As it looks to revive a deteriorating financial picture, the U.S. Postal Service has been undertaking a range of strategic initiatives in an effort to “right-size” its network and promote the digital and package-delivery services around which the agency is staking its future.
But in the midst of those transformations, how well is the Postal Service executing on its core missions of satisfying its customers and delivering the mail on time?
By law, each year the Postal Regulatory Commission is required to undertake a review of the Postal Service’s annual report and its published plan for the following year.
Released Monday, that report found that in fiscal 2013, the Postal Service fell short on its overall “customer experience” goal, which derives from a mix of national surveys of residential and small and medium-sized business customers. The Postal Service had been aiming for an 82.5 satisfaction rate on that measure, but only achieved a score of 78.4 percent. Those scores tally the percentage of customers surveyed who say they are “mostly or very satisfied” with the overall performance of the Postal Service.
The PRC also took issue with the Postal Service’s methodology of excluding large businesses from its customer service calculus, advising the agency to incorporate performance evaluations from large enterprise customers “to ensure that the satisfaction of all Postal Service customers is being addressed.”
Performance scores varied by the class of mail. Single-piece, First-Class overnight mail saw an on-time delivery rate of 96.1 percent in 2013, shy of the on-time goal of 96.7 percent. First-Class mail in the two and three-day delivery windows each beat their goal by less than a percentage point. In each of those classes, the Postal Service set slightly higher goals for 2014 than in 2013.
The PRC explains that the Postal Service has separate, “non-public performance measures for Priority Mail, Express Mail and Parcel Select,” but that the agency did not meet any of those goals in fiscal 2013.
PRC Finds Problems with Package Shipments
An earlier report from the PRC enumerated public inquiries relating to service issues that the commission had undertaken in response to complaints filed by consumers and businesses. To be sure, those findings only tell a portion of the story, and a USPS spokeswoman declined to make available data about the complaints that the Postal Service had fielded directly.
Nonetheless, the PRC’s data indicates that problems with package shipments are among the major sources of aggravation within the mailing community, at least among those customers who took their objections to the independent regulator.
Topping the list of service problems were complaints about mail not being delivered to a residence, which resulted in 503 public inquiries so far in fiscal 2014. But the PRC also looked into 431 instances when USPS carriers had allegedly not tried to deliver a package, making that complaint a fairly close second. Packages that went missing (358 public inquiries) or were delayed (299 inquiries) checked in at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.
Package delivery is always a hot-button issue for online sellers, but some in the eBay community have been on edge lately as sellers have reported that their customer service representatives have been blaming them for late deliveries that were sent through the Postal Service, with the not-so-subtle message that sellers should opt for a different carrier if they wanted to avoid “defect transactions” that can threaten their ability to sell on the site.
“The Postal Service takes delivery issues very seriously,” USPS spokeswoman Katina Fields wrote in an email. “Improving the customer experience and increasing visibility are core objectives. We are sorry some eBay shippers are experiencing problems with their service and we will continue to work with them to resolve any issues.”