image

Learn from USPS: Are You Pushing Away Your Customers?

As I’m sure you’ve already heard, USPS is getting an ass-kicking. They lost billions of dollars in 2011. They’re laying off tens of thousands of employees. Their competitors, like UPS and FedEx, one-up them at every turn, and the USPS is constantly left in the dust.

But all of those USPS events have already been pointed out. Several times, actually. So I’m not going to discuss that any further here.

Instead, I’d like to talk about two ways the USPS could dominate their competitors if they applied themselves – both of which apply to their own website and social networking accounts.

I found a couple of lacking areas while hunting for information on the USPS site. Here are my suggestions for improvement!

#1: Make It Easy for Customers to Find Information by Eliminating Unnecessary Steps.

USPS mistake: I spent ten minutes on the site trying to find links to the USPS’ official social media accounts, and when I finally did discover them (NOT on the “Contact Us” page, but on the “Newsroom” page — go figure), they were so tiny I almost missed them. In short, there are too many barriers between users and their content.

As an experiment, I searched their site for “Twitter” and eventually found a handful of links with a mention of the keyword — but clicking on them didn’t take me to a webpage. Each one led to an RTF or a PDF file that I had to download to my computer to read. Huh? Wouldn’t it be easier to put this information on a webpage with clickable links? I need more crap downloaded to my desktop like I need a hole in the head.

This adorable dog probably opened the package in the time it took to find USPS' social icons.

This adorable dog probably opened the package in the time it took to find USPS' social icons.

Also, after a more thorough search on Google, I managed to find a few Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that were supposedly associated with USPS. I also found one blog that claimed to be an official resource for USPS stamps (that URL doesn’t seem too official to me, but whatever). But how many of those were readily accessible and noticeable on their website? NONE. At least, none that I could see within my ten minutes of searching. So, how am I supposed to: A) know where to find USPS’ social sites and blogs unless I was rabidly determined to do so, and B) know that these are official accounts?

I could start a blog on Tumblr in ten minutes and call it “USPS Stamp Fans,” but without a link from an official, trusted source (AKA the company’s website), how would people know I was legit? Impostors come out of the woodwork nowadays, so we can never be too trusting.

Easy Fix: Add social and blog icons to your “Contact” page and any other page that seems logical (better yet, put them in a header or footer that remains consistent). Why would you complicate functions that don’t need to be complicated? Direct customers to pages that facilitate conversation, otherwise they won’t know how to get there.

#2: Promote Content and Initiatives by Using Social Media and Blogs.

USPS mistake: They’re not broadcasting updates to their fans and followers as well as they could be. (Disclaimer on this one: USPS does announce new initiatives on their site, but just like everything else, news tends to get lost or buried because it’s not organized in a logical fashion).

Sadly, USPS is restricting itself by not promoting the services that ARE available. They could easily leverage social media and blogs to announce news and/or receive feedback on USPS promotions. Their verified Twitter account is pretty well-managed; in fact, they do a wonderful job of engaging their followers. They give away prizes and @mention their winners, they post USPS trivia, and they seem to be on the right track with asking open-ended questions to increase engagement.

Trying to find information at USPS was like tracking down Waldo.

Trying to find information at USPS was like tracking down Waldo.

However, what good does that do when it’s impossible to actually find that account? The only way to locate their social media accounts would be by manually searching for it on that social networking site — or by going back to Google and searching for it that way — and either of those equal extra steps (and time) that many customers won’t be willing to do.

USPS could improve communication by clearly outlining which account (or blog) is appropriate for specific areas. Is one Twitter account specifically for customers to reach them and ask questions? State that on the Contact page. Is one account specifically to announce company initiatives and crowdsource new ideas? Make that clear.

Since they don’t have an official blog to speak of, either (a GIGANTIC mistake on their part) they can’t even broadcast updates to their customers that way.

