We are a not-for-profit organisation funded purely by donations and Google advertising revenue.
We do not get to choose which ads Google shows on our pages.


Royal Mail Misery:
Dismal Queues at Post Office


Chris

I run an E-Commerce business which uses the services of the Royal Mail quite a bit. They deliver my orders to my customers, and I often queue in their post office, in order to deposit them. For a long time, Royal Mail lost my outgoing orders with alarming frequency, and their follow-up procedure was dreadful. So was their complaints procedure, and that's how I got to work with Postwatch.

Postwatch are the watchdog for the Royal Mail. In the words of their own website

Postwatch was set up to ensure that post offices, Parcelforce, Royal Mail and any competing postal providers, give the best service possible to you, their customer.

So, I've been working through Postwatch to resolve my issues over a few years, and frankly - I've found them to be substantially without value, which is a shame, since they cost about £8 million a year to run.

So we have a poor postal service, and a synfunctional watchdog. That's a recipe for misery, and hey - that's what we have!

Recently, several of the small post offices in Bedford were closed down, which led to increased pressure on the remaining post office - the main Bedford post office. That's the one I have to use, and daily queueing times of around 20 minutes there are a real drag.

I spoke with the post office management, which was a complete waste of time. So, I reluctantly climbed back into the fray with Postwatch to address what was being done. You can read the dialogue I had with Postwatch's Eastern regional manager, Linda McCord below.

If you prefer, you can jump straight to my conclusion.

Email to PostWatch regional manager, 2/6/4:

Hello,

Since the closure of various post offices in Bedford, the main one on Dane Street is extremely busy.
Yesterday I waited 21 minutes in the queue. Only 6 of the [12] available positions were staffed.

Management there, tell me that they are already using additional staffing for a 2 month trial period to see how it goes. We don't need three months - it's going dreadfully. They nbeed more staff now, and permanently.

Please let me know what you can do about this, and when you will do it.

Thanks,
Chris

2/6/4

Dear [sir]

Thank you very much for informing us of this. We have been monitoring the situation in Bedford Main Branch, and will be getting back to Post Office Ltd with our recommendations. It is always useful to get feedback such as yours. If you are aware of any other people who have experienced similar problems it would assist us if you could ask them to also get in touch.

Would it be possible to forward me your full postal address as we log all of our complaints?

Regards
Linda McCord

2/6/4

Hello Linda,

Thanks for your response.

My postal address is [supplied].

When will you get back to the post office with your recommendations?
Will you make thes recommendations public?
Will the post office be obliged to follow your recommendations?
How long will the post office have to implement their changes?

More generally, please let me know what obligations the post office has under ther terms of its license, in terms of staffing levels, or queing times, or similar? And are the terms of the license made public?
If so, please let me know where I can find it.

Linda, everyone who stood in the queue experienced similar difficulty.
And this is a regular occurence. I don't know any of these people of course, but would collecting a petition be worthwhile? If so, what would it accomplish for us?

Thanks & Regards,
Chris Wesley

2/6/4

Hi Chris

Thank you for getting back to me.

I am having a meeting tomorrow where I will be able to get some answers to the questions you ask, and will get back to you then.

regards

Linda

2/6/4

Thanks for your prompt response Linda. I look forward to your next email.

Regards,
Chris

19/6/4
17 days later

Hello Linda,

Please update me on the results of your meeting on June 3rd.
Had you forgotten me?

Thanks & Regards,
Chris

21/6/4

Dear Chris

Sorry for the delay in responding I was waiting for Post Office Ltd to get back to us following the meeting, which they only did late last week.

A full impact review for Bedford will not be carried out until August/September, which is the timespan that Postwatch agreed with them. In the interim, and due to the impact of the closures of nearby Post Offices the Bedford Main Office has had an increase of 43 additional hours to help cope with the migration from the closures. We will discuss the impact review with Psot Office Ltd and insist on appropriate action be taken.

On queueing times, last year Postcomm, the Postal Regulator removed the 5-minute queuing target time from Royal Mail's licence. This stipulated that 95% of post office queues should take less than 5 minutes. Postwatch did not oppose the removal of this as we felt it was not the most effective way of assesing actual queuing times or whether customers are satisfied with the service they receive. As part of the removal of the condition, Post Office Ltd (POL) agreed to continue to measure queuing times, and report
findings to Postwatch.

