need for contractor-provided training and reporting. Contractor support is needed in this area at this time; however, using Postal Service employees for these activities may prove financially and operationally beneficial as the Postal Service becomes more experienced in managing its Care Centers.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended the Postal Service develop and implement controls for assuring that quality reviews are performed within established timeframes and calls are randomly chosen for review; establish standardized, consolidated reporting procedures for field supervisors, and develop a quality of information performance goal.