Juneau Empire working to improve delivery service

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2002

The Juneau Empire always has worked to provide reliable, timely delivery service to subscribers. Since we traditionally depended upon a legion of youth carriers to deliver your daily paper on contract, delivery service has been only as good as the carrier covering your neighborhood at any given time.

Many of our carriers do an excellent job. As with any job, those who take it seriously and stick with it, excel at their work. The Empire has set a standard acceptability rate of one service complaint per 1,000 deliveries. Over the past two years we have devoted a great deal of time and resources toward improving the quality of our newspaper delivery service.

Unfortunately we have not been able to achieve our service goal.

We have concluded that the primary culprit is carrier turnover. Last year we saw a 200 percent rate of turnover in our carrier force. Our most satisfied customers live on routes with little turnover. Many of our subscribers live on routes that see as many as three or four different carriers in a year's time. They must call the office often and they have a legitimate reason to be upset. The high rate of turnover also taxes the office staff as a great deal of their time, aside from answering complaints, is devoted to training new carriers and covering downed routes.

There have been times over the past year when the circulation staff has simply not been able to address all the problems on a given day to the satisfaction of our subscribers. For that we sincerely apologize and greatly appreciate the understanding we have received.

Each time a newspaper route turns over, the number of service errors increases. In addition, we face a chronic and escalating problem with carriers abandoning their routes with little or no notice, or leaving on vacation without having the required substitute in place to cover the routes in their absence. We typically lose a great number of carriers each summer once school lets out and we lose a bunch more once school starts up in the fall. Since May 15 a total of 67 of our 172 carriers have quit without giving notice as required by their contracts.

This summer the Juneau Empire will follow the trend of most other newspapers in North America by moving toward the use of adult independent carriers. All of the routes that have been abandoned by youth carriers this summer have been switched over to adult carriers. Additionally, existing routes that have fallen short in meeting an acceptable level of service quality have been switched over. We are retaining approximately 40 young carriers who are doing an excellent job. They can keep their routes for as long as they wish as long as they continue to provide good service.

Subscribers served by adult carriers should find their daily paper delivered in a more reliable and timely fashion. For our part, carrier turnover will be drastically reduced and our staff will find more time to concentrate on addressing routine concerns.

As with any change of this scale, we anticipate some problems initially, but we are already seeing significantly fewer complaints on the routes converted to motor delivery. We have instructed our adult carriers to give special attention to those with physical limitations who need porch delivery and to take extra care in addressing any delivery concerns expressed by our subscribers.

The improvements to the delivery system will also better prepare us for conversion to morning delivery later this year. The decision to switch to morning publication was made to provide our readers more timely state, local, national and world news. Information travels very fast in this day and age, and technology has enabled the Empire to present news, entertainment and information on a much faster track through its Web site and daily newspaper.

Moving the Juneau Empire to morning follows readership trends and preferences demonstrated throughout the world and right here in Alaska. Nearly all of Alaska's daily papers, including Anchorage, Ketchikan and Kenai, have switched to morning publication and have enjoyed a boost in readership and acceptance as a result.

It is our goal to serve Juneau with a world-class local newspaper and Internet presence. We have made many improvements to our products over the past two years and will continue to make them better and more relevant to all of our readers and viewers.

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