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No More PU From PO in Future?

May 2003
By Erik Cagle

One of the government-run organizations I detest the most is the United States Postal Service (USPS). I detest it more than the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which needs to be tolerated only once every few years.

Both organizations have several elements in common: government employees, dealing with the public and long lines. You can add ultra-poor customer service skills to the list of commonality.

It's a pet peeve, admittedly, but it boggles the mind to see CSRs being unhelpful to the point of acting downright surly. This is especially true at the post office in my neighborhood. The home of the most maligned, vilified and excoriated organization exists on High Street in the semi-sluggish borough of Glassboro, NJ. The meanest, most ruthless denizens of the job that God hath forsaken are cut from a different cloth than most.

The employees hate you before you walk in the door. They despise you and your money orders. "I've got your book of stamps right here, pal," they mutter behind grinding teeth. The lines are long and they stay that way, courtesy of the half-court offense known as their work pace. They lull you to sleep before shoving you out the door.

The Land that Customer Service Has Forgotten is generally lacking in people skills. On one particular occasion, a woman behind the counter clearly wanted to clean my clock when I requested Priority Mail after she had printed out a First Class stamp coupon. Mrs. ZIP was on a mission and had neglected my request to see the cost differences between the various services.

In the end, at least this woman was amenable. One man refused to let me add insurance to a package, simply because he had moved on to my next parcel. Once again, listening did not play a role in their customer service.

I assume that poor service is not an across-the-board hallmark of the USPS. But the need to control costs and be run efficiently are the most common complaints levied at America's senior mail delivery provider, especially from the business-to-business sector.

Antiquated Practices

Mega-size printer RR Donnelley of Chicago, one of the USPS' most high-volume customers, feels its business partner is in need of an overhaul.

"The reason for the Postal Commission is that many people, myself included, agree that the U.S. Postal Service is being asked to operate in an untenable manner," notes Bill Davis, president, CEO and chairman of RRD. "A Congressional commission in 1970 actually designed what is now the USPS' charter. I cannot imagine any organization today being successfully operated under a business charter and plan that was done 33 years ago.

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