The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) has conducted a nationally representative quantitative survey on the relative value of the different services provided as part of the universal service obligation (USO). This study is the first of its kind in the United States and was done in conjunction with the market research firm Gallup and with Professor Michael Bradley of George Washington University’s Department of Economics.
The study focused on four attributes of the USO: mode of delivery, access to postal services, frequency of delivery, and price.
The survey produced eight main findings:
- Consumers and businesses place a high value on maintaining delivery to the door and/or curb rather than delivery to cluster boxes or parcel lockers. This is especially true for parcels and even more so for consumers that currently receive mail via cluster box.
- Both consumers and businesses place value on human interaction with a Postal Service employee at a post office rather than alternative access options such as postal counters in non-postal retail stores and self-service kiosks. However, respondents seemed to find more limited hours of operation acceptable.
- Overall, respondents are indifferent to receiving Saturday delivery of letters, but consumers still place some value on the Saturday delivery of parcels. Furthermore, both consumers and businesses value not moving to 3-day a week delivery.
- Both consumers and businesses value lower prices. In other words, they may be willing to accept lower levels of service to keep prices from rising sharply.
- The vast majority of respondents believe it is important or very important that the Postal Service be obligated to deliver to every address in the country.
- The majority of respondents believe a uniform First-Class Mail rate is important or very important.
- There remains a strong need for postal services for both consumers and businesses.
- At this time, there is not much acceptance of the Postal Service using digital alternatives to deliver the mail, such as the Postal Service scanning mail and sending it via e-mail.