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Dennis Whittle Headshot

What if USPS Really Listened?

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Fatal error: Unable to open file
That was the response when I clicked on the Email Us link at the US Postal Service website this morning.  Earlier, I had stood in a long line at our neighborhood post office while the one postal clerk on duty valiantly tried to process all the customers.  While waiting, I looked around and noted once that the run-down facility looks like something from the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.  (At least in the Soviet Union, there were more clerks on duty, even if they were not always friendly.)

The clerk in our neighborhood station has always been nice to me.  She labors under horrendous conditions, but if I smile and am nice to her, she always reciprocates.  Though the lines are predictably very long at the station during certain periods, and USPS never provides more clerks to assist, I try never to complain to the lone woman on duty, because I know she has no power to change things.

While standing in line this time, I decided I would give some feedback to the US Postal Service itself.  I looked around at the walls in vain for a sign saying "Questions? Comments?  Call us at xxx or email us at yyy."  Then I realized I have a USPS app on my iPhone.  Great! I thought, and fired it up.  Alas, the app provided lots of information about zipcodes and rates but no way to give feedback.   Darn, but at least they would have a twitter account, I figured, and ran a search on my phone.  Someone had in fact claimed the @usps name, but had made no tweets and followed zero people.

So I gave up and was finally waited on by the nice lady, who was relieved my particular parcel was easy to process.  Then I went home, and sat down at my computer and thought I would give USPS one last try.  Success!  There it was on -- a link saying Questions? Comments?  Click here to email us.  I mentally apologized to USPS before clicking, and then my screen went blank and said: "Fatal error: Unable to open file."

How many agencies or companies do you know that make it nearly impossible for users to give feedback?  They are usually the ones whose leaders say "We hear loud and clear from our customers that..."  But the truth is that they don't hear loud and clear at all.  They only hear sporadically and indirectly, through surveys and analyzing data.

What if each supervisor at USPS had a dashboard that had real-time feedback from customers from email, twitter, text message, and the USPS website?  And what if the supervisor's boss could see that feedback in real time?  And what if, maybe even more important, the public could see the same feedback in real time?  How would that change incentives and behavior?

What if this were on the desktop of each USPS supervisor, on the wall of each post office, and viewable by everyone on the web or smart phone?

My own guess is that my neighborhood post office would be a lot cleaner, there would be plenty of clerks during peak periods, and they would rarely run out of supplies.

Extra credit:  Which company or agency do *you* think would benefit most from such a dashboard?