Integrity Matters
August 16, 2006

Postal employee fails customer service test

Question: (E-253)

Dear Jim:

I spent three frustrating hours at a local post office, dealing with a non-responsive employee! She has seen me - a regular customer - for many years, and I have always been respectful. What happened to customer service? Do you know the right way to address such behavior?


Quality service too often is the exception today, which accounts for the public's eagerness to identify legendary service, almost anywhere, and reward it. Olympic gold medal winner Bob Richards said many years ago that it's easy to be great.

He clarified that it takes so little to stand out in a world of pretenders and wannabes. His minimum standards: Walk a mile in less than 20 minutes, read three books a year and regularly support charities with time and money. Simple as this sounds, he said, few people accomplish all three. So there you have it, laggards are everywhere in our society, and they have been with us for quite a while - including some who work at the post office.

Your recent frustrations confirm Richards' observations. From what you described, post office and service appear - in this instance at least - to be contradictory terms. When employees give the appearance of not caring about customers, behaving as if they have 100 percent job protection from those they serve, then customer relations suffer.

When customer needs come across as unimportant and employees leave the service counter to "take their scheduled breaks" - even when lines are long - public relations will take a beating. Private enterprises that treat customers this way will be driven out of business by customer-savvy competitors.

To address unacceptable customer service, start with the local post office manager and seek a constructive solution. If you're not satisfied, then:

  • Forward your complaint to your congressman.
  • Expect responsible leaders to have pride in their work, wanting the very best for all customers - including government agencies.
  • Acknowledge your lack of understanding of the performance pressures and budget constraints of the post office.
  • Remind postal employees that they never need to "demonstrate" their power over any customer because they already have it. They control who gets mail - and that is power. The U.S. Postal Service delivers tremendous amounts of information, accurately, throughout the year. We need professional and energized postal employees, and they need satisfied customers.
Remember, integrity, with respect and professionalism, is how business needs to be conducted - all the time.

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