In general we think POL need to try harder at tackling queues at post offices. We have been working with them over the past few months to look at ways in which they can more effectively, (1) respond to identified queuing problems and (2)monitor overall queuing times.

So we are monitoring queues and very much value receiving input from customers. I would be grateful if you would keep us informed on the level of service at the Main Branch Office. One of our local committee members is also doing spot checks over the next couple of months.

I hope that helps

Regards

Linda McCord

22/6/4

Hello Linda & thanks for your further response.

So one fulltime person has been added to cope with the increased loading,
and you'll do a full impact review in September. Thanks for that.

You say that a 5-minute queuing time condition has been removed. So what measures replaced it?
Please list the measures of customer satisfaction which are now in the license.

You say that PostWatch is continuing to measure queing times. Could I see those stats, please?

You say that you (Postwatch) is looking at how POL can be more effective.
Surely your role is not to help POL to manage their services - they have managers to do that - but to require certain standards of them.

Please clarify this point for me.

Thanks & Regards,
Chris

==== Disclaimer ====
My disclaimer trumps yours. I don't know why you even have one.
You can do whatever you like with anything I send to you,
and I reserve the right to do the same with anything you send me.

29/6/4

Hello.
I didn't see a reply to my email sent to you on 22/06/04 10:06:48.
I'm concerned that you may not have received it, or that I somehow missed your reply.
Please update me on progress.

Thanks & Regards,
chris

29/6/4

Dear [sir]

I have received your email and am seeking some further answers. I will respond early next week as I am now out of the office for the rest of the week at an exhibition.

Regards

Linda McCord

29/6/4

Thanks,

I look forward to your reply.

FYI - Bedford Post Office continues to be a misery to use with only 6 of the 12 positioned staffed yesterday and a 12 minute wait for me.

Regards,
Chris

6/7/4

Hello.

Please update me on progress.

Thanks & Regards,
chris.wesley

8/7/4

Dear Mr Wesley

Please find below an explanation of the questions you raise.

1) Quality of Service sharing
Post Office Ltd (POL)conducts mystery shopping every month in all directly managed offices and franchised branches. A sample of sub post offices is also included. This is a relatively new process, as it only started in April.

The mystery shop not only measures queuing times, but other customer service elements such as ability of staff to identify customer needs, the greeting and farewell. Each branch gets a score out of 100.

Postwatch have been discussing with POL the information we can receive from this research. As you know, we are particularly interested in queuing times, although the other information would also be useful in providing an overall picture of customer service.

The national information POL has agreed to provide gives overall mystery shopping scores, compared to the scores of the previous month. It also gives the distribution of scores (i.e. percentages scoring 0-10, 10-20 etc).

We will also be provided with similar information on queuing times, showing the percentages that queued for 5mins or less, 5-10mins, or ten minutes for more.


2) Individual cases.

We have also been trying to agree a process whereby Postwatch can feed into POL the names of post offices with queuing problems. This would be based on a form which would note the time spent queuing on a number of separate occasions. We are currently discussing the feedback we can receive from
this, including what reasons for the problem, and the steps POL takes to resolve it. We have not formally agreed the process or the feedback, this is currently being discussed.


On a more regional basis our local committee members are going to spot check a number of post offices to check if modifications agreed with POL have been undertaken, and will also check out queuing times.

As you may appreciate this is a very new programme of quality of service monitoring so there are no real results yet. I hope this assures you that we are taking this issue very seriously and will continue to monitor services in post offices.

Yours sincerely

Linda McCord
Regional Manager
Postwatch East of England

8/8/4

Hello Linda, and thanks for your email.

I hope my emails are not too arduous for you, but I'm trying tto understand why we're allowing a miserable situation to exist, and how our monitor organisation (Postwatch) is contributing to things.
The turnaround time on emails is quite long. I'm sure you're very busy, and your responses seem sometimes contradictory or else they fail to address my concerns.

So I don't think I have a better option than to keep coming back to you for clarification, but if you think otherwise, please let me know.

