retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

Over the past few years I've been pretty tough on the US Postal Service. Not so much the people who work on the front lines, but the top management, which I think over the years has been unwilling or unable to confront the fact that the post office may be an obsolete business model that, for the most part, has outlived its usefulness … simply because things haven't changed all that much, other than the vehicles, since the Pony Express.

And, of course, let's not let the US Congress off the hook, since it has saddled the Postal Service with financial obligations that would be difficult to meet under the best of circumstances, let alone now, when many of the currents seem to be running against it.

Now, none of this is the fault of the people on the front lines, most of whom are hard-working people with the best intentions. The guy who delivers mail to my office is great … he watches out for me and my mail, especially when I'm traveling, and I have nothing but confidence in him.

But, let me tell you what happened the other day.

This is my home mailbox. The other day, a guy who was doing some construction work on the house was parked in such a way that the mailman, in his truck, could not pull right up to the mailbox and leave the mail inside. Nope, he actually had to get out of the truck and walk three, maybe four steps to leave the mail. He did so, but he also left this note inside the mailbox: "Please do not block mailbox." And he left the same note on the contractor's truck.

Now, I don't mean to be petty here … but the mailbox wasn't blocked. It was easy to get to, albeit on foot. Three steps!

At some level, maybe this is a civil service mentality. But I also think there is a broader business lesson here. How many employees in any business would resent it if made to go just a little bit out of the way for a customer? How many employees in failing businesses would feel that way … and to what extent could one actually attribute a business's problems to employees with that kind of attitude problem?

My feeling is, that guy should've walked the three steps and thanked his lucky stars that the Post Office hasn't yet gone to five, four or even three day a week delivery. Or sold its assets to FedEx or Amazon.

The thing is, it is entirely possible that postal workers are being evaluated based on speed, not customer service. And not just postal workers. There are a lot of organizations in which people are ranked on efficiency, not effectiveness. When you think about it, such cultures may actually be getting in the way of their own success.

In the current economy, nobody - not at the highest levels, and not on the front lines - can afford to mail it in. Because we live in a world where the only way to get ahead is to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities to delivery exceptional service … not whiny little notes.

Anyway, that's what's on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: