Yellow Pages, Post Office and a Tale of Customer Service.


The Postal Service began in 1775. The Yellow Pages were introduced in 1883. Both are alive today, but one is barely kicking. This year the USPS is expected to lose $7 billion. Yellow Page profits are down as well, but they’re still making a profit and if you look at your most recent phone book you’ll see it’s still plenty thick. The Post Office blames much of their woes on technology, specifically email,  for taking a huge chunk of their business away. It would be fair to say that the Yellow Pages face an even tough competitor in Google. What percentage of the population really turns to the yellow pages to look up a phone number?

So why is the Post Office sinking while the Yellow Pages remain fat and happy? The answer is customer service. The Post Office has a decades long history of poor service. Lost mail, late birthday cards and long lines in the Post Office stores are commonplace. Meanwhile, the Yellow Pages rarely let people down. Each year, like clockwork, a new phone book shows up on your doorstep. As long as the Yellow Pages have been around, they have been one of the most valuable and reliable tools for consumers and business owners. Need a plumber or a doctor, take your pick. Need a place to advertise your small engine repair shop, done.

If the Post Office had always provided great customer service, would people still send letters or mail their bills instead of paying them online? Doubtful, but the downward slope may have been much less steep if people had confidence in the Postal Service.

On the other side of the coin, you could say the Yellow Pages are a waste of money thanks to Google, 411 and smartphones, but there are still many people who turn to the yellow pages when they’re away from their computer. And each year thousands of businesses place ads in the phone book. People still hang on to the Yellow Pages because it’s hard to let go of something that never lets them down.

Bottom line, excellent service can make your brand indispensable.


~ by hookusa on August 13, 2009.

5 Responses to “Yellow Pages, Post Office and a Tale of Customer Service.”

  1. I still think there’s space for the good old yellow pages and here’s why

  2. Nice article. Don’t even get me started on the postal service these days. Blood pressure rising. Nothing like going in to a long line with one individual working and 2 others sitting behind eating in front of the general public only to look up catch eyes with you with a little snarl and then take another bite.

  3. I wouldn’t be so down on the USPS because of customer service. I’ve (Cola here) never had a bad experience at the post office.

    I think the issue is that government programs don’t exist in the reality of the market and never, ever, go away.

    The post office is still operating like they did in the time before the internets and intertubes. The world has changed, yet their business model hasn’t.

    A real business that actually existed within the market would either go out of business or change how they operate to service the demand that still exists for their services. The post office doesn’t need to do this because it gets a check from the government that keeps it in business.

    I think the yellow pages are still around because they serve the market well. Note that your yellow pages contains not just numbers but also community information (My ticket is jj-27, what seat is that in Williams Bryce?), coupons, ads for local businesses (google/bing/etc are getting better at local searching), etc… But its almost guaranteed that within the next twenty years phonebooks will be dead. Their lifespan is tied to publicly available phone numbers. As landlines evolve into digital phone and cell services, the phonebook will have to drastically change or go out of business.

    Or be taken over by the government, in which case they can get their check too.

    • Thanks for the comments. I completely agree with you on how government programs are run. The Post Office has failed to evolved with the times. Email has cut the number of letters being mailed, but the Internet has created a lot of shipping opportunities. Sounds like you have a great Post Office, however I think there are many out there who would give them low marks for service.

      Yellow Pages have their work cut out for them in order to stay relevant. Doesn’t seem like they have another 120 years in them. Only time will tell.

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