2020 Customer Awards: United States Postal Service - Keep Calm and Carry On

2020 Customer Awards: United States Postal Service - Keep Calm and Carry On

Company: United States Postal Service

Company background: 

The United States Postal Service (USPS) 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. USPS is an essential part of the fabric of American life. We touch every American household and business six, in some cases seven, days a week. The COVID-19 epidemic is providing unprecedented challenges and opportunities as customers count on us for life’s necessities, a sense of connection, and economic support.  But initially, customers and the media questioned the safety of the mail, the safety of our employees, if our employees are a potential source of infection, and the health of our future as a business. MSN and others asked: ”Could coronavirus deal a fatal blow to the U.S. Postal Service?

Just as our customers are personally and professionally affected, so are our employees. They are encountering workloads greater than our peak holiday season, with less staff, and with the additional burden of personal safety concerns. 

And all this is occurring at the same time as the national census, during an election year with mixed feelings about vote-by-mail.

Our goals in social listening are brand protection, crisis mitigation, and an enhanced customer experience. Our job is to take quantitative and qualitative data and present it in a narrative that is both compelling and accessible. The data is used to evaluate an approach, inform a response, and modify operations. We aim to provide the data necessary to inform nimble decision-making based on data, rather than instinct. The data tells a story. These stories are about people, our employees and our customers. The better the job we can do in telling that story, the better we can bring about a happy ending for both customers and employees.

Contact: Mary Beth Levin

Title: Manager, Social Business Intelligence

Related URLs:

Kudos Category: Keep Calm and Carry On

1. How did your team shift your existing strategy to better engage customers during a crisis?
We listened. Customer concerns included possible delays in service, being able to send or receive international mail, being exposed via the mail, and contracting the virus from an employee “after all, they visit every house”.  Employees were concerned about social distancing in the work environment, access to personal protective equipment (PPE), use of emergency leave, unprecedented workloads, endangering family members by “bringing the disease home”, burnout, and customers failing to observe social distancing “running up to me, like I’m their long lost love”. From a law enforcement perspective for the Postal Inspection Service, there are concerns about the safety of carriers delivering stimulus checks and bad actors taking advantage of the economic downturn through price gouging of PPE, offering fake cures, and employment scams.

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We developed additional tags and used the Smart Views function to tease-out and monitor various themes, such as employee concerns regarding the epidemic. We have a staff member from HR assigned to the team to address personnel issues using a queue defined by that Smart View. We also use Smart Views to identify User Generated Content (UGC). During these times, companies initially were hesitant to post for fear of coming across as being tone-deaf and self-serving. UGC is generally better-received. In addition, UGC and positive news stories are shared internally for employee morale. 

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Our trending dashboard, initially used to identify posts which may be problematic, now serves the purpose of validating our editorial content. During the epidemic, for the first time, our brand posts are consistently ranking among the top ten mail-related posts. Being able to provide these metrics on behalf of another team further validates the value of our program.

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The “Manage” interface allowed us to address the 250% increase in incoming posts (500-600 per hour) in a more nuanced manner than a mass close-out. When Social Customer Response Associates started working from home, data from the Analytics and Supervisor interfaces demonstrated that their productivity did not decline, nor did the quality of their work as evidenced by CSAT scores which remained stable. 

And finally, in order to pinpoint customer service hotspots, we used Khoros data to develop an interactive heat-map. Any conversation which includes a zip code or a package tracking number is mapped. Users can select one or more postal areas, districts, zip codes, or subjects (tags). The data goes back to January, 2016 and is updated daily. Users can click on a conversation to view it in Khoros or export the conversation text into an excel file. It uses Khoros data exclusively. Although still in a pilot phase, we are already seeing improvements in service: fewer reports regarding missing packages, fewer reports regarding missing mail, fewer complaints involving certified mail, and lower social media volume overall in those areas where the heat-map is being used. Given the increased reliance on mail and packages during this crisis, having this sort of information has proved invaluable.

