United States Postmaster General Megan Brennan told postal workers of the importance of scanning packages, explaining that in order to remain competitive, the Postal Service need to provide customers with timely and accurate tracking information. Speaking in a video feature called Business Focus, she also warned carriers not to throw packages.
"We have professional letter carriers who take great pride in their work and deliver a positive experience in addition to mail and packages. But when an employee throws a package and it's caught on a home security camera, which is happening far too often, it's then posted on social media, and that hurts our brand," she said.
One mishandled package can result in multiple lost customers, she said, and backed up her warning with the proof of the harsh reality that the agency faces.
While packages are a bright spot for the USPS as it experiences declines in First-Class mail, marketing mail, and periodicals, Brennan revealed that the rate of growth of the USPS package business declined in February compared to the prior year - something she blamed on increased competition. She didn't get specific, but Amazon has been making moves in this area.
"We compete for every package, every dollar, every day," Brenan said. "Our ability to win business or retain business depends on providing our customers with consistent, reliable service. And we need everyone to do their part."
Online sellers can only hope that her message to postal workers gets through, since items damaged through mishandling and un-scanned packages can cause problems for them.
As Brennan said, "Timely and accurate scanning are critical components to the customer experience. One missed scan can result in an unnecessary call to the call center and possibly the loss of a customer."
A reader recently shared with us an experience that highlights the unrealistic expectations of buyers when it comes to package-tracking. An order came in after 11 pm on a Monday night, and he had the package to the post office before 8 am on Tuesday morning.
However, the buyer claimed the package didn't arrive at the post office until 1 pm on Wednesday.
It was clear from reading the correspondence that the buyer was relying heavily on scanning information uploaded by the USPS throughout the package's journey, and the reader believed that eBay had exacerbated the problem with its "Guaranteed Delivery" banner on his listing.
In her recent video, the Postmaster General described a feature called Informed Delivery that could help by keeping shoppers informed about expected delivery dates - and times - assuming the USPS can improve its scanning practices. With Informed Delivery, "we are giving customers visibility for all packages arriving today," she said, "and have added a section called "arriving soon," so the consumer also knows what packages are on the way."
That message will resonate with online sellers who rely on tracking to allay the fears of customers who are eagerly awaiting their packages. Sellers also rely on accurate tracking information to prove to marketplaces that they have shipped in a timely fashion - otherwise, they risk performance penalties that can include loss of visibility of their items in search results.