OK.

I asked you to list the measures of customer satisfaction which are now in the license, following removal of queuing times. Your answer seems to be that there are NONE. Is that correct?

You say that regional committee members are PLANNING to do spot checks, but in an earlier email you said: "So we are monitoring queues and very much value receiving input from customers..". Which is true? Have you been monitoring queuing times? If so, please show me your data, as previously requested.

So - Postwatch does nothing to monitor post office quality, and there are no quality measure specified in the license. Is this correct?

Assuming it is then this would appear to be an appalling state of affairs.
POL has a national monopoly. They are widely seen as doing a very poor job, yet it's getting worse and they're raising prices. They have no targets to meet, and no penalties to endure. Do you agree that this situation is ridiculous? If not, please help me to understand why it isn't as bad as it looks to me.

I asked you to comment on my observation that Postwatch should not be in the role of management consultant to POL, as you apparently are, but you did not do so. Could you do that for me, please?

Please point me at the POL license, so I can read and understand it.

Thanks,
Chris

9/7/4


Dear [sir]

I am sorry if my emails have been in any way confusing or contradictory. I hope I can answer some of your questions now, however, I will not be in a position to answer all of your points below until week beginning 19 July as I am away from the office as of 2pm today. I will get back to you on the license issues then. In my previous email I explained that Post Office Ltd has put new quality measures in place as of April 2004 and that Postwatch is discussing with them the information we will be getting from this new process, including queuing times and other quality measures in service levels at Post Offices. I am sure you can appreciate that it is too soon within the new process to have any feedback yet.

In the meantime our local regional members will be carrying out visits to post offices to look at disabled access, service and indeed queuing times. This will be undertaken between now and the end of the year. I am sorry if any previous correspondence indicated that this had already started, it has
not.

Postwatch does not act as a management consultant to The Royal Mail group in relation to delivery or post office services. We very much monitor all of their services and campaign for improvements, we are actually very active in this respect.

Postcomm as the regulator issues licence and this is available on their website on WWW.Postcomm.gov.uk

I will write to you again once I return to the office.

Yours sincerely

Linda McCord

9/7/4

Thanks Linda,

I'll wait for your full respnse this week.

Regards,
Chris

22/7/4

Dear [sir]

There is nothing in the Royal Mail licence about queuing times. Postwatch did not object to the removal of this condition because a) it was not the most effective way of assessing actual queuing times b)it was not effective in addressing individual post offices where there was a problem with queuing, and c) the licence condition did not address the wider issue of whether customers are satisfied with the service they receive at post offices.

As mentioned in my previous email measures are now in place to monitor customer satisfaction with the service they receive at post offices.

Yours sincerely

Linda McCord

23/7/4

Hello Linda,

On the matter of including a service level agreement in the license:

You appear to have removed imperfect metrics, and replaced them with fresh air.
As it stands, under the terms of the license,
POL can provide apallingly dismal service (as, indeed, they do)
and you have no leverage in the matter under the terms of the license.

Is that correct?

Wouldn't it have made considerably more sense to improve the existing metrics than to simply delete them?

On the matter of measureing POL performance more generally:

You have spoken about other measures you're planning to take.
But since they are not in the license, any goals you may have are simply matters of opinion and not binding on POL. Is that correct?

As I understand it, the plans to measure POL service levels are these:

1. POL will mystery shop themselves every month and share selected data with you
Do you mean literally monthly?
If so, won't this most likely miss the majority of long queues?

2. POSTWATCH are (or will be) monitoring queues
I still don't have a clear understanding of this.
Please tell me:

Who is monitoring queues?
In which post offices?
How often?
What will they monitor?
When did (will) this start happening?

Thanks for your continued patience, Linda. I am conscious of the amount of your time I am taking, but I appreciate it. I remain very concerned about this situation, and I look forward to your clarification soon.

Regards,
Chris

1/8/4

Hello.

I didn't see a reply to my email sent to you on 23/07/04 16:07:28.
I'm concerned that you may not have received it, or that I somehow missed your reply.
Please update me on progress.

Thanks & Regards,
Chris

8/8/4

Hello.

