Once again, I am behind on my reporting for the USPS Consumer Advisory Council! I decided to combine the last two meetings of 2014 and I will recap our latest meeting next week. (To see the other Advisory Council notes, go here.)
During our November meeting, the Post Master went through line by line and addressed the committee’s concerns:
- It was announced this month that Megan Brennan would be named the first female Postmaster General.
- We asked for a suggestion box in all post offices so customers could anonymously leave complaints, suggestions or compliments for the Post Master.
- We suggested that the Post Master’s office door be open when he is available so that customers know they can approach him. (But the Post Master also wants customers to know that they can always ask for a supervisor in each post office.)
- We all agreed that more communication and enforcement needs to come from the villages in regards to keeping sidewalks clear of snow and ice. The Post Master is going to set up a meeting with the village to share these concerns and to discuss communication and enforcement strategies.
- Even though it is something that every counter window associate should be doing, we all agreed that no one ever points out the customer satisfaction survey at the bottom of the receipt. The USPS feels the survey is important, even though the rate of return is low…all supervisors should be proactive with counter employees, reminding them it’s part of their jobs to mention and circle the survey information.
- A council member shared a story of a friend who went to the Oak Park Main Post Office to renew her passport. Even though she went during the stated passport hours, no one at the counter would help her because “the passport person was not there yet.” The Post Master stated that everyone who works at the post office counter is trained and able to do passports. If this ever happens again, ask for a supervisor.
- 1st Class mail is shrinking, but thanks to the new contract with Amazon, package delivery is way up. (But sadly, the eventual goal of Amazon is to have their own package delivery system.)
- We brought up the USPS website and its problems. 1) You have to go very deep in the website to find out how much a regular first class stamp it worth and how much it costs to send a letter internationally. (I totally agreed with this complaint. When I can’t remember, I go to the Letter Writers Alliance website for this information because it’s so much easier!) 2) Getting from the shopping cart back to browsing the stamps is very tedious. Actually navigating the whole site can be tedious. 3) Vacation holds often don’t sync properly with the local post offices and holds are missed or messed up.
- Mailbox placement: committee members would like to see more drive-up “snorkel boxes” around Oak Park. The USPS uses a density test to determine which boxes are necessary. Mailboxes are taken out of service if they don’t generate mail. (Tip: If you like your neighborhood blue box, use it!!)
- Some blue boxes are looking shabby, will need to be overhauled in the spring.
- Lack of parking around the Oak Park Main Post Office is an urban issue…sadly there is nothing the USPS can do about lack of convenient street parking.
- Window clerk customer service issues are being dealt with.
- Letter carrier cell phone usage issues are being dealt with.
In December, the Post Master was ill, so our regular meeting business was put on hold. A regional postal manager led the meeting.
- Suggestion boxes were installed in River Forest and OP South Station. The OP Main was delayed because it is a historic building so finding a useful place for the suggestion box that didn’t involve hammering into marble has been a challenge.
- The Oak Park Post Office was an Amazon hub for Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park, Schiller Park, and Franklin Park Sunday deliveries.
- The USPS is getting new scanners that will have GPS to help with package delivery and routing.
- The mail trucks will also be replaced with a delivery vehicle that will be better for accommodating package delivery.
- One of the biggest challenges of the post office right now is getting counter clerks to see themselves not as a government entity but as customer service associates.
- One of the other business challenges of the USPS is the requirement from Congress that the USPS pre-fund their healthcare 75 years in advance.
- Retail managers have been told to remind clerks to point out the surveys at the bottom of the receipts. Our homework for the month is to visit a local post office and to see if this is happening. The post office will share some survey results in January.
- Relay boxes (the green ones that sit in our neighborhoods) are for mail carriers with foot routes (routes with no mail trucks) so they can pick up their next batch of mail.
- Blue boxes can only be picked up after the posted time(s) and must be picked up every day. There are bar codes inside each box that must be scanned during pick up. If a box is missed, the regional supervisor gets a notification and someone has to go out and clear the box. (I’ve always wondered about this.)
I bolded a few things that were big takeaways for me. As I sit on this committee, I’m realizing how small things add up when it comes to customer satisfaction and how slowwwwwly things are going to change. I guess I just need to remember that even though the USPS survives without government money, it is still a government entity and therefore, is subject to a lot of red tape. And, our committee is here to help improve the Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park post offices, so focusing on that makes things feel a little more manageable.
How is your post office doing during these cold winter months? If you’re on the East Coast, have you gotten your mail during the big blizzard?