1-800-ASK-USPS: The Postal Service’s Interactive Voice Response System

  • The Postal Service’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system attempts to quickly resolve a customer inquiry without transferring the caller to a customer care agent.
  • Between fiscal year (FY) 2018 and the first eight months of FY 2021, the IVR system’s containment rate – the rate of calls not transferred to agents – increased from 62 percent to 78 percent.
  • IVR post-call survey results from FYs 2019 and 2020 indicate an increase in customer satisfaction with the IVR system.
  • The Postal Service could enhance current IVR system metrics by including metrics for the rate of complete, contained calls and the rate of incomplete, abandoned calls.

The Postal Service’s customer care phone number, 1-800-ASK-USPS, is one of the primary channels for customers to connect with the Postal Service. When customers call 1-800-ASK-USPS, their call is initially handled by an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. Using voice commands or keypad inputs, customers can navigate the IVR system to get information or complete tasks, such as finding the location and hours of post offices or tracking a package.

The Postal Service’s containment rate has increased steadily since FY 2018, peaking at 78 percent in the first eight months of FY 2021. Increasing call containment results in reduced customer care costs because an agent does not handle those calls.

Survey results suggest that customer experiences with the Postal Service’s IVR system are improving. Between FY 2019 and FY 2020, customers reported improved satisfaction with the IVR experience and more customers reported their inquiry was resolved. However, opportunities exist for continued improvement. In FY 2020, roughly one-quarter of IVR survey respondents were very dissatisfied with their IVR experience.

To enhance current IVR system performance metrics, the OIG recommends including metrics for the rate of complete, contained calls and the rate of incomplete, abandoned calls. The agency does not include the rate of callers who abandon their call before reaching a resolution among its performance metrics. Analyzing this data could help identify parts of the IVR system’s call flow that negatively impact customer satisfaction and experience.

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