What's Wrong with the United States Postal Service?

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Posted Apr 24, 2012
Susan Gunelius

The United States Postal Service is in trouble. With a $3.3 billion loss reported in the first quarter of 2012, you'd think finding a new ad agency would be the least of the organization's problems. However, the 13-month search for an agency that can turn things around continues, as Andrew McMains of AdWeek reported last week.


In his article, Andrew shared a quote from Russel Wohlworth of External View Consulting Group that sums up the USPS ad agency search very well. Wohlworth said, "I don't think advertising can do a whole lot at this point. They've got so many issues, [the ad agency search] is almost akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." In other words, the USPS is a sinking ship, and it will take a lot more than an ad agency to save it.That's not to say that an ad agency won't play a vital part in rebuilding the USPS brand and business, but there are far more problems that need to be fixed before an agency can offer much help.With that in mind, AYTM decided to ask our U.S. consumer panel how they feel about the USPS and what they think is wrong with it. The results might surprise you. Most people are happy with the service offered by the USPS, but that satisfaction doesn't mean they're going to start sending more mail.Let's take a closer look at the survey results:

  • 69% of respondents feel positively about the USPS brand.
  • 63% believe that the USPS provides great products.
  • 77% believe that the USPS provides the products they need.
  • 53% believe that the USPS provides great customer service.
  • 69% believe that the USPS is convenient.
  • 68% believe that the USPS is reliable and trustworthy.
  • 66% believe that the USPS is important to them.
  • 41% of respondents believe that the USPS is innovative.
  • Only 8% believe that the USPS is more expensive than alternatives like FedEx or UPS.
  • 59% visit a USPS location less than once per month.
  • 53% visit the USPS website less than once per month.
  • 36% purchased a book of stamps in the past month and 35% purchased a book of stamps in the past 3-6 months. 10% last purchased a book of stamps 6-12 months ago, and 19% haven't purchased a book of stamps in the past year.

When you first look at the data above, it seems like people feel very positively toward the United States Postal Service and their experiences with the organization are viewed favorably. However, when you get to the bottom of the list, the problems become more noticeable. Nearly half of respondents visit a USPS location or the USPS website less than once per month, and 1 out of 5 respondents haven't purchased a book of stamps for a year. Only 1 in 3 respondents have purchased a book of stamps in the past month, and 2 out of 3 have purchased a book of stamps in the past 3-6 months.Simply stated, the USPS is not getting the amount of business it got decades ago, but it still operates as if it's getting all that business. When respondents to this survey were asked why they believe the USPS is struggling to stay afloat, the responses fell into one of four primary categories:

  • Online bill payment: Respondents explain that people pay bills online because it's much less expensive than paying for stamps. It's also more convenient. That means less mail is sent through the USPS.
  • Email and text messaging: Respondents believe that people don't send letters anymore. They communicate via email and text messaging. Even companies have reduced their direct mail significantly. That equates to less mail for the USPS to process.
  • Government: Many respondents cited government rulings, particularly one specific congressional ruling, as the primary problem with the USPS. As one respondent put it, "That ridiculous law/rule passed in the lame duck session in 2006 which mandated they fund 75 years of pensions in a 10 year window."
  • Internal Problems: Respondents also cited high administrative costs, inefficiencies, high salaries, high pension costs, high health benefit costs, and high bonus payouts as key problems.

You can view the complete survey results in the widget below and be sure to click “Open Full Report” to take advantage of all the chart and filter options.

It's clear that the USPS has a variety of problems, and while consumers are generally satisfied with the USPS, they recognize that the organization is a long way from turning itself around. What do you think? Leave a comment and share your thoughts about the USPS brand and future.Image: Mark Tee

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