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The initial success led to the development of a second page of the heat-map, displaying the results of 24 online review sites, for a “one-stop-shopping” experience for those wanting a comprehensive view of local social media conversations.

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The innovative nature of these efforts led us to present next at an industry webinar on using social listening to track trends for crisis mitigation.

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2. What operational processes did you create or change to respond in a time of crisis?

We communicated with customers and employees using every means at our disposal, including inventing new ways of communicating. Social listening (SL) informed the content of these efforts. 

  • Two sites were quickly created to provide employees with essential information:
    • One for all employees, providing resources on staying safe, Employee Assistance Program, Families First Act information, articles and videos
    • Another providing tools and guidance for employees and managers including: Stand-Up talks, posters, articles, videos, teleworking information, FAQs and cleaning and supplies guidelines. 
  • An external site: was created to provide our customers and employees with information on staying safe during COVID-19.
  • Our electronic magazine for employees which reaches over 630K via website, email, and mobile app published 112 stories related to the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Our blog addressed the shipping needs of homes and small businesses, how to apply for a postal job, and what it means to be an essential service. 
  • We partnered with Scholastic to develop an at-home curricula on letter-writing for 3rd and 4th graders. 
  • In response to SL feedback, a series video shorts were produced discussing how USPS is protecting customers and employees.
  • In response to SL feedback from customers and employees, UCG, especially displays of appreciation, form the content of a series of “Thank you for the thank you’s” films. UGC also appears more prominently on our brand posts. UGC also provides the content for new, daily, region-specific newsletters. All of these have been exceptionally well-received. 
  • SL located offices which had not received PPE, addressed confusion about internal policies such as how to use emergency leave, onboarding new employees, and identified and addressed deficits in implementation or understanding of policy/procedure. 

Informed Delivery, a free service with 22.2M email subscribers which provides images of incoming mail, was used to deliver click-through content regarding service alerts, scams, and EIP.


3. What success metrics did you use to determine if your shifts in strategy and process had the desired outcomes? What were those quantifiable outcomes?

For the first time, the content on our brand posts are among the top mail-related posts on social media. This is especially surprising given how many others, including members of congress, are talking about the mail in terms of COVID-19, the national census, and vote-by-mail. Our top organic posts reached 230-423.5K, with engagement as high as 49.5K for a single post. Our COVID-specific websites received 1.M views, with a peak of 44K in a single day. The service alerts on our website garnered over 2.2M users from 230 countries. The coronavirus-related content on the electronic employee magazine drove record-breaking hits for two consecutive months. The articles themselves attracted a total of 1.6M page views. For Informed Delivery, COVID-19 content lead to a 42% increase in the open rate and a 46% increase in the click-through rate, driving a 150% increase in traffic to USPIS website alone.  The five video PSAs around COVID-19 related fraud reached 914.4K. A partnership with Hallmark to provide 1M free greeting cards was so successful, they doubled the donation. And finally, the Harris Poll Essential 100, a ranking of corporate response to the pandemic ranked USPS #1 based upon the qualities of resolve, trustworthiness, responsiveness, and permanence. Today (July 31) Morning Consult’s 2020 report on the Top 50 Most Loved Brands in America ranked the U.S. Postal Service as the number one most-loved brand, directly ahead of Google, UPS, Amazon and Netflix, based on such factors as favorability, trust and community impact.

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However, missing from these numbers are the stories – the little girl who uses the inside of the mailbox to play tic-tac-toe with her carrier. Or the 4th grader who became pen pals with her carrier and several other employees. The carriers who deliver cookies they made for high school graduates on their route celebrating at home. The carrier who used her stimulus check to buy gift cards to congratulate those students. Or the carrier who delivers groceries to the elderly customers on his route.

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And that is why we believe:

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Kudos to the Postal Service for exceptional reliability during a very challenging time! Thank you!

Thank you so much! We really appreciate it!

Best story EVER. #USPS rocks! 

Oh thank you so much!

The better the job you can do in telling a story, the better you can bring about a happy ending for both customers and employees.