USPS refines request system

USPS refines request system

POMS, a soon-to-be national call center, handles customer service queries

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

Postal Service customer representatives log onto the Post Office Management System at a rate of two to eight per second, and USPS plans to triple the number of offices using the system by early next year.

POMS is 'not nationwide yet, but it's moving in that direction,' said Todd Holt, senior systems engineer at USPS' Information Services Center in Raleigh, N.C. 'Frankly, customers weren't always getting good service' when they called their local post offices.

POMS' redundant databases support two centralized call centers, which handle most customer service calls, taking over the job from local post offices. POMS logs address changes, complaints, requests for holds and other services, making the data accessible to local post offices over the USPS intranet.

To date, about 6,000 post offices out of 40,000 can connect to POMS, and 'that number is going up every week,' Holt said.

Traffic cop

To keep POMS always available, USPS uses Web Server Director for Distributed Sites, an IP load balancer from Radware Inc. of Mahwah, N.J. A pair of redundant directors at each site balances the traffic according to USPS threshold rules and provides failover in case of a system failure.

POMS' Oracle database is mirrored on two Sun Microsystems Enterprise 4000 midrange servers running SunSoft Solaris 2.6 at USPS' Computer Operations Center in San Mateo, Calif. The system is duplicated at the Minneapolis operations center. Each site has a primary and a backup Web Server Director.

About 800 emloyees, working at call centers in Denver and Kansas City, Mo., field customer calls over a nationwide toll-free number, 800-ASK-USPS. Calls also are directed there from the local numbers of post offices using POMS.

Agents can direct calls back to local offices if necessary, and they handle many calls without reference to POMS.

'About 80 percent of the calls are for ZIP code information,' Holt said. That data, along with postal regulations, is stored on servers at the call centers.

Other calls require agents to get into POMS to log requests and changes. Connections from the call centers to the operations center used to go through the Postal Routed Network but now use an MCI WorldCom Inc. network under USPS' FTS 2001 contract.

West or Midwest

Web Server Director filters calls at the San Mateo center and distributes them between the two POMS servers. If there is a failure in San Mateo, the traffic goes to Minneapolis. So far, the failover capability has been used only once, and traffic switched within two seconds. POMS can handle up to 350 concurrent connections.

Post offices log on to POMS twice a day to see changes and requests within the ZIP code areas they serve.

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