I didn't see a reply to my email sent to you on 01/08/04 11:49:55.
I'm concerned that you may not have received it, or that I somehow missed your reply.
Please update me on progress.

Thanks & Regards,
Chris

16/8/4

Hello.

I didn't see a reply to my email sent to you on 08/08/04 12:19:25.
I'm concerned that you may not have received it, or that I somehow missed your reply.
Please update me on progress.

Thanks & Regards,
Chris

16/8/4
24 days and three reminders after my last enquiry

Dear Mr Wesley

I am really sorry if you have not received a response as I am aware that you have emailed recently on a number of occasions, and I thought I had responded fully.

In respect to the old licence condition on queuing, I have sought advice from our Central Office, who responded that it was in effect, meaningless, as it was unenforceable. Plus, given Royal Mail Group's parlous financial situation over the past couple of years, financial penalties from Postcomm
hardly seemed like a measure that would assist POL in tackling problems at post offices.

In respect to Post Office Ltd monitoring service at post offices our understanding is that they visit about 2,000 branches a month - including all Directly Managed branches and conversions, each post office is visited once a month, at a random time.

Postwatch meets with Post Office Ltd regularly to discuss amongst other issues, service levels at post offices. We are working with them on putting in place an improved system for us to raise queuing concerns.

Just to clarify on what we are doing at a regional level. Over the next couple of months local committee members will be carrying out a number of spot checks at local post offices. They will be checking out amongst other things, disabled access,service levels and queues.

Regards

Linda McCord
Regional Manager
Postwatch East of England

19/8/4

Hello Linda,

Did you receive my email to you dated 23/7?

If NOT, then that would explain your confusion,
but it wouldn't explain why you ignored two subsequent reminders, sent 1/8 and 8/8,
[actually, there were 3 - a third sent 16/8]
only replying to the third reminder, sent 16/8.
In this case, please explain why the two earlier reminders were ignored,
because this kind of treatment seems rude, and is certainly time consuming and very tedious.

If you DID receive my email dated 23/7, then you will have seen
that it contained ten questions to you,
so I can't see how you could have thought you had responded fully,
and so I would appreciate an explanation of that.

I will respond to your responses in another email, but I would like first
to understand what happened to my email sent to you on 23/7.

Thanks & Regards,
Chris

To Be Continued, I guess... as of August 24th,
I have no response from Linda,
but i'll post it here when it arrives.

Conclusion

Let's re-cap. The Royal Mail has a monopoly. They are granted a license by our government to run every one of our nation's post offices for us. We have no choice but to use those post offices. The Royal Mail are closing post offices to cut costs, which means the remaining post offices are overloaded and the service they provide is consequentially poor. You and I must stand in a line as long as the Post Office deems fit. That's often far too long, in my experience.

Postwatch is there to protect the public interest in the running of the Royal Mail, yet they seem to be incompetent.

They approved the removal of a central service level metric - queuing time - because it was imperfect - replacing it with FRESH AIR. The terms of the license for post offices contain NO SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENTS AT ALL!

In their dealings with me, Postwatch's regional manager - Linda McCord has provided me with poor service and muddled thinking. And she RUNS THE REGION!

In my view, this is a fiasco, and we should remove from office those at the top of Postwatch.

Customer Comments:

  • Totally agree with Chris the Post office counters are a dismal shamble no matter where you go there is nothing but queues. I went into the main post office in Milton Keynes and found 2 "manager types" organising the public to press a computer screen and take a numbered ticket for the service required and then waited 20 minutes for the said service (using the word service very lightly). It was like being in Argos waiting for your number, and this is called progress, they are a public disgrace, and the Labour government for pushing the huge amount of the good service little branch post offices being closed.
    Regards
    Terry
  • I have never understood why deliveries take place in the morning when most of the population is at work.

    Additionally why are post offices not open an evening per week. The ques would be less if post offices were open when people could go to them.

  • The post office is the same country wide and their internet service is an absolute travesty.

    Try their travel insurance for example; I bought their insurance online becasue I was going away the next day but when I printed out the policy all I got was an unfilled form. I then found that I was unable to retrieve the insurance or even locate it on the site. I eventually rang the Post office and after a wait of 7 minutes spoke to someone who said "Oh, yes we are experiencing problems with the website and no you cannot access your insurance policy on the website. We'll send it to you.

