Royal Mail

Scary, or just our changing World?

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I saw a report last week that said that ‘half of teenagers have never sent a letter’ – this set me thinking about the way we relate to each other nowadays.

The 'new' letter box
The ‘new’ letter box

The stats on letter writing really were quite salutary – apparently half of 12 to 17 year olds have never sent a personal letter to family or friends, and many claim they wouldn’t know how to! This is obviously good news for those who have taken up shares in our recently privatised Royal Mail…..

Two in five girls and three in five boys admitted to never having used the traditional post in their lives, with the majority not seeing why they should when they can send an email instead. Even adults have changed with one in three unable to recall when they sent a personal letter last.

So email is the new letter – 93% of teenagers and 55% of adults confirming this was their preferred choice for ‘written’ contact now with family and friend. But perhaps even more damming is the reason given by almost a quarter of the respondents – cost and time taken to deliver the letter.

We live in a much more ‘instant’ society now, the smartphone has become almost essential to be an active part of society – 2013 will without doubt be seen as the year we all went mobile.

More ‘joy’ with the Royal Mail

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Any one who follows my blog will be aware of the ‘pleasures’ I have been enjoying recently due to a lack of service from the Royal Mail, I have now come to the conclusion that the package that so nearly made it to me is lost (the manager at the sorting office as good as confirmed it to me).

20130826-171226.jpgI am now in the process of trying to get some form of compensation from the Royal Mail and have spoken to their customer services (complaints) department to progress this. To be fair the man I spoke to was very good at his job (plenty of practice?) and handled me like a pro – however his basic line was that it was the sending companies issue….

What I wasn’t 100% clear on until last week was exactly what the parcel they lost was, however a few emails have confirmed that it was an item forwarded to me from New York by the lady we rented an apartment from in the city a few weeks ago. So I have a receipt of postage and know what the parcel contained.

But, and this is what is really annoying me – because the parcel was sent through the United States Postal Service (USPC) as far as our wonderful Royal Mail are concerned I should make my claim against the USPC – not the Royal Mail who actually lost it! Apparently it is all part of an agreement between postal services across the World. In my view it is wrong – the parcel travels 5000 miles, gets to my letter box but is then lost somewhere in the 3 mile triangle between my house, Beeston and Nottingham – sorry but I can’t see that as the United States Postal Services fault!!

I am going to take this as far as it can go until I get an apology and compensation from the Royal Mail – watch this space……..

Is it me?

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I was known in the office at one time as ‘Dr Doom’ – I had a rather negative approach to things apparently! That was a while ago and hopefully my outlook has changed in recent years….

There is one thing that still concerns me though – I do seem to find myself complaining rather a lot when dealing with people in this country. This has made me question myself – is it me or is service and customer care something that is sadly lacking in the UK now or do I expect too much of people?

20130823-160656.jpgMy recent run in with the Royal Mail is a classic case – I eventually got to speak to a manager, who to be fair was polite and tried to be helpful. His intervention didn’t produce my lost package, but at least he tried. I did have to chase him a couple of times, and he didn’t return calls that he had promised to do (not good in my books) – but he was at least helpful and polite.

Contrast that with the staff below him who were the day to day face of the sorting office – they really got quite defensive and in some cases abrupt and rude when challenged about a lost package. They obviously had no idea about how to deal with an issue – and the end feeling they gave was one of just not caring about their customers!

Now, that may or may not be the case – they would no doubt blame ‘the management’ and probably visa versa (that is a British disease) – but why do so many people in this country have no pride or interest in their work or company?

When I was a kid my parents always used to say that ‘good manners cost nothing’ – it annoyed me as a child, but how right they were. I know I have been ‘banging on’ recently about the USA and the way they treat customers, but we really do need to look closely at ourselves as a country – we really don’t come over as very nice people in my view!

A somewhat pointless system?

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I am enduring the joys of delivery companies at the moment – I have already blogged about the joy that is the Royal Mail. My package is still missing from them, although we now have ‘management’ involved in the search – I hold out little hope of seeing it again (and they don’t appear worried so I won’t use them again unless I have no option).

20130818-094353.jpgI did however receive a package from Yodel last week – it appeared at the second attempt so I suppose I should be grateful – and I am – but there is a problem….

