January 2021

Mails update from Mark Siviter

A belated happy new year and a huge thank you for all your hard work over the Christmas period – we’ve seen extraordinary volumes of parcels during the peak period at the end of an incredibly busy, but difficult year.

Mails distribution agreement and next steps
December was also an important month because we reached the end of our negotiations with Royal Mail on our second Mails Distribution Agreement, I was really pleased that we could announce our new agreement at the end of a year where we all saw first-hand the importance of mails to people across the country. As you’ll have seen, we’re working through what this means for remuneration and will begin to speak to you in more detail on that from April.

Some of you may have read an interview with our CEO Nick Read in the Times on the 15 January, where he discussed the importance of mails to our business and our future.

Mails makes up for over half of our business today. But the market has changed enormously in the last several years, new competitors have arrived on the scene and customers’ expectations are evolving – we have seen this moving even quicker through the pandemic.

E-commerce will continue to increase, and we need to position ourselves as the convenient place for customers to pick up and drop off their mails and parcels. You have my absolute commitment that Postmasters will be at the heart of product and proposition design. We will have some further news to share on this in the next few weeks.

Drop & Go and your feedback
Another big opportunity for us is the support we provide to small businesses, in fact a recent report by Public First shows 43% of small businesses say they would not be able to continue functioning without the Post Office. That is a testament to the great service you provide especially through Drop and Go. This is a growth area for us, and I want to say thank you for the amazing job you have done throughout 2020 with spend up 75% on the previous year and over 50,000 new sign ups – which is brilliant.

We want to improve the service for you and your customers where possible, and as a result of your feedback have removed the need for ID to make customer sign up considerably easier.

You’ve let us know how frustrating it is when customer accounts get blocked if there is a time out, and we are currently working on a solution which I hope to update you on in the next couple of months. You’ve also asked for a flexible counter position solution to process Drop & Go and this is something we need to think about further.

And, we’re getting in touch with customers and sending regular messages if they haven’t started using their accounts to check there aren’t any issues. We also contacted customers who had not used their account for two years, to tell them about the online features and encourage them to use the service again.

Clearly, we need to do a better job to ensure our products are simple to understand and use for you. I’ve attended various Postmaster events and meetings over the last year, and spoken to many of you individually, and your questions and ideas have provided insight that is hugely valuable.

Topics range from Drop & Go to suggestions on Horizon to make things easier for you and customers. I’m doing a full review of the peak period at the moment, looking at the challenges and great ideas you have brought to the table. I’ll work with some Postmasters on prioritising what the most important areas are for you.

Working with Royal Mail
Finally, I have spoken to many of you about some of the service issues brought about by the pandemic and the huge upsurge in moving mails around the UK.

No carrier could have expected an acceleration equivalent to 3 years’ worth of growth in a matter of months, or meet the standards customers expect, but Royal Mail are best placed with their supply chain to deal with that growth. During Christmas they recruited over 30,000 temps – which I believe is a bigger number than serve in the Royal Navy!

10% of the temps have continued to stay on with Royal Mail as there have been challenges with collections and delays to deliveries. This is due to colleagues isolating and social distancing. I recognise this makes life hard for you in branch but please follow the usual reporting process to escalate issues locally. These are also shared with me during our trading meetings and we are continuously sharing these issues with Royal Mail so they have a clear picture of what is happening and take necessary action.

We have also just reached the end of our first full month after Brexit, and this month you (excluding Northern Ireland branches) have all been making sure customers have customs forms on parcels going to EU. Providers in Europe will be taking a tougher stance on this going forward and we’ll keep you updated on how things evolve.

I think we’re entering the most exciting time for Mails in Post Office history. The second Mails Development Agreement will give us new opportunities to embrace and I look forward to working with Postmasters on growing our mails business together.

If you have any questions or suggestion, please post them below and I’ll address them in my next update in a month’s time.