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Aloha Hal!


What better way can I say thank you for such an earnest and thoughtful response to my 3/11/09 blog post criticizing the U.S. Postal Service, than to reproduce the complete (as received, with no editing) comment… and extend my heartfelt appreciation to Postmaster Tom McCarthy? THANK YOU, TOM!

(Special thanks too to my good friend Judy Vorfeld for facilitating this exchange.)

Oh, if only our government could practice this kind of give and take which helps achieve both improved productivity and improved customer relations!    


Well, It’s good to see we have customers who care enough about the Postal Service to offer their ideas on how we can become better. [RESPONSE AND REFERENCE IS TO 3/11/09 BLOG POST BELOW, OR IN MAR ’09 ARCHIVES ON THIS SITE]

Here’s my spin—point by point.

  1. Wasting time and money on surveys? Totally agree. We spend an enormous amount of money on surveys. However, the real problem is that we do not act on customers’ comments, or for that matter, lack of comments. For example: We have a Voice of the Employee survey that goes to each of our 650,000 employees every year. Although employees are paid on the clock to take the survey, I believe our response rate has never gone over 72%. Non-response says a lot.
  2. Because most district managers have little-to-no background in sales and marketing, they fail to realize the other side of the budget equation—revenue generation. Most managers were promoted because of their ability to cut workhours. They really haven’t a clue about sales and marketing. Fortunately that mind-set changing. But we are so far behind that it’s going to be hard to catch up.
  3. I’m not exactly sure what you are referring to about bad products. There are some products that not very popular, and the Postal Service is constantly evaluating them. Some customers feel we shouldn’t sell retail merchandise, that it’s a waste of time, and we should concentrate on selling stamps. But in 2007, Official Licensed Retail Products generated over $70 million. However, I will agree that often we fail to take innovation to completion.
  4. I don’t know any FedX or UPS driver that has the time to market and sell. They constantly under the microscope. FedX even has wireless video tracking their drivers and making sure they are under a strict time schedule. A few years ago the Postal Service initiated Carrier Connect, Business Connect and Carrier Pickup. These programs encourage city and rural carriers notice what businesses use our competitors and then forward those leads to our Business Development Team, who will then contact customers to sell our products and services. A few years ago the Postal Service created the Postal Ambassador program. In each of our 80 districts across the nation, a select team of city carriers, clerks, and postmasters were sent to Chicago for intensive training in media, marketing and sales. I was fortunate to be selected as the Hawaii district Postmaster Postal Ambassador. The idea was to have districts take advantage of Postal Ambassadors to market and sell products and services to businesses, train clerks, and act as a public relations person for the media. But as you stated in #3, we failed to take it to completion and as a result, the program fizzled, mostly due to managers who could only see value in cutting costs.
  5. Email delivery service sounds something like a service we offered years ago with fax. A customer could fax a letter to a post office, and then the letter would be placed in the customer’s mailbox. It didn’t do well, so the service got axed. But I certainly would like to hear your idea.
  6. Social media is powerful but I can tell you this: Most postmasters are fried by the end of the day. We are micromanaged to the tenth degree. There is little room for innovation or creativity, and many must endure 2, 3, and 4 hour telecoms that are unbearable.
  7. Customer service training is where we really fail. We desperately need sales training. But the powers that be see it as a huge expenditure. We actually have a number of web-based training, but for the most part, I feel they are useless. There is nothing that compares to real-life class situation with interaction and Q & As.
  8. PO box in every box? Hmmmm do we charge double???
  9. Recruiting community groups to garden and landscape sounds great until the lawyers look at liability issues that come with it—not to mention contract issues with employee unions. However, here in Hawaii we have had a post office on Kauai have a grammar school paint a beautiful mural on the post wall. But we needed all sorts of approval from higher sources.
  10. I’m all with you on community events. It is one of the best ways to network and connect with customers. And here in Hawaii we do those type or activities. Many postmasters across the nation are involved in community events such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Marrow Donor program, and many, many other events, including community fairs, parades, and business expos. I personally have manned marketing booths at conventions, Kona coffee festivals, Ironman World Triathlon Championship in Kona, and given workshops to coffee and mac nut farmers here on the Big Island of Hawaii. I know of many other postmasters who do similar kinds of sales and marketing in their communities.
  11. Most of us would love to sell advertising space—especially on postage stamps, but we are regulated by the Postal Rate Commission, Postal Board of Governors, Congress, and some very limiting laws—lobbied no less by our competitors.
  12. Same as above.
  13. Every office should have some type of table for customers to rest their heavy parcels on. If your office doesn’t have one, I suggest you request the postmaster to install one. Tell your post office that if they can’t afford one, you’ll go to the competition—if nothing happens, write to the district manager. .
  14. Music? Don’t you love hearing the clerks singing their song: Is there anything fragile, liquid, or perishable? Would you like to send it Express? Would you like insurance or delivery confirmation? etc, etc. Did you know that some offices have a television set to keep customers mind off the wait time in line. Many offices do have music but I’ve experienced situations where the customer complained about the music. Maybe we should hand out iPods while waiting in line to listen to your preferred music?
  15. Our goal is to make it a positive experience. That’s why we hire Mystery shoppers and put a huge amount of pressure on offices who do not achieved the 5 minute wait time in line goal. There are all sorts of other things that an office is evaluated on, too.
  16. A little note slipped into a mail box? I’ll tell you a story. One of my carriers had slipped a letter into a customer’s mailbox and the customer complained because there was no postage stamp on it. They said we were violating our own law—that anything in a mailbox must have postage on it. Strange but true. However, we have many carriers who very much care about their customers. I had a rural carrier who would deliver mail to one of her customers, and then after work go shopping for groceries for her, because the customer was elderly and could not drive or go outside. If you only knew the good and heartwarming stories, you’re thoughts would surely change.
  17. Barter? That could become dangerous. Besides, we’ve got rules and regulations regulated by red tape regulators.
  18. We do direct mail training workshops. You can also go online to our website and practically get a masters degree in mailing. We also have a small business development team in each district. Ask your postmaster for more information or go on usps.com website and search for direct mail….coffee not included.
  19. We have over 7 million customers visiting our retail outlets every day. That’s real-time blog. And if you consider we have something in the neighborhood of a million hits a day on our usps.com website, that would be one big blog.
  20. USPS.com has the whole spiel. If you want more information, ask your postmaster to give you the phone number for the business development team in their district. They’d be more than happy to help.
  21. We have publications with direct mail information, rates, and tips on how to use direct mail to grow your business. I regularly order these pamphlets and place them in our business customers’ mailboxes.
  22. For years Congress and postal laws had our hands tied. We could not give discounts. Fortunately, a few years ago, congress passed the Postal Reform bill. We now have more freedom to offer discounts and make special deals. Unfortunately, we are not moving fast enough.
  23. This could possibly be under consideration. We do offer discounts for business customers who prepare their mail properly and comply with automation requirements.

Well, there it is. And I agree. It would be a terrible waste of assets, resources, and some super-nice people if we don’t listen to our customers and become better at what we do.

Thanks again for your thoughts.
Tom McCarthy
Holualoa HI 96725

God Bless You and Good Night!  halalpiar     

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