    QUESTION why allow people to buy insurance online when they cannot print out the document. I actually thought I'd been scammed and it took another hour to find out who I needed to speak to and to get this abysmal reply.

    In my local post office the counter assistant does not even know her products. She refused a parcel 43 cm x 30 cm x 30 cm for Special delivery because it would not fit into her Postbag. The actual size for this post as written on their website as 61 cm x 46 x 46. I then had to travel half way across town, paying to park my car and another 20 minute queue in order to send it. When I complained I was told I had to wait 10 days for a response. In the mean time I have to travel half way across town to post items I sell online. When I questioned this policy I was met with a barrage of you have to wait your turn, their is a queue of complaints. DIDN'T REALLY NEED TO BE TOLD THAT LOL

  • My local post office is Winscombe in Somerset. For years the service has been poor and specifically I mean the interpersonal skills.

    Recently it has got worse in my experience, as I send a lot of parcels, which seem to be a HUGE inconvenience for them. No matter what time of day I arrive it's the wrong time for them and they can't help themselves from rolling eyes and commenting between themselves - how RUDE. Sometimes they even pass comments right at me.

    Now that they're building their business case for why they should not open on a Saturday pm, if you go in Sat afternoon you get very icily treated. They actually told me they are building a case not to open in Sat pm and asked me not to come in as it records on their footfall and works against their business case.

    I LIKE the PO opening on a Sat pm and it makes me go there and not to the local Collect + but that is going to change. After this morning, I will never set foot in there again so "Hello Collect+ for all my parcels," or else Cheddar PO where they are lovely and know what a customer is. And by the way, they do everything to make the place look closed on a Saturday. Door closed on warm days, big barricade against the till on the right as you walk in and they are great at showing how inconvenienced they are. Their website also says closed pm on Sat.

    I've just had enough of them and this feedback needs to be given now.

    I am not a complaining type, but I have had enough. Chilly behavior and smart ignorant comments first things on a Monday morning just don't work for me. I am sending this while the anger is fresh, as it will go away and yet again, they will get away with it.

    Kindest Regards.

 

 
Send Feedback | Discuss online

Donate | Newsletter

We are a not-for-profit organisation funded purely by donations and Google advertising revenue
We do not get to choose which ads Google shows on our pages.

 

Founder's BLOG | An ex-magistrate's BLOG |About Us | Frequently Asked Questions | Let's Fix Britain in the Media | Contact Us | Join Us | Donate | Philosophies | If I Ruled the World | Does Investigative Journalism Work? | For and Against | Do Consumer Affairs Programs Work? | Strategies | Citizens | UK Volunteering | How You Can Make A Difference | - Is Volunteering Valuable for Furthering Your Career? | Living, Working and Volunteering Abroad: Danielle Lafond Remortgages Her Condo | Being a Local Councillor How to become an independent councillor | Bedfordshire Police Authority | Consumers | Call Centres | Customer Service Fundamentals | Customer Service - A Consultant's Perspcective | Dishonest Advertising | Life Inside a Call Centre | LGOWatch - Watching the Local Government Ombudsman | Problems with the Local Government Ombudsman | Chat with a Spammer | Dabs Direct | Dating Direct | Breast Stroke & Boogie | MatchMakers | Electors | Find Your MP | Campaigns | Crime | Complaints Service | Discussion Forums | Links | Recruit For Us | Fraud on Ebay | LFB in the Media | Conversations | Sponsors | Scrutinizing | The BSE Enquiry | Dixons Anti-Fans | Fundamentals of Cursomer Service | Chat with a SPAMmer | Dating Direct | Post Office Queues & Post Watch | Customer Service from Orange | Why Is It we accept this crud? | Electors | Find out about Your MP | Submitting a bogus MP report | The Duracell Bunny ad campaign | Criticism of OFCOM | Ocean Finance ad campaign | Aston Fox campaign | Cahoot Bank Advertising Practice | Crime | LFB TV | Complaint Letter Writing Service | Online Discussion Forums | Virgin Media-Video-On-Demand | Adversiting Standards Agency Fight | Self help book