Quality in the U.S. Post Office
By Brian Strachman
Posted in Customer Engagement
While at dinner recently, I found myself in a conversation about quality with a regional Postmaster for the US Postal Service (USPS). I had always thought a contact center’s approach to quality—or the back office of a private company—would be vastly different from a government organization’s approach. To my surprise, the USPS uses similar terms and processes to our industry, exhibiting sophistication and an impressive dedication to quality.
The USPS divides their quality key performance indicators (KPIs) into two segments: voice of the customer and voice of the employee—both familiar in our industry. The USPS defines voice of the customer in terms of several metrics that ultimately result in the quality of mail delivery.
Every piece of mail has a bar code and is scanned into a processing center, much like a back office. After sorting, the mail (work) is scanned and placed on a delivery vehicle. The USPS’s KPI for this is called an “acceptable delivery event”—whether or not the mail is actually delivered to someone’s home. If not, it is rescanned at the processing center. Their KPI target is that 98 percent of first-class mail is hand delivered on time, although reality is more like 90 percent (a metric most operations would gladly have).
The bar codes track where the item is in the system—anywhere, anytime. Verint’s Work Item Tracking (WIT) is a more sophisticated version of this, allowing for tracking work between departments, the contact center and back office. However, the USPS has also begun using seismographic inserts on letters that measure movement or shaking. The idea is that if a letter sits in place for too long—and is not even picked up and looked at—then work is not taking place. Therefore, the queue position should be examined. Cost issues prevent this tool’s frequent use, but I was still impressed.
For the voice of the employee, the USPS uses a combination of proactive surveys and grievance collection to gather feedback and data from employees, who are surveyed quarterly on subjects such as having the correct tools and information to do their jobs correctly, incidents of harassment, and effectiveness of workforce schedules.
Those familiar with Verint’s Performance Management solutions may recognize such items. Verint’s Coaching software allows for feedback after every session to ensure that each subsequent session gets better. Similarly, the USPS uses this data to improve employee training. Every month, postmasters are given an electronic summary of the surveys, allowing them to improve processes and employee relations. Verint’s Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) solution also aggregates survey information, but on a much larger scale.
This two-pronged quality process is concluded monthly with a report that includes both voice of the customer and voice of the employee metrics. The USPS’s approach to quality is not all that different from many private corporations. At the end of the day, it made me appreciate how much quality I receive for 46 cents.
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