Friday, April 13, 2007

Postal at the Post Office, Or Lessons in Customer Service

I am a huge fan of the US Postal Service. I love sending letters, postcards, packages, little bits of goodness through the mail. And I love getting letters, postcards, magazines. I respect the credo, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, and fully appreciate their efforts.

I am also a fan of excellent customer service, friendly, solution orientated and productive. Background: For the past few months, I have been receiving mail for people who do not live at my house. There are 3 apartments, 5 last names, all clearly written in large letters on the mailboxes. The other issue is that the carrier continually leaves the door to my mailbox open, and at times I have a wet New Yorker or Vogue or Library Journal. This does not make me happy.

Wednesday, I dropped off the large stack and explained that these people do not live at my address. I watched the clerk put a rubber band around the package, and then I bought some stamps. Thursday, the package is back with the rubber band. Now, I am a little annoyed. I have to go back to the Post Office anyhow, but now I must return this package again. I am realizing that nothing had been done about the issue, just that the mail was returned to a carrier and ended up back at my apartment. I arrived, and spoke to a new clerk regarding the two issues. She gave me a phone number to call regarding the open door. I protested, saying I have been down that road, and I would like to find a new solution. She was unable to give me one, but just to call that number again. For the mail delivery issue, she suggested I take the mail back to my apartment and leave it in the box, a solution I have attempted, however my carrier would not pick up the mail.

At this point, I start to get more upset and frustrated at the lack of creative problem solving, as all the solutions they are suggesting have failed, and placing the onus on me. I tell her, loudly and perhaps a bit forcibly that I refuse to take the mail back home with me, and if I do take it back, I will throw it away. Well, everyone gets quiet, and the clerk informs the it would be a federal offense to throw away first class mail and that I shouldn't say that. Well, civil servants, this is the viable solution to ending the mail issue. By not providing a solution, we are creating more work for everyone.

I end my transaction with mailing two packages (which I pray arrive at their destinations) and purchase some stamps. I make a phone call and speak with a supervisor at the Carrier location, who seems sympathetic and understanding. Later in the evening, I reflected on the experience, being a civil servant, productivity, and problem solving. During library school, I worked for a telecommunications company. The site I worked at was completely mismanaged and Dysfunctional. Work was routinely shifted around, people always got the runaround, you could never get a straight answer, and eventually everyone got laid off. My role was to coach and train our employees to optimal job performance. Now coaching and training people who have no motivation is not easy, so I was always searching for creative and innovative solutions. Even in my current position, I am forced to find creative ways to teach computers and the internet to people who wouldn't know how to turn a computer on. I learned something very important on my first day alone at reference desk in a public library. My boss imparted some advice on me that has become a driving force in my customer service philosphy: to not let the patron leave empty handed. This requires innovative and quick thinking.

I have toyed with the idea of writing a letter to the Postal Service. Here is some of the text:

Due to the lack of solution regarding my problem, I am requesting a "return to sender" stamp. Likewise, I will be billing you for 4 hours a month, for the time it takes me to sort the mail, stamp it, and put it back in my mailbox. I am really looking forward to being a part of the postal service team. As a fellow civil servant (I am a librarian), I would just like to say that you suck and we are kicking your ass in terms of efficiency!

(Thanks to Kate for the last line!)

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