As a regular eBay seller and someone who does not yet pay all of my bills online, I still spend time at the post office, typically buying stamps and mailing or dropping off packages. And although the U.S. Postal Service is trying some good things to make customers' lives easier, the post office experience itself could get a lot better.
Some examples from my recent post office visits:
- USPS has installed vending machines in post offices to make stamp buying simpler, but they are not terribly effective. For example, the machines provide change in Sacagawea dollar coins, which are not very useful. Also, they do not sell essential items like rolls of 100 stamps or Priority Mail postage. Most of that could be solved if they accepted credit cards in addition to cash, which would alleviate both the change problem and available postage in the machines. Some soda vending machines even accept credit cards now, so this seems like a no-brainer.
- USPS is doing a great job of promoting the online purchase and printing of postage, and the process works great, especially through partners such as PayPal, where postage and shipping are integrated into users' accounts. The problem occurs when the package needs to ship. While USPS promotes online postage, physical post offices do not seem designed to support it. To drop off a large package, you have to wait in the same line as customers purchasing postage, negating the advantages of the online process. Post offices should have a separate line for customers dropping off pre-paid packages so the physical customer experience supports the ease of the online transaction.
So while USPS is embracing automation in some cases, there is still work to do to improve the customer experience. Ideas such as Automated Postal Centers (APCs) solve the issue of outdated vending machines, and some simple design modifications to post offices to better support dropping off packages with pre-paid postage would help even more.