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Serving America: Contract Postal Unit and Village Post Office Operations

October 23, 2023

READ FULL ARTICLE AT » Office of Inspector General OIG

Background

While the U.S. Postal Service uses over 2,500 Contract Postal Units (CPU) and Village Post Offices (VPO) as alternative retail access points throughout the country, these locations have declined by nearly 20 percent in recent years. CPUs and VPOs are suppliers (such as convenience store operators) that contractually provide postal services at their locations, for which nearby Postal Service staff provide oversight and support. The Postal Service is pursuing CPU growth to help foster cost-effective, customer-focused retail service as part of its Delivering for America 10-year plan.

What We Did

Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s CPU and VPO programs. Specifically, we (1) assessed Postal Service oversight of CPUs and VPOs, and (2) evaluated Postal Service strategies for establishing new CPUs and VPOs. We analyzed policies, data, and growth initiatives, and visited select CPUs and VPOs nationwide.

What We Found

While CPUs and VPOs support nationwide retail service and are to be representative of the Postal Service, we found oversight and customer service issues in their operation. These issues included incomplete reviews of supplier performance and supplier training certification, incorrect program data (for example, hours or addresses), and missing administrative files (for example, contract and oversight documents). These issues stemmed from processes not being enforced or other work priorities taking precedence. Continued issues may lead to negative customer experiences, putting revenues, costs, and the brand at risk.

Further, the Postal Service’s new CPU growth strategy should be completed in September 2023, and management is developing analytic tools, creating marketing materials, and addressing staffing gaps resulting from a 2021 organizational restructuring. While the Postal Service is working to address these gaps, field staff expressed concerns about the coordination and communication efforts defining their CPU growth-related roles and responsibilities and balancing their workloads. The Postal Service’s ability to effectively coordinate and communicate these efforts will be crucial to ensuring the CPU growth strategy’s effective and timely implementation.

Recommendations

We recommended management develop strategies for (1) reinforcing CPU and VPO oversight processes and priorities, particularly related to performance reviews, supplier training, program data, and administrative files; and (2) coordinating and communicating staff roles and responsibilities and balancing workloads under the new CPU growth strategy.

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