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U.S. Postal Service: Customer Complaints Process

GAO-21-465 Published: May 25, 2021. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 2021.
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Fast Facts

The U.S. Postal Service's financial viability has been on our High Risk List since 2009. Declining mail volumes and increased costs have made it harder for USPS to cover all its costs. USPS cites quality customer service as important to sustaining its business.

We looked at USPS's process for addressing residential customer complaints. In fiscal year 2020, USPS received 10.7 million complaints, with 69% of those related to missing or delayed packages.

USPS started using a new software system in 2019 to track complaints and customer service issues. The system collects more detailed data and may help identify the causes of some problems.

A postal worker scanning a USPS package with a handheld device

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What GAO Found

The United States Postal Service (USPS) delivers mail to about 147-million residential addresses. To help it serve customers, USPS has a 5-step process for addressing and resolving residential customers' complaints. USPS defines a complaint as a reported service issue that is not resolved in a customer's initial contact with USPS and requires additional action to resolve. (See figure.) Once a complaint is received it is assigned to staff best positioned to respond to the issue. For example, a complaint about a missing package might be referred to a local Post Office for investigation and resolution if that Post Office was the destination facility for the package. USPS collects and tracks a range of customer service and complaint information using a new software system known as Customer 360 (C360). According to USPS officials, the C360 system, which USPS started using in 2019, captures more detailed data and has additional data fields, such as root cause, which may help officials identify service issues and analyze issues resulting in complaints. USPS officials also noted ongoing efforts to educate employees on the C360 system through trainings as well as efforts to collect feedback from users to help enhance the C360 system.

U.S. Postal Service's Five Step Customer Complaint Process


Most of the 10.7-million complaints USPS received in fiscal year 2020 concerned packages, and USPS analyzes C360 data to monitor timeliness in addressing these complaints. GAO's analysis of USPS's fiscal year 2020 residential complaints data found a total of 10.7-million residential customer complaints were reported by about 5.6 percent of the residential addresses USPS served. Most of these complaints—69 percent—were related to packages, such as missing or delayed packages. GAO found that about 21 percent of addresses that reported a complaint had more than one complaint. Of those addresses, a majority of complaints occurred less than one month apart, and many had two complaints with the same USPS-assigned root cause. USPS officials are currently reviewing whether the root cause field is accurately capturing the cause of a complaint. Across USPS, multiple officials told GAO they use the C360 system's reporting capabilities to access, review, and analyze complaints data. USPS officials said that given the size of their operations, it is not realistic to eliminate all complaints. The Office of Customer Experience monitors and assesses performance related to timeliness in contacting customers and closing complaints. Delivery operations staff use complaints data in conjunction with delivery operations information to identify service issues or specific causes for increases in complaints.

Why GAO Did This Study

USPS, one of the largest customer service organizations in the United States, has struggled to operate as a self-financing entity due primarily to declining mail volumes and increased costs. USPS has cited providing quality customer service as one of its goals and highlights customer service as important in sustaining its business. Despite creating an Office of Customer Experience in 2018, USPS continues to miss many of its stated goals related to customer experience and service.

GAO was asked to review how USPS handles residential customer complaints, including cases where customers may be experiencing repeated service issues. This report (1) describes USPS's processes for addressing and tracking residential customer complaints and (2) identifies the number and nature of residential customer complaints and how USPS uses residential customer complaint data. GAO reviewed and analyzed USPS's public reports and internal documents associated with customer complaints. GAO analyzed customer complaints data to, among other things, identify the number of residential addresses that reported repeated service complaints in fiscal year 2020. GAO used fiscal year 2020 data as all data shared the same fields and were collected under the current software system. GAO also conducted interviews with relevant USPS officials and staff to understand the processes and tools USPS uses to collect, address, and monitor complaints.

For more information, contact Jill Naamane at (202) 512-2834 or

Full Report

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Audit objectivesCustomer complaintsCriminal activityCriminal investigationsCustomer satisfactionCustomer serviceFederal assistance programsFinancial sustainabilityHigh-risk issuesHomeland securityLarcenypandemicsPostal servicePostal service employeesPublic affairsSmall businessSoftwareStrategic plan