Easy Fix: See the previous “fix” first (add social icons to your website). Once that’s secured, start using your blog and social accounts to make announcements and engage followers. Also, if you have multiple accounts or blogs for multiple things, then be sure to clearly state that. Don’t make customers do the work for you.

Quick takeaways from USPS:

  1. USPS TakeawaysClearly outline how customers can contact you, when they can contact you, and make it obvious that you WANT them to contact you. Every extra step is a missed opportunity.
  2. Get into social media and make it known that you have a presence there. It won’t do you any good to create Facebook and Twitter accounts if there’s no way to actually find them! Put visible social networking icons where people can see them. Ideally, they should be visible on every page, but at least include them on your homepage and your contact us pages. Also, consider starting a blog if you don’t have one already. Blogging is work, but it’s essential to engagement.
  3. Publicize your company news and make it interesting enough to share. People aren’t going to share content if it reads like a dry press release.
  4. Ask the questions that shed light on lacking areas. Want to know what your customers will think of your new idea? ASK THEM. Want to get some more suggestions for improvement? ASK THEM. If you don’t ask the right questions, then you’re going to sink fast. And your competitors will be there to scoop up the leftovers.

Now, for the good news (yes, there’s some of that)! If USPS works on these areas and tries to get customers more involved, they may be able to rally some new fans. Will it be enough to save them entirely? Who knows. But at this point, it certainly couldn’t hurt. Their website has immense potential, and it is undoubtedly the most attractive of all three “main” competitors (USPS, FedEx, and UPS).

Come on, USPS, prove me wrong! I don’t want to see you disappear into the void.

What do you think of USPS’ strategies? What else could they do better? Do you think I’m way off base? I’d love to hear your feedback.

 Image credit to _tar0_, rdoke, moriartys, and MoneyBlogNewz.


Jill Tooley

Jill has been obsessed with words since her fingers could turn the pages of a book. She’s a hopeless bibliophile who recently purchased a Kindle after almost 6 years of radical opposition, and she loves stumbling upon new music on Pandora. Random interests include (but are not limited to) bookstores, movie memorabilia, and adorable rodents. Jill writes for the QLP blog and assists with the company’s social media accounts. You can connect with Jill on Google+.

Comments

  1. amy

    I’m sadly not the least bit surprised the USPS doesn’t advertise their social icons, it’s such a basic mistake that often gets overlooked and ignored but it makes a huge difference! I also like your suggestion for them to run a blog, they could do a lot with it.

    Great post, Jill! Bonus points for keeping the rage and rant to a minimum, that couldn’t have been easy.

    • Jill Tooley

      Haha, thanks Amy! I was trying so hard not to be a “hater.” I legitimately believe they could do something more with this, though…

  2. Cybernetic SAM

    You are totally right! I just hope that USPS realizes how important they are in their local communities. They play a very important role, and if they fail so do other businesses and it makes it very hard for their communities to survive.

    • Jill Tooley

      I agree. I don’t want to see them fail, but everything I’ve been reading indicates they keep digging themselves into deeper and deeper holes!

  3. Jeff Porretto

    I know I’ll have the minority opinion here, but I LOVE USPS. Who else can send a package across the country in 2 days for $5, AND pick it up from my house for free. NO ONE else, that’s who =]

    Their parcel services are actually pretty impressive and reliable, in my experience at least. You wouldn’t know it from their terrible marketing though. I’ve shipped over 1000 packages and haven’t had a single problem. But upwards of 1/4 of UPS packages I’ve sent have been lost or damaged.

    • Jill Tooley

      See, the problem isn’t necessarily with USPS as a service — they do have excellent products and they’ve had some good promotion ideas. But they’re not marketing themselves effectively! That’s HUGE. How am I supposed to know about any of this stuff if they don’t TELL me? It’s frustrating. I don’t think USPS ever intended to compete with services like UPS and FedEx, which is why they’ve fallen behind all of these years, and now they’re playing catch-up.