The card they left after the first delivery attempt offers the ability to arrange collection from the depot – you can do it on-line – so I did, and all appeared efficient and easy. Except the parcel was delivered the next day!

Now it wasn’t clear on-line that this was the same parcel, so I needed to speak to someone. Now I am all for computer based systems if they work, but in this case it took me two calls to realise that the number on the card wouldn’t actually get me through to a human (and it’s an 0800 number so it isn’t free – unless you use this app). After some Googling I found a customer service number (0800 again – so I used the app) and spoke to a very helpful lady (well done). She confirmed that it was the parcel that I had arranged to collect that was delivered today. So all appears good, but there is an issue here.

The helpful lady informed me that the parcel would have stayed with the driver in his van for the 3 days that they try to deliver over – so when the online system suggested I could pick up the package at Loughborough from the Friday (day 3 of the delivery attempt) it was basically lying!

It appears that the online system is not actually ‘joined up’ with the delivery drivers – not helpful! I potentially would have made a wasted journey to Loughborough as the system also doesn’t update you to say the parcel has actually been delivered (even though they take your phone number)

And in case you are thinking I am a ‘bit dim’ as surely I would know if the package had been delivered – the reference on the package is different from the card – so it really isn’t obvious!

The good….. and the (very) bad

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It never ceases to amaze me how a visit to a foreign land can allow you to judge what you have (or don’t) in the way of services at home. My recent visit to the USA has provided one such moment of enlightenment…

20130818-093812.jpgWhile in Florida we needed to use the United States Postal Service – on the face of it a much less ‘obvious’ service to the one we have in the UK (split between Royal Mail and Post Office) – but a service covering the entire 50 States of America. Finding a post office wasn’t as easy as it is in the UK – they tend to be larger and fewer in number and designed for vehicle access. But, once inside we couldn’t have found them more helpful or polite. My son was looking to send some things to California with a self addressed envelope for their return back to the UK.

This wouldn’t be that straight forward to achieve in a UK post office, but for a foreigner in a US post office it was very daunting to say the least. The counter staff were however unbelievably helpful, and patient. We also had to fill in a customs form and they helped with that as well. While this was going on the queue in the post office was building, but no one had a problem – least of all the staff.

Contrast this with my recent Royal Mail and Post Office experiences in the UK;

1. Posting a package to my brother from the local post office. The staff were almost totally silent, the task was achieved swiftly, but with almost no eye contact or comment! – I felt as if I was ‘in the way’.

2. Collecting a package from the sorting office at Incinerator Road in Nottingham (with a ‘you were out’ card that had been left at my house 3 days before) – guess what – it wasn’t there, despite the card saying wait 24 hours. The staff informed me that this ‘wasn’t unusual’, but that the system was due to be changed which would make it ‘better’.

It is now 7 days since the card was left and the package still hasn’t appeared (although I have visited numerous times and they do have my number….) – I get the feeling the staff aren’t concerned – or is it that they don’t care? Consequently I now have no faith in the UK mail system – something that I find very sad for what was once a central part of the fabric of British society – but is now more of a joke.

What ever happened to customer care and service from the Royal Mail – can they really expect people to invest in them if they are privatised? Perhaps the US Postal Service could take them over and teach them a few basic lessons in customer care……

We are all working harder – well most of us….

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The general theme that comes across when I talk to people in business is that we all appear to be working harder than ever (generally for lower fees), this is not a complaint (that comes later) – it is a fact of life. The economy is in a bad way so we have to ‘dig in’ and work through it, or at least most of us do – but not it seems the Royal Mail…..

courtesy of Viz...
courtesy of Viz…

I will admit to not being one of the Royal Mails biggest fans, I have blogged various times before about them and can’t recall any of them being positive, and this one isn’t either!

I accept that if I am not in the Royal Mail can’t deliver packages to me, and I have asked them not to deliver them to my 85 year old neighbour. Previously the card left asks me to wait 24 hours for the package to return to the sorting office – around 2 miles away. That is fine, I really don’t have an issue with this.

However, it now appears that it takes 48 hours to do this – why?

