USPS OIG Report: A Primer on Service Standards

September 2, 2021 (RISC-WP-21-008)

  • A service standard is the number of days the Postal Service has determined it should take a specific type of mail to be delivered. Service standards set customer expectations and provide accountability for quality of service.
  • The OIG provided an overview of the intricacies of USPS service standards. Specifically, we explained how the Postal Service determines, measures, and revises its service standards.

To determine delivery windows and expected arrival times, the Postal Service has specific service standards. These standards may seem like simple ranges of days, but behind them is a complex system that accounts for factors about each mailpiece, such as the type of mail it is and where and when it is entered into the postal network. In this report, the OIG provides an overview of how service standards for the delivery of mail and packages are established and defined, service performance is measured, and standards are revised.

Establishing the parameters for the level and consistency of service that customers can expect is important for any type of business, and the Postal Service is no exception. Service standards are one of USPS’s methods for setting customer expectations and remaining competitive in the package-shipping market. Service standards are also used to help guide customers about when to reach out to customer service about a late or missing mailpiece. Missing expected delivery windows may have significant negative impacts on customers — for example, inconsistent or unexpectedly slow delivery of billing statements or payments could result in late fees and even a drop in credit ratings for consumers, as well as a disruption in cash flow for businesses.

To measure its success in meeting service standards, the Postal Service sets service performance targets. USPS has struggled to meet its service performance goals for several years, and performance declined even further during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely due to low employee availability and increases in package volume.

As the Postal Service and other stakeholders consider future changes to the network, clear and dependable service standards will be essential for USPS to deliver on its mission to provide prompt, reliable, and efficient service nationwide.

Read full report

Source: USPS Office of Inspector General

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