Most of us know that successful organizations are the ones that listen to their customers. While true, this expression doesn’t go far enough. To be successful today, companies need to put strong processes around acting on customer needs and insights. This is known as becoming a customer-centric enterprise.
Historically federal agencies have not been nearly as concerned as the private sector about the customer/citizen experience. That, plus all the negative media coverage about the decline of “snail mail,” make it seem unlikely that the Post Office could be a poster child for superior customer service.
But that’s exactly what it is, according to a story last week by Frank Konkel of Nextgov! The latest customer service index published by Forrester Research has the Post Office listed number one among federal agencies. This despite the massive challenge of delivering more than 155 billion pieces of mail in 2014.
“With customers, with employees – especially our mail carriers – 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.”
What many don’t realize is that the revenue generated by the Post Office has risen in recent years. If it wasn’t for massive, congressionally mandated contributions to cover future healthcare costs the Post Office would be profitable. Key to this revenue growth have been new services based on customer feedback.
For example, this year the Post Office did away with long, hand-written customer surveys. They shortened them, and put QR codes on them to tap into mobile devices and speed the turnaround time. One of the things that came through loud and clear from citizens was the need for a package tracking system, like those offered by private sector delivery companies like Amazon and UPS.
Based on that feedback, the Post Office launched the My USPS application. Now citizens can track their packages using any web-enabled device. The Post Office is experimenting with other new services to deliver a better experience, like same-day delivery of bottled water and fresh fish in New York City, which may eventually expand to delivering groceries. And in some areas the Post Office is delivering on Sundays, through a partnership with Amazon.
That’s the kind of innovation that caught Forrester’s attention:
“It’s about USPS taking the time to systematically find out what customers actually want, what experiences will actually drive greater customer loyalty, and then actually implementing them,” said Rick Parrish, senior analyst at Forrester. “If those happen to be greater functionality on a website or an app, they do that, but unlike a lot of other federal organizations, they have the outside-in mentality.”
Improving the customer experience across government is one of the Obama Administration’s top management priorities, and other agencies could learn a lot from this type of focus and innovation. For delivering through rain, sleet and snow – while being open to ways of improving the customer experience — the Post Office is our GovTransformer of the week.