Dec. 29 2006 10:59 AM

The Tour de France is a team race, and here at the U.S. Postal Service we are inspired by winning teamwork. As Lance Armstrong was being propelled into the history books by the USPS Pro Cycling Team "Blue Crew" this summer, the USPS home team was celebrating an additional victory. As Lance was taking his sixth straight Tour de France, the Postal Service finessed a tour de force in service by capping six consecutive quarters of record 95% on-time overnight delivery with our best service score ever 96%.


Like Lance, the Postal Service team has been working hard to overcome challenges through hard work, determination and by maintaining a singular focus. And what keeps us focused is our Transformation Plan. Armstrong's remarkable comeback from cancer, his determination, endurance, will to win and ultimate victories inspire us, as we work to transform our organization into a viable business, to be determined in our mission of providing affordable and universal mail service.


The Postal Service lost $1.68 billion in fiscal year 2001 following our adversities with anthrax and post-9/11 declines in mail volume. We were placed on the General Accounting Office (GAO) High-Risk list, and the GAO called on us to develop a comprehensive Transformation Plan to identify actions needed to cut costs, streamline operations, improve service, develop all possible human resource potential and provide improved value to our customers. In 2002, the Postal Service delivered its Transformation Plan to Congress.


The Postal Service Transformation Plan focuses on five key initiatives developing people, managing costs, improving service, growing revenue and pursuing reform.


By any measure, the plan is working. Since 2000, we have achieved $5 billion in cost reductions and cost avoidances. We've reduced debt by $4 billion. In 2003, we achieved our fourth straight year of positive productivity.


While cutting costs, we have actually improved workplace relations and customer satisfaction. The USPS was cited by Fortune Magazine as one of the "50 Best Companies for Minorities" for the fifth straight year, and independently tabulated indicators show that the workplace environment has improved substantially and continues to improve. Workplace safety initiatives have helped us achieve record safety performance 28% reduction in OSHA illnesses and injuries since 2001. And by independent measurement, customer satisfaction is at record levels: 93% of residential customers rated us excellent, very good or good in 2003. Our customers have let us know that saving time is important. They also want value, service and convenience. We are developing products and services to meet those needs.


With the popularity of the Internet, customers are using the mail in different ways. More customers are paying bills and corresponding through e-mail, but at the same time, direct sales are growing faster than traditional sales. Many brick-and-mortar businesses are using catalog, Internet and other fulfillment channels to grow business, control inventory costs and keep pace with customer needs. Direct mail, catalogs and package services, both outbound and returns, are areas where we are working to meet expanding customer needs.


Click-N-Ship and Carrier Pickup on enable just about every home and business to prepare mailing labels and pay postage right from their computer and to notify the local Post Office of prepaid packages. With Carrier Pickup, customers notify their local Post Office of packages to be picked up and can leave them at a specified location. Because the prepaid packages are available for the carrier at the time of normal mail delivery, there is no charge.


And our last mile advantage makes it easy for customers to make returns. Companies with direct sales understand that a convenient returns process is essential for customer retention. Parcel Return Services allow large shippers to reduce costs and speed returns handling. Merchandise Return Service is also available and used by many companies. These companies enclose the Merchandise Return Service label with customer orders. Just ask Maria McCourt, logistics manager at LL Bean. "We use a Postal Service solution for our returns because our customers are familiar with the Postal Service. It makes it easier for them to make a return when they know they can hand it to their carrier, drop it in a collection box or bring it to their local Post Office. We want to make it convenient for our customers to do business with us," she says.


The postal team is oncourse with quick, easy and convenient products and services. They also have a winning combination of value and access that only the United States Postal Service can provide to its customers.


Shoshana Grove works with USPS Package Services and has 27 years of community service as a letter carrier and also a Postmaster. Contact her at