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Mail survey reveals 'we care'

MIT's mail service is a topic many people care about, if the high rate of returns on surveys conducted last fall is an indication.

To learn more about MIT's mail operations, an Institute-wide Mail Committee surveyed Administrative Officers (AOs) at MIT and also published a questionnaire in Tech Talk last November. Working with the committee to develop and analyze the surveys were student assistants Todd Knibbe and Chris Cooke, graduate students in Professor Richard Larson's Operations Research Practicum (6.972).

In response to the question, "What works best with existing mail delivery service?" AOs commented that properly addressed mail is delivered promptly, regular carriers do an excellent job, and that carriers who are familiar with employees can rescue incorrectly addressed mail.

The question, "What, if anything, would you like to see changed?" brought a variety of comments. A significant number had to do with ways to reduce the amount of junk mail received, more timely updating of internal Institute mailing lists, and setting up a centralized mailing service to keep up with postal regulations and reduce the need for departmental postage meters.

A third survey of other universities is being conducted with help from the Planning Office. This survey will provide information for comparing MIT's mail operations with similar institutions. In addition, the committee is working with representatives from the US Postal Service to develop recommendations for improving internal and external service and for reducing costs to MIT.

In July 1993, William R. Dickson, senior vice president, charged the MIT Mail Committee with investigating ways to improve MIT's mail operations and possibly cut costs. The committee, chaired by Katherine Cochrane, director of Alumni Information Services and Resources, draws its 11 members from across the Institute.

The committee will present results of the AO and general MIT surveys in its final report. Almost 75 percent of AOs responded to their survey, and more than 200 staff members filled out the Tech Talk survey. Among those responding, more than 90 percent found MIT's mail service to be adequate and timely. Most problems with mail were attributed to incorrect addresses and delivery to the wrong office.

Among the recommendations being considered by the committee are: standardizing MIT addresses as a way to speed delivery and reduce misdirected mail; finding an easy way for individuals to remove themselves from a specific mailing list; and reducing the number of standard Institute publications that are delivered to each department. In response to a question about electronic mail, 85 percent of AOs responding said they would be willing to use e-mail. Seeing e-mail as a way to reduce the amount of paper mail, the committee recommends development of an easier e-mail addressing scheme to encourage its use.

The Mail Committee thanks everyone who participated in its surveys. The committee's final report and recommendations are expected by later this spring. In the meantime, watch future issues of Tech Talk for tips on what individuals and departments can do now to help MIT's mail operations work more efficiently.

A version of this article appeared in the April 6, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 28).

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