February 2021

Mails update from Mark Siviter


Over the last few weeks I’ve joined several regional Post Office and NFSP events, not only has it been good to hear your thoughts and ideas it’s also great to see so many of you, many of whom I’ve met before and many that regularly send me WhatsApp messages. 

Your insights and experiences understanding how the Covid pandemic has been impacting customer behaviour, and what you are seeing on the frontline, is invaluable to me. 

As we discussed on the calls, Peak really was (to use one of the most used words of 2020) unprecedented… we have never seen so many parcels. As High Street Retailers were impacted by a further lockdown, online retailers saw a 50% year on year increase in sales, and last year saw 10 years of growth in a matter of months! 

Consumers and small business recognised the value you provide to communities as the experts in mail, supporting families sending gifts to loved ones – because they couldn’t see them face to face – and small businesses selling online for the first time looking for your help. 

This growth has continued into the new year, and with Mother’s Day coming up I think you will be relied on to get that special thoughtful gift or memento (hopefully bought in your shop) to all the Moms out there. 

Of course, growth doesn’t come without its challenges, nobody could ever have planned for such demand. Market research on e-commerce shows that the latest Promised Delivery Date increased from 5 to 6 days and also passed on delivery cost increases to customers. Most carriers had service impacts with reports of delays and carriers also refusing to accept any more parcels. 

Mails Distribution Agreement and next steps
I’m working closely with the Amanda, Nick Beal and your Area Managers on our Mails remuneration review following the signing of our second Mails Distribution Agreement (MDA) in December last year. I truly believe this agreement provides opportunity for us all to enjoy the benefits of the fast-growing parcels market. 

As I explained last month, in April we’ll speak to you about our remuneration proposals and provide detailed information relating to your specific branch or branches. This is the first step in the process and your Area Managers will be working with you throughout April to take on board your feedback. 

I am really looking forward to our first MDA Postmaster focus groups the week of 8 March to get your initial feedback, we are listening, and I promise we’ll use this to shape our support and communications accordingly. 

We have to be the very best sales and acceptance channel for Royal Mail, continuing to be an essential part of delivering the Universal service. One of the most exciting opportunities in the new MDA is the ability to work with other partners and we’ll shortly be launching our first trial of Pick Up and Drop Off to test our network for click and collect services. This will help us understand what works well for Postmasters and customers and provide information to potential clients about the opportunities that Post Office provides. I’ll tell you how that’s going in my March blog. 

Collection issues
From time to time some things go wrong, I’ve had feedback that there have been some operational issues recently. Please find updates below which I hope will show we are raising your concerns and sharing them directly with Royal Mail. 

We met with the Parcelforce team last week and shared a full report of the problems we are having. They have come back with some areas that need addressing in terms of a clear escalation process for issues and providing clarity around branch collection schedules. 

Some of our processes have been running for a few years and both our businesses and the market have evolved so much in this time. I have asked my team to provide a full summary and set out a clear plan to improve urgently. 

Just to show the wider scale and sheer volume of challenge, on a daily basis Parcelforce complete circa 7k daily scheduled collections, with around 1.5k ad-hoc collections and the rest covered in the highlands and islands by Royal Mail Group. Given the national coverage there will always be issues on occasions, it’s how we resolve those issues.  The current escalation process isn’t working, and we are fixing it. 

You’ve also raised a variety of Royal Mail service issues, there is a meeting with the Royal Mail Quality of Service lead this week, with our field team of Regional Managers and Business Partnering Director Andy Kingham. We will share a summary of actions we are taking once that meeting has taken place. 

Customs forms
Making sure we have the right and fully completed customs forms on the items that need them is becoming more important. We have provided further guidance this week here, including information for customers such as social media images, branch posters and a link to editable customs form on our Post Office website. The team are also pulling together a comprehensive Q&A with come common questions we have been receiving in the last week, so we’ll share an update soon. 

Drop & Go – an update
From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen a surge in sign-ups and activity on Drop & Go, (with over 60,000 sign ups throughout the network and volumes 100% on the same time last year). In an increasingly competitive mails market Drop & Go’s service features enable us to build stronger customer relationships and protect branch income. An investment case is being finalised with the aim of improving customers’ experience of Drop and Go, giving them additional features that they have demanded and making them better prepared when they arrive in branch. 

Judith in my team has been attending regional events and listening to you about the pain points and areas we need to improve. This feedback is at the heart of our plans, reducing the effort and time Postmasters spend on Drop & Go transactions. Work on the project will begin in March and we will keep you updated on progress. 

As some of you will know Senior Leaders across the business are working with Area Managers to ‘Adopt an Area’. I’m working with Bradley Barnard in the South East region, and will look forward to meeting some of you virtually and hopefully in person very soon. 

I’ll update you again in March on the Mails agreement and how our first Pick Up and Drop off Trial is going.