In March 2010, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a comprehensive action plan for the next decade to increase efficiency and address the elements of managing costs under its control. To this end, the U.S. Postal Service uses a customer service variance model to monitor retail customer service workhours and productivity.
Managers manually enter mail volume data into the variance model, which estimates the workhours and staff necessary to process the mail. Area management uses mail volume data from the same period in the previous year to report to customer service managers and determine workhour and staffing needs for the current year.
Retail customer service employees use time clocks to record actual workhours, which the Time and Attendance Collection System tracks. As employees move from one operation (task) to another, they must record their movement by clocking in again and changing their operation code.
Managers determine the efficiency rate of operations by dividing estimated workhours (generated by the variance model) by actual workhours (recorded by employees). They compare the efficiency rate to national performance goals to determine whether the unit is meeting those goals.
Our objective was to assess overall efficiency in retail customer service operations in the Chicago District.
What The OIG Found
Customer service operations in the Postal Service’s Chicago District are inefficient. During FY 2014, 12 of 13 facilities had actual workhours in excess of estimated workhours and eight of 13 had lower efficiency rates than the national goal of 82.5 percent. Additionally, in FY 2013, all 13 facilities had actual workhours in excess of estimated workhours and 12 of 13 had lower efficiency rates than the national goal of 87.5 percent. Retail managers did not use reports from the variance model or refer to performance goals to manage workhours because they were not familiar with the reports or the goals.
[maxgallery id=”36072″]Additionally, although employees knew they were supposed to clock into a new operation when moving from one task to another, they did not always do so because other duties took priority. This distorted customer service efficiency variance results and made it difficult for managers to be effective. We are not projecting a dollar impact because the variance systems were not fully functional during our review due to the Postal Service cyber intrusion reported in November 2014.
What The OIG Recommended
We recommended the vice president, Great Lakes Area, train customer service supervisors on the customer service variance model and its reports and emphasize required time clock procedures. We are not making a recommendation related to performance goals because the Great Lakes Area is piloting an effort to post performance goals at all units.