The U.S. Postal Service has a national retail network of about 32,000 post offices. In 2013, the Postal Service selected 3,088 of these offices to be part of its newly created Premier Office program. The primary goals of this program are to improve the customer experience and cost efficiency and to maximize revenue.
Participating offices were selected based on revenue and geographic location to ensure that all areas of the country had access to a Premier Office. These offices represented about 10 percent of post offices and $5.2 billion (46 percent) of total Post Office revenue in fiscal year 2014. The Postal Service plans to expand the program in the future to improve customer service in other offices.
Our initial objective – developed in conjunction with Postal Service management – was to identify characteristics of successful Premier Offices that other post offices could implement. Our subsequent analysis did not identify consistent characteristics of successful Premier Offices. We then focused our analysis, including our accompanying survey of Premier Office managers, on potential program improvements.
What the OIG Found
The Postal Service has opportunities to improve the Premier Office program. First, the Postal Service lacks a comprehensive methodology for evaluating program performance. Currently, Premier Office program performance is measured using a customer service survey. Although survey results are important, this one indicator is not sufficient to measure program effectiveness. For example, two key program goals – revenue and cost efficiency – are not considered and other data which reflect key aspects of the customer experience are not included in the measurement. Creating a robust methodology that factors in this key information would help the Postal Service better evaluate the program’s success and allow it to more effectively distribute program resources.
Second, the physical appearance of customer service areas at certain offices was lacking – some had visible cosmetic deficiencies such as chipped countertops and broken glass, and others had appearance issues, such as empty retail displays and litter. Management at half of the offices we visited (12 of 24) did not know they could request repair and alteration funds as part of the program. Since lobby appearance can improve overall customer experience, the Postal Service should better communicate procedures for funding repairs and alterations at these offices.
Our survey also provided the following information on the program:
- Significant program awareness – nearly all managers (98 percent) were at least somewhat familiar with the program.
- Positive customer impact – 63 percent of the managers believe the program assisted in improving overall customer satisfaction and experiences.
- Moderate efficiency impact – 57 percent of managers believe the program had a positive effect on improving sales and service associate efficiency.
- Moderate revenue impact – 42 percent of managers believe the program had a positive effect on increasing revenue.
- Notable staffing concerns – 26 percent of managers identified staffing concerns in their responses.
While we are not making recommendations based on these survey results, managers can use them when developing program improvements. We will conduct future work on specific aspects of the program’s effectiveness.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended the Postal Service develop a more robust methodology for evaluating program performance that includes customer experience, cost efficiency, and revenue metrics; and better communicate procedures for requesting funds for repairs and alterations.