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.
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.
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:
- Clearly 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.