Audit Report – MS-AR-15-001 – 01/29/2015
In fiscal year (FY) 2013, the U.S. Postal Service’s retail network of about 32,000 facilities handled 1.7 billion transactions, a reduction of about 5.2 percent from FY 2012. These transactions typically included the sale of stamps, shipping supplies or services, and money orders. A positive customer experience during retail counter transactions enhances the Postal Service’s brand and increases loyalty and revenue.
Over the course of FYs 2012–2013, the Postal Service had an 8.9 percent increase in negative customer feedback regarding retail counter experiences. The Postal Service uses several tools to measure and improve overall customer satisfaction, including observations by retail managers, mystery shoppers, and customer surveys.
Our objective was to evaluate customer service at retail counters. During our review, we identified issues related to customer surveys, which we communicated to management in a separate management alert.
What the OIG Found
Between FYs 2012 and 2013, an increasing number of customers expressed dissatisfaction with the service they receive at retail facilities. While the Postal Service’s goal is 90 percent customer satisfaction, in FY 2013 more than 20 percent of customers who responded to surveys stated the had been treated “worse than other retailers” at Postal Service retail counters.
Dissatisfied customers exist, in part, because procedures for improving customer service are not functioning as intended. Although management communicates with sales associates periodically via service briefings known as “stand-up” talks and provides video instructions, there is a lack of continual, formal customer service training. Further, sales associates are selected based on seniority rules, rather than suitability for the position, as suggested by best practices. In addition, the Postal Service does not have a mandatory process to ensure managers regularly observe sales associates and provide feedback. Regular observation would help sales associates recognize where they need to improve their performance.
Retail Operations managers use several tools to measure and improve customer service at the retail counter. However, they do not consistently conduct observations of their sales associates. Additionally, supervisors have not made decisions based on Point of Service (POS) survey results, primarily due to the lack of communication of these results.
We estimated the Postal Service risks losing $288.5 million in FY 2015 due to less than satisfactory treatment of customers during retail transactions.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended the Postal Service provide continual formal customer service refresher training to sales associates to improve customer service; create a mandatory process for observing, tracking, and providing feedback on performance; and develop a plan to leverage POS customer survey results to improve customer service at retail counters.