“Mystery shoppers” sounds like a new reality television series, but it is actually one of the tools the U.S. Postal Service uses to gauge customer service. Mystery shoppers are customers unknown to the retail staff and who fill out evaluations on their shopping experience, which helps determine how well retail units are performing.
The Postal Service’s Retail Customer Experience (RCE) program uses mystery shoppers to objectively collect data on retail customer experiences. This information is used to drive behaviors for improving customer service, increasing retail revenues, and correcting unfavorable conditions. What kinds of things are these mystery shoppers evaluating?
The federal government ships a considerable number of packages each year, primarily using FedEx and UPS. In fiscal year 2012, federal agencies spent almost $337 million on shipping services through General Services Administration (GSA) contracts. The U.S. Postal Service earned only $4.8 million of that revenue, or less than 2 percent, a recent Office of Inspector General audit report found.
The Postal Service faces several challenges to growing its share of this market. Unlike its competitors, the Postal Service cannot offer necessary discounts to penetrate a market, attract new customers, or match competitors’ prices. In addition, the Postal Service’s lack of a guaranteed 2-day or 3-day express delivery product prevented it from qualifying for one of the GSA’s most lucrative contracts. Priority Mail regularly meets 2-day and 3-day delivery performance (90 percent of the time), but it did not qualify because it does not include a delivery guarantee.Read More
The U.S. Postal Service adds more than 600,000 new delivery points each year, mostly in the form of new residential homes. While most new residences include cluster boxes rather than to-the-door delivery to reduce costs, delivery remains the Postal Service’s largest cost center.
Canada Post, which has suffered losses recently after years of profits, has introduced a $200 per address charge that it is assessing housing developers for installing community mailboxes. Canada Post claims the charge “is in keeping with how other infrastructure costs are shared by utilities and other services.” Canada Post, which adds almost 200,000 new addresses a year, could earn tens of millions of dollars from the fee and it would offset the added costs of new delivery points. Housing developers in Canada have been fighting the charge, arguing that it is unfair to assess new homes only, which they say receive substandard delivery service compared to older homes and apartment buildings that get delivery to the door.Read More