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Postmaster Pride—Embracing the Challenge
By Kanani Alos
Postmaster of Kaneohe, HI
As we continue to manage day-to-day operations, there are challenges we all face daily. Reorganizational changes have diminished districts, making it difficult to get the local support we need to be successful. The impact also has affected our members who must learn new jobs while transitioning out of their old positions, inheriting new titles and facing greater responsibilities.
Often, cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all strategies are handed down to us, but require modification to fit our unique issues. We are feeling overwhelmed with our responsibilities, which have become more demanding than ever before.
During these challenging times, it is important to have your fellow postmasters on whom you can rely for support, something for which I am grateful every day. We survive by sticking together, encouraging each other and doing the best we can with the resources we have—each other.
Regardless of the challenges we face daily, we still are steadfast in performing our duties and responsibilities. Our ultimate responsibility is to uphold the brand while taking care of our customers and employees.
In our current environment, rarely are we able to walk into our offices first thing in the morning and consider customer service our core task. We often must focus our time and energy on analyzing opportunities to develop strategies and tactics that are actionable and trackable just to get off a report. We are doing mail counts first thing in the morning, followed by load observations and ride-outs to review carrier efficiencies and productivities, then logging onto telecons, while covering absences, responding to emails and making sure we have completed specific surveys and tasks on our checklist.
Seldom is an old-fashioned customer service issue the priority of our day. Nonetheless, as busy as our day can be as postmasters, we need to take a moment and remind ourselves to balance the needs of the organization with its purpose: “To provide the nation with reliable, affordable, universal mail service.” It all begins in the offices we have taken the responsibility to manage.
As part of the Hawaii District, we have postmasters on islands with unique challenges involving mail arrival through air and surface transportation. Servicing customers can be extremely difficult, especially when managing an office over 3,700 miles away from the continental U.S. This holds true for Saipan Postmaster Harry Wilcox.
He shared with me the challenges he faces being so far away. To Saipan residents, Postal Service employees are the face of the U.S. government. Their presence and efforts in customer service are a direct representation of the federal government and often the only government entity with which these residents have contact.
Beyond the constant changes we experience, this island postmaster has unique issues involving delivery the majority of us do not have. The whole island only receives mail through PO box service. Although they have street addresses on the island, there is no carrier service.
This makes it difficult for Wilcox’s retail customers who only accept mail at their street addresses. Unfortunately, when items arrive through the Postal Service network, he has no choice but to return them immediately. On the brighter side, his customers can benefit from shopping the Amazon and Walmart network. At the click of a button, they can get needed products and have them delivered to their PO boxes on the island.
Now, think about the perfect customer experience. Think about how we must manage our wait-time-in-line to service customers in five minutes or less. Now, imagine being in an office where every package leaving requires a customs’ form!
To those who are part of the Retail Customer Experience (RCE) program, this would be a complete nightmare—not to forget the recent changes U.S. Customs has dictated requiring customers to enter these labels online. We no longer can accept handwritten customs forms. If customers do not have access to a computer, guess what? We must enter it into the CBPman system. Fortunately, Wilcox does not have to worry about wait-time-in-line and the RCE. However, being customer-service oriented, he still worries about servicing his customers in a timely manner.
Near or far, regardless of where you are, we all have unique challenges to overcome each day while making sure we take care of our customers and employees with a smile. Remember the oath we all took to uphold the brand and manage our operations with dignity and respect.
Take pride in your work and be confident when making decisions. Rely on your support system, your fellow postmasters and remember why you chose to be a postmaster. Let us do this because our customers and employees are counting on us to make things happen. Embrace the challenge!