The Postal Service provides customers the ability to track the status of their packages online at USPS.com using the USPS Tracking® website. Examples of messages displayed for customers are “Arrived at USPS Facility”, “In Transit to Next Facility”, “Departed USPS Facility”, or “Out for Delivery”. The Postal Service also provides certain tracking definitions on its related Where is my package? page on USPS.com.
What We Did
Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Postal Service’s messaging to customers for tracking domestic packages on USPS.com and Informed Delivery. We reviewed tracking messages displayed on USPS.com for 500 judgmentally selected packages, from 25 states, pulled from various points throughout the facilities.
What We Found
The Postal Service could improve customer tracking messaging as it does not always provide reliable information on the status and location of packages. We found that messages for 318 of 500 packages (64 percent) did not accurately reflect the location, time, and/or date of the packages we observed. Messages for 163 packages indicated “Out for Delivery” when they were still at the post office and 46 packages lacked a status message for the facility we observed. Messages for 497 of 500 packages also displayed at least one nondescriptive facility name or location (e.g., “Arrived at USPS Facility”).
These issues resulted from a combination of factors including missing package scans, which can occur if a barcode is unreadable, or scans not being completed as required. Also, the Postal Service’s programming logic reports anticipated package movement through the network rather than describing the actual package location. In other words, a system-generated message is utilized to identify the next step in a sequence of events. For example, a package’s messaging may show “Out for Delivery” or “In Transit”, but the package could still be at a facility. Lastly, officials stated that certain locations/facilities are purposely nondescriptive for security-related reasons.
While we recognize the Postal Service’s challenges with scanning accuracy and preference for anticipated movement or nondescriptive messaging to address efficiency and operational concerns, clearly defining the status of packages on USPS.com will enhance understanding, transparency, and improve customer experience.
We recommended management develop package status descriptions that explain missing scan events and enhance explanations for messages such as for “Out for Delivery”, “In Transit”, or nondescriptive facility names on its tracking websites.