The pandemic, however, remains an ongoing challenge for the agency’s day-to-day operations.
Data from the last fiscal year shows that USPS is still struggling to meet annual goals for on-time delivery and customer satisfaction. The agency, meanwhile, cites a lack of employee availability throughout the pandemic as a major factor behind these persistent challenges.
USPS fell short on targets to improve or maintain customer satisfaction, and that customers, overall, were less satisfied with service in FY 2021, compared to the previous year.
Public representatives are designated to represent the interests of the general public in public proceedings before the commission.
“Rather than a year of returning to normalcy as had been hoped, FY 2021 was a year of transition away from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic toward gradual recovery,” the public representative wrote. “Of continuing overriding significance in FY 2021 was the broad impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all aspects of the Postal Service’s operations during much of FY 2021, but most particularly the first half.”
The public representative noted that USPS missed all its service performance targets for first-class mail in FY 2021, even after lowering the targets in light of the pandemic’s expected impact on service.
USPS across the board had lower performance scores for first-class mail compared to FY 2020.
The agency came close to meeting its service scores for single-piece letters and postcards, but fell farthest from targets on its “flats,” such as large envelopes, newsletters and magazines.
USPS in its annual compliance report, said its second year of performance under the pandemic “proved especially challenging” in addition to its “long-standing service performance challenges.”
The agency, in the report, highlighted three challenges that impacted service: “historically high peak season package volumes, significantly high employees absences, and reduced supplier transportation capacity.”
USPS said in the report that it will monitor and adjust staffing levels in FY 2022 in an attempt to achieve service performance targets.
The agency said lower staffing not only leads to late processing and delivery of mail, but also added that “hot spots,” which suffer the most from a lack of available employees, can have a spillover effect on the performance of other areas and facilities.
The public representative, however, said that for first-class mail to recover in FY 2022, USPS will need to “build upon its FY 2021 efforts to deal with the impacts of the pandemic.”
“Until the pandemic is brought under control, the Postal Service will have to continue to contend with the unavailability of numbers of employees, constrained transportation, and the challenges of increased package volume,” the public representative wrote.
USPS said service performance was also “very likely impacted by several weather events in FY 2021,” including Winter Storm Gail in December 2020 and Winter Storms Uri and Viola in February 2021. The agency, however, was unable to determine the exact impact to service caused by these weather events.
The report focuses only on FY 2021 performance and doesn’t reflect more recent bright spots in the agency’s performance, such as improved performance during the holiday season, or its role as the Biden administration’s distributor of COVID-19 tests.
USPS executives see both as indicators that the agency has overcome the worst of its pandemic-related challenges and a sign that better days lie ahead.
“For these reasons, FY 2021 is the transition year between the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the full year of operations under the 10-year S\strategic plan with rates authorized upon the basis of the 10-year review,” the public representative wrote.
USPS sees lower customer satisfaction scores
The public representative also found USPS saw a decline in customer satisfaction scores in FY 2021, compared to the previous year.
USPS saw its composite customer experience score drop from 72.40% in FY 2020 to 68.15% in FY 2021. The agency set 76.90% as its customer satisfaction score goal for FY 2021.
The public representative said the USPS saw “large declines in customer satisfaction” for residential customers, as well as small-and-medium-sized business customers. Large customers, however, saw a “modest” increase in customer satisfaction
USPS saw a more than 10% decrease in customer satisfaction with delivery, and more than a 6% decrease with the level of service on USPS.com.
The Postal Service said an “unprecedented volume of traffic to the USPS.com website” created capacity issues for the host servers and resulted in a bottleneck for end-users.
USPS attributed some of the declines in scores on the pandemic, but the public representative found that COVID-19 “did not have a significant impact on overall customer satisfaction in FY 2020,” and urged the agency to stabilize areas of the customer experience that saw a significant drop in satisfaction scores.
“While the Public Representative agrees that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge for the Postal Service in meeting its customer’s needs, it is not an excuse for the large deterioration in customer sentiment,” he wrote.
USPS is required to report annually on the level of service it provided for each of its market-dominant products, both in terms of speed and reliability. The agency is also required to report customer satisfaction with its market-dominant products.