      But alas, it seems like they’re focused on bigger things right now, like not laying off more people or going bankrupt…

  4. Jay

    Step 3: Continue buying stuff for their e-commerce store from Jay.

    They’ve actually launched a new initiative to sell promotional products like digitally printed tote bags and mugs to sell on a new site they’re developing. I sold quite a few of them with full color images of commemorative stamps that came out amazing (thanks to Bookbinder!). It isn’t anything new, but they had success in the past and just didn’t capitalize. Right now, they have plans for an absolute TON of new swag for stamp collectors, all done by QLP!

    • Jill Tooley

      That’s awesome, Jay! I didn’t know any of this! Stamp collectors will eat that up. Gotta love that Bookbinder! :)

  5. Jaimie Smith

    Jill you are so right!!
    I really don’t ever use USPS for much (unless I shop online, and that shiping is determined by the store anyway). But social media def helps a business a lot, and if its hard to find on their page, people are going to say “screw this” (at least I would anyway).
    You def had some great points and takeaways here Jill! Great job!! :)

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Jaimie! I always buy my stamps online and have them shipped to me, it’s so much easier than trying to go there during business hours and wait in a long line. They have a bigger selection online, too!

      Glad you liked it! :)

  6. Jen

    I don’t usually have to ship anything, but if I do it’s, in my opinion, way easier to visit my local post office verses trying to find the nearest UPS store. Also, like Jeff said, it’s cheaper than some of the other ship methods. I really hope it doesn’t disappear and can clean its act up. Great post Jill, I hope someone from the USPS reads this blog and takes action!

  7. Mandy Kilinskis

    I’m a big fan of the USPS – I’ve shipped with them probably hundreds of times without a problem (knock on wood) and at reasonable rates. So the fact that their social presence is lacking is surprising. Considering that social media/blogging is a relatively inexpensive way to market your business, a cash-strapped USPS should jump on that bandwagon!

    When they finally add social icons to their website, I think they should also make a tab on their Facebook page that allows people to buy postage without leaving Facebook. That would be so easy and generate business, I imagine!

    • Rachel

      Neat idea about buying postage through a Facebook tab, Mandy! I think that could work well in their favor. Anything to increase convenience for the customer seems like a good idea.

  8. Rachel

    It’s too bad USPS seems to be on its way to using social media well but not quite there yet. You are totally right about how important it is to market these social websites so that customers actually see them. A place I volunteer for recently added their Facebook link to the header of the website, and I’m pretty sure that’s been part of the reason we’ve seen more fan “likes” in the last few months than previously. Hopefully USPS gets a little better about this! Great article, Jill. :)

  9. Eric

    Love the Post Office. What the heck’s social media?!?! ;-)

  10. Bret Bonnet

    Who the heck even still goes to or uses the Post Office?

    There is a reason why UPS and FedEx haven’t entered into this market; there is no money in it. I’m tired of paying more money per stamp Y/Y while also subsidizing this failed government venture with my tax dollars.

    Privatize it or shut it down.

    SIDE NOTE: Is it me or are all post office employees miserable? That, and it’s my opinion that it’s MORE difficult to ship a package via USPS than either FedEx or UPS.

  11. Eric

    Well, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the Aurora Post Office is where efficiency goes to die. I understand it being an institution as old as this nation is, sure. But every experience I’ve had in recent time leaves me wondering if they still are delivering their mail via a horse. I’m sure they entered into social media not because they’d a vested interest in it, nor did they want to expand their market, but simply because they felt obligated to, hence, an obilgatory, less-than-helpful presence. I appreciate the USPS and its workforce, but sadly, the way things are going? We’ll see it privatized well within this lifetime. Ironically, then it may actually receive the social media attention it deserves.

Leave a Comment

Copyright 2003 - 2014 Quality Logo Products, Inc., Registration No. TX7-524-201. All Rights Reserved.