For years, the future of the United States Postal Service has been anyone’s guess. In the 1980s, faxing became the first form of attack on snail mail, but an even bigger battle occurred when free email became widely available. Mobile devices providing texting and social media connection further removed the need to rely on a service which was designed to deliver paper mail, increasingly a relic of a bygone era.
To battle the very real threat of irrelevancy, the USPS decided in 2013 to find out what internet-connected Americans, its most valuable shareholders, wanted from their national postal service. The agency commissioned a massive feedback survey, adopting a customer obsessed approach that has since placed it at the top of Forrester Research’s federal customer experience index. More recently, according to a 2015 PEW Research Center study released in November, the agency’s customer-centric efforts have helped it garner the distinction of becoming America’s most trusted federal agency. It currently holds a favorability rating of 84%.
“We’re obsessed with customers and gaining their trust,” said Jim Nemec, vice president of Consumer and Industry Affairs at the Postal Service. “Everyone has a vested interest in being customer-centric. The feedback we get from our customers is essential for us to drive the business.”
Customer Experience Feedback
In recent years, the USPS has taken a very close look at the customer experience, implementing its New Improvements to the Customer Experience Initiative with the single purpose of better meeting its customers’ needs. The program, which commenced in 2013, centered on asking customers to complete a brief customer experience survey. The Postal Service selected 3,088 of the 32,000 post offices in its national network to be part of its newly created “Premier Office” program through which it administered the feedback surveys. The offices were chosen based on geographic location and revenue in order to gather wide-ranging feedback.
In addition, employees were encouraged to listen to customer stories concerning problems with using the postal service: inability to understand bureaucratic language, inefficiencies, burdensome mailing requirements. Employees were then asked to submit these complaints, along with any suggestions for improvements, to higher ups who took steps to address pain points. Implemented solutions were widely publicized across the institution and with the public.
Through feedback initiatives like these, the USPS took every step possible to gather actionable customer insights so as to improve the customer experience. As Consumer and Industry Affairs Vice President Susan LaChance put it in 2013, “Providing a positive customer experience will improve our chances for repeat customers and they will grow our revenue.”
Improved Customer Loyalty
As a result of its massive customer feedback initiatives, it is, perhaps, unsurprising that the USPS received high marks in the Temkin’s 2015 Loyalty Index which gauges customer loyalty to large companies, asking participants how likely they are to recommend a company. According to Katina Fields, Senior Public Relations Representative for USPS, the agency’s goal is to gather customer insights at every touch point and to take immediate action to correct and improve on any part of the experience that proves difficult or problematic: “A key question for each touch point measures ‘overall satisfaction with USPS’. The percentage of customers who are ‘very satisfied’ or ‘mostly satisfied’ has been shown to be positively correlated with customer loyalty.” The USPS’s increases in customer satisfaction may, in part, also be responsible for its somewhat-improved financial outlook.
The USPS continues to administer and perfect its customer feedback initiatives, focusing on four key areas of continuous improvement: customer needs, customer experience, customer loyalty, and transparent communication. According to Jim Nemec, Vice President of Consumer and Industry Affairs, “We found the power of the survey with technology that is available now, and it’s giving us more robust data that is more actionable than we had in the past.” Customer feedback initiatives, like surveys, provide the agency with immediate customer insights, increasing the customer’s control over the delivery experience. Today, empowered customers are at the center of all USPS day-to-day operations.