Slow Delivery Could Cost the Postal Service Millions This Election Season

They don’t call it snail mail for nothing, it would appear.

The U.S. Postal Service could be missing out on critical revenue during the election season as it continues to deliver mail more slowly, according to a new report.

The postal inspector general published a management advisory this week that found customers who typically send out large batches of political mailings have expressed concerns about “mail delays and service quality.” The Postal Service brought in $525 million in revenue during the 2012 election cycle, and postal officials had estimated that number will nearly double to $1 billion in 2016.

USPS has established a “comprehensive 2016 political mail strategy,” according to the IG. Among other things, the Postal Service is allocating staff to handle such business directly.  The agency started planning for the election cycle earlier than in previous years and has developed relationships with key players in the industry. Postal officials have spoken at and sponsored political mailers’ conferences and created special tools for its sales team to target its efforts to meet specific needs across the country.

In meeting with political mailers, however, the IG found some businesses described the Postal Service’s recent performance as “abysmal.” A whopping 75 percent of the mail service providers with whom the auditors spoke voiced concerns over the agency’s operations. A USPS official conceded to the IG that concerns over missed delivery standards “have led many mailers to shift from mail to other forms of advertising.”

Mailers raised concerns about the ease of getting their mail to the Postal Service, their political literature not being delivered and the need for a larger delivery window during the election season.

The sales director for a San Diego-based political mailing company, U.S. Mailing House, put his complaints more bluntly in a phone call with Government Executive.

“The equipment is old and the employees are fat and lazy,” said the sales director, whose company delivers 1 million pieces and four truck loads each day for clients across the country. He added the problems have increased “dramatically” in recent months and years.

The Postal Service has faced significant blowback from lawmakers and other postal stakeholders in recent years for slower mail delivery. Many point to the agency’s decision to consolidate hundreds of facilities in an effort to “right size” its footprint as causing the delays. USPS in 2012 adjusted its delivery schedule to accommodate the closures, including by virtually eliminating overnight mail while shifting much of its two-day service to a three- to five-day window.

Postal management was already aware of some of its shortcomings specifically on political mailings after the last election and has studied how to make improvements. USPS subsequently held training sessions with employees on selling and improving the political mail business, and is developing a “intelligent mail barcode” tool to give mailers better tracking abilities.

While the Postal Service is optimistic those steps will enable the agency to double its political mail revenue, the IG said that outcome “will be at risk if operational concerns continue.” USPS agreed with the auditors’ recommendations to identify the problems, take actions to correct them and to communicate those resolutions to its customers.

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