Company: United States Postal Service (USPS)
Company background: The United States Postal Service is the world’s largest postal service and is the second oldest government department in the US. We deliver 47% of the world’s mail. The Postal Service is an essential part of the fabric of American life. We touch every American household and business six days a week, in some locations seven. USPS receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund operations. Last year we delivered 149.5B items to 157.3M addresses. Our website received 1.9B visits and our mobile site received 62M. The sheer volume and comprehensiveness of our services means that an issue affecting only a very small fraction of customers can translate into a large number of people. We work to meet customers wherever they seek assistance (in-person, phone, email, social media). But given the size of our customer base and their presence on social media, it can feel as if we are holding a tea cup in front of an ocean. We count on customer response software to help us “deliver” that customer service on social media.
Contact: Mary Beth Levin
Title: Manager (A), Social Listening and Insights, Social Business Intelligence, Corporate Communications
Lithy category: Surprise and Delight
1. Tell us about a social promotion or digital/brand campaign that ‘surprised & delighted’ your customers.
The USPS social media program began in 2015 with four employees. This year that number expanded to 18 social media customer response associates and a five-member social listening team, including an HR specialist. Initially we responded only on twitter. This past October we became an official program and expanded to respond on Facebook as well. This has increased our incoming volume by 50%. As we grow, we look to set benchmarks in terms of quality of service and efficiency, demonstrating our value:
2. Share the goal, strategy and tactics. What makes your approach to customer satisfaction a gold standard in the industry?
Our goal is to communicate with customers using their preferred method of interaction (social media). We want to be as efficient and thorough as possible, maintaining and developing positive relationships with our customers. Their concerns are diverse including: package location, mailbox replacement, dog bite prevention, the artwork of the latest stamp, how best to send a care package to a loved one overseas, even disaster response:
(A video a customer sent us of a carrier delivering during last year’s California wildfires.)
When we were considering another vendor, our concern was a software that could accommodate the high volume, diversity, and complexity of our customer’s needs. When we visited their client with the highest volume, we found that they addressed in one quarter what we do in a week and a half. With the same size staff. And since they are unable to solicit personal information, complex cases were referred out. Our Social Media Customer Response Associates do not “kick the can” by referring out. They handle customer concerns from cradle to grave. And while we will never replace customer service over the phone, customers can receive assistance at their leisure, while agents serve as an intermediary between customers, local postal facilities, and regional processing centers. Communication is enhanced because information including images and links can be shared easily. Most importantly, we stay with the customer as long as it takes to get the job done.
Beyond simply answering customer’s inquiries, we provide a space for customers to build a stronger relationship with the USPS brand. In this instance, Finn loves sharks. Unfortunately, he was born with a heart condition requiring a series of operations. The local post office has been very supportive.
When his story came to our attention, we provided a national audience so that he received even more support (and some goodies).
One year later, he is still going strong and still a fan of the post office (and sharks).
These feel-good stories help to promote the brand (and we love Finn!). Additionally, we pass positive feedback along to local facilities so employees know their work is valued:
3. What were the results? (e.g. customer response, brand impact, sentiment change)
Reduce Timed Agent Response to Five Hours or Less
It was our goal to reduce TAR to under five hours. This was a somewhat of a daunting task given that expansion to include Facebook increased volume by 50%. Plus the onboarding of new staff requires time for training and acclimation. From January-June of 2018, the USPS Social Customer Response Team received just under 500k incoming messages. We reached this goal one month early.
Use Lithium Tagging to Identify and Prioritize Topics
What we do is a combination of public relations and customer response. The new tagging system allows us to identify content that has a wide potential audience or is likely to trend. It also allows us to address the most time-sensitive concerns first:
Our tagging also informs the content we publish on our social feeds. For example, when we noticed an increase in interest in our Informed Delivery service, we hosted a series of posts on that service. When we noticed that 15% of our incoming conversations were about international mail, a “how-to” film was developed:
Tagging allows us to respond to and anticipate our customer’s concerns. It also demonstrated the need for an HR specialist to respond to customer concerns, applicant questions, and employee feedback. Our new tags also determined the content of our template of responses for streamlined, standardized messaging. This in turn enhances quality, efficiency, and therefore customer satisfaction.
Measurements of customer satisfaction
We use two measures: CSAT score and Sentiment Conversion Rate. Our goal is to use these numbers to quantify agent success and demonstrate the ROI of the program. Since the CSAT function was enabled in December 2017, more than 25,000 surveys were distributed with completion rate of 54%. This is much higher than our Point of Service surveys. And the information it provided was insightful: when agents received a low score, it was not because of the service they provided, but because they were unable to provide the type of resolution the customer wanted (e.g. a full refund on an un-insured product).
Most compelling for executive leadership is the Sentiment Conversion Rate. The modifications in our approach led to a 63% improvement over the past year.
In late 2017, three hurricanes hit the United States, devastating several service areas including Puerto Rico. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria, we heard from our customers questions about the most reliable and affordable way to send care packages. This speaks directly to our Priority Mail service: “If it fits it ships.” We shared this information with our customers. When we noted an increase in parcels going to Puerto Rico opening in-transit, generated messaging on how to pack a box in English and Spanish.
Several of our post offices in Puerto Rico were temporarily closed due to the storm. Because our team includes Spanish speakers, associates contacted the post offices on the island to confirm operation status. We were able to provide updates in real-time regarding which facilities were open and which services they were able to provide. Our knowledge then informed status alerts on our website. It also allowed our associates to craft relevant messaging for our Puerto Rican customers. In the end, customers were extremely grateful for the information and had a better understanding of our services, leading to enhanced satisfaction.
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