Monday was Columbus Day in the U.S. It’s not much of a holiday these days for most Americans. Just about every business was open, and I saw UPS, Fedex, and Amazon making deliveries in the neighborhood.
When I got to the closest U.S. Post Office, though, I found the lobby open but the customer service window shuttered. It took me a moment to figure out what was going on. The USPS takes holidays seriously, even Columbus Day. No post office service, no mail delivery. Their customers might all be working, but holidays are holidays. Indeed, in the course of a few minutes, multiple customers came in, most of them looking bewildered at the lack of personnel.
I wasn’t about to be inconvenienced. I had come prepared. My packages were ready to mail – I just needed to use the self-service kiosk to weigh them and print postage labels. I confidently pressed the touchscreen, only to find this:
So, on the same day when no staff were present to assist customers, the self-service option was broken due to “technical difficulies.” My trip was wasted. Based on the number of postal patrons that entered the building in the few minutes that I was there, many other trips were wasted that day.
A self-service option for customers is great - just don't force them to use it, and be sure it WORKS and is EASY. #CX #FrictionHunter Click To Tweet
Lessons in Convenience
While few customer experience experts consider the USPS to be a model that should be emulated, there are three lessons here for any organization:
- Be open when your customers expect you to be open. Watch your competitors for cues as to what customers might expect from you. Be customer centric – don’t cling to obsolete practices because they were acceptable in the past.
- Self service options, even when staff are present, are often great for customer experience. Some customers will prefer to serve themselves for speed and simplicity. Think of the self-serve checkout at the supermarket – if I’m buying one or two items that I know have bar codes, I’ll pick that over a human cashier ever time. The always-on, multi-function kiosks in post offices are a big plus for postal patrons whether the counter is open or not. The kiosks have to work, of course.
- If your self-service option is accessible when human staff isn’t present, be certain it is working before everyone leaves. And, unless you want a stream of frustrated customers, be sure a fatal malfunction sends an alert to 24/7 service personnel.