No More PU From PO in Future?
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.
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.
"The Postal Commission has the responsibility to look at the current world and think a little about what the world is going to look like in the future, and then think about how a vital and well functioning postal system should be structured to address those needs. I am very hopeful that they will be able to get the job done."
The Presidential Commission on Postal Reform is in the data-gathering stage through the balance of this month. It will be presenting its recommendations to President Bush later this summer (slated for July).
The most effective manner to "improve the way, performance, outlook and cost position of the USPS," Davis notes, is to reach out to those business partners. "In fact, there is a lot of redundancy in the system, between what we as customers do and what is done within the USPS," he explains.
Davis was a member of the CEO/mailing industry task force formed two years ago. Much of the input that the task force provided found its way into the transformation plan that was announced by Postmaster General Jack Potter in May of 2002.
A significant amount of operational changes are in order, according to Davis. That sentiment was echoed by John Campanelli, president of R.R. Donnelley Logistics who, in early April, testified before the Presidential Commission regarding partnership opportunities. In his 10-minute speech, Campanelli focused on three areas:
* Expanding work sharing;
* Consolidating upstream processing operations; and
* Upgrading the information infrastructure. (Campanelli's full testimony to the commission is available on the company Website at www.rrdonnelley.com.
As for Davis, he believes securing the future for the USPS is vital. "We must defend, protect and encourage the viability of the U.S. Postal Service," he says. "That delivery—to every home in the country, every day—is very important to the American society and economy. Nobody else does or could do that. It's a tremendous asset. Business, the USPS and government need to work together to make sure that we continue to strengthen and enhance that capability."
Now, if we could only have someone address the employees' people-handling skills, we'd all be better off. One reclamation project at a time.