Customer Experience, Customer Experience Spotlight, Marketing

Customer Experience Spotlight: Post Office Boxes

Periodically I profile a different industry from the perspective of the customer. I’ll detail my experience and talk about how that industry could improve the customer experience. Retaining customers is a key business function, enabling organizations to grow and reach their goals. It also affects the bottom line: it costs four to 20 times as much to get a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. View all Customer Experience Spotlight posts. 


Recently, I decided to get a new PO box for my business. When I initially decided to get a PO box, I thought it would be easy. After all, the US Postal Service website has an online form. However, I soon realized that the online form was there to accept my payment, but the actual process of getting a PO box is not handled online.

First, I learned that I would need to go to the Post Office location where my PO Box would be located. I would need to bring a paper form and two forms of ID. Well, so much for getting the PO Box right away – I was about to go out of town, and would have to wait until the following week.

The next week, I dutifully brought my form to the post office. When I walked in, I got in line. I noticed three people behind the desk, but nobody looked up or made eye contact with anyone in line. Only one customer was being helped, and other than that, the place was dead silent.

When it was finally my turn, the woman at the desk looked at me with what I can best describe as apathy. She rattled off a list of steps I would need to take – show two forms of ID, sign the form, come back in one week. Because I live in a different city, they would need to “verify my application” with the post office in the other city. Furthermore, she told me, when I come back in a week, verification may not be complete. In which case I’ll have to wait another week and come back again. At no point did she offer to save me the trip by suggesting that I call ahead. It was just assumed that I would comply with these steps, because – hey, it’s the Post Office.

Ultimately, because of my experience, I decided to cancel my USPS PO Box and get a refund so I could go elsewhere. I decided to try The UPS Store. Unfortunately, they do not have an online process either. So I dutifully went to the UPS Store near my home to learn the rates and sign up. When I walked in, there was a line of 3 people, most of whom were mailing packages. The mood was livelier than the post office, but still there was only one person helping customers and she did not look up or make eye contact. The people ahead of me were chatty, and I was running out of time. When I finally got the rates, they were much higher than the post office, so I decided to go away and think about it.

I researched online “PO Boxes” that offer services like canning your mail and email it to you, which is cool – but those too were expensive. In the end, I arranged to share a business mailing address with a colleague to avoid the hassle altogether.


So. At the end of the day, what could these PO Box providers learn from my experience? Let’s go one by one.

Post Office: I will continue to go to the post office only if I have no other alternative. I actually don’t mind going there to mail packages occasionally, but this PO Box process was complicated and time consuming. I was happy to be able to arrange a business mailing address so I wouldn’t have to use their PO Box service.

  • What could they improve? Customer service training with emphasis on making eye contact, greeting people, explaining processes in a way that’s easily understood. Redesigning the online process so that it’s truly online, and providing better communication about all the steps that need to take place before the process is complete.
  • What did they do right? Their price was the lowest, they had several locations in my area, and they provided rates on the website along with an online form.

UPS Store: They ended up being cost prohibitive, and I didn’t like the fact that they weren’t transparent about their rates. I wonder if they set the rates at each individual store? It is unclear, but I was given the rates on a paper brochure produced at that location.

What could they improve? Customer service training with emphasis on making eye contact, greeting people in line. Adding online PO Box reservations and rates.

Bottom Line:

As organizations work to evolve and stay relevant into the future, they have to ask themselves: What experience are we delivering? Are our processes current or out of date? What do people take away from visiting our locations? With continue disruptions and decline in print mail, these organizations will need to evolve to get and keep customers.

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