All I can assume is that the package is placed back into the Royal Mails own post – as we all know everything (even first class post) takes at least 48 hours these days……

How the Post Office makes money

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I have now worked out what the Royal Mails plan is to pull it out of the state it currently finds itself in. It appears that their delivery quota is diminishing, they want to abandon your mail at your neighbours, and now it appears that they are charging exorbitant amounts for collecting VAT on imported goods!

Let me explain;

20120920-190957.jpgMy daughter has recently become the proud owner of a MacBook Pro, a lovely machine, but one that needs protecting whilst away from home. A case was required – not a straightforward matter it appears if you are 18 and like things to be a bit different! Consequently the case of choice was ordered from the USA. This is not a problem normally, in fact quite often deliveries from the US arrive quicker than UK ones!

No, the issue here was that the package required the payment of VAT on the purchase price, a service that the Royal Mail now appear to provide. However, the VAT sum that needed collecting was £4.42, not a huge amount, but, the “handling fee” taken by the Royal Mail at their sorting office (in cash only – no cards), was £8! – total £12.42!

Now I am happy to pay them a fee for collecting on behalf of the Inland Revenue – but twice the sum collected, that is really taking the mickey! Not a huge amount of “handling” involved as far as I can see!

So once again the Royal Mail have endeared themselves to me even more!

Another ‘winner’ from Royal Mail – the delivery to neighbour service!

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20120903-191002.jpgI received a card through my door from Royal Mail last week, not the usual ‘you weren’t in’ card that I love so much, but one relating to that service. Now correct me if I am wrong, but the Post Office is supposed to be a trustworthy service – part of the backbone of British Society. If you can’t trust your postman, who can you trust – or words to that effect.

I have been noting a decline in the post office over the last few years and have blogged to that effect on many occasions. Most recently it related to the failure to deliver a package and then losing it at the sorting office when I went to claim it! So, anything purporting to improve this service is a good thing in my opinion. This however is nothing of the sort…..

Their proposal – the delivery to neighbour service – is to get your agreement to allow the postman to leave your package with any of your neighbours if you aren’t in. Now in my view this allows the post office to side step one of their main responsibilities, and something we pay for – ensuring the post gets to the correct address. As a scheme it also has various large holes in it and appears poorly thought out;

  • You can’t state which neighbour to be used.
  • You can’t ask them to avoid troubling an old neighbour – we have one who is in her late 80’s
  • There is an option to opt out – but to do this you have to put up a sticker (they provide) which might as well say ‘I don’t trust my neighbours’!

We are forced to opt out due to the age of our neighbour, it would be wrong to have her disturbed for our post. I cannot believe we are alone in this and find it amazing that this hasn’t occured to the Post Office when they came up with this daft scheme. I believe this is yet another step towards the demise of our postal system as there is now no way of guaranteeing the delivery of ‘normal’ mail once this system starts.

If I was cynical I might think that they are just trying to force us to use the more expensive premium services that guarantee delivery? If so the couriers will step in and out price them.

Time for a re-think Royal Mail?

Not sure who is responsible, but well done!

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I have been pretty vocal about our postal service recently – yes I got confused about who I was angry with (it was Royal Mail), but it set a tone for the post generally. In the end I got my parcel – Royal Mail did do their best to be helpful – but to be honest it was only because I complained, I still don’t have any confidence in them. The fact that when they found the parcel in the sorting office they sent it out for delivery again didn’t help – why would we be there second time if we were out to work first time!

20120805-164356.jpgThe Post office however appeared to be much more ‘on the ball’ they saw my twitters and replied very quickly – it was because of this that Royal Mail finally spoke to me. Anyway I digress…

The Post office or is it Royal Mail (I have no idea), have excelled themselves this time over the Olympics. They said they would paint a post box gold for every Gold medal won by team GB – nice but perhaps a tad cheesy. However the idea of producing a first class stamp for every Gold medal winner is a really nice idea, and it is amazing that they have managed to produce them overnight. Sadly they are a limited run and are only available in 50 post offices – but it is a brilliant idea which has been really well managed.

Well done – I am just not clear who to thank – Royal Mail, Post office or perhaps both?

What’s in a name?

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Quite a lot it appears!

I have blogged twice in the last few days regarding what I initially referred to as the ‘Post Office’ – we all refer to that name when we talk about mail, parcels or counter services in my household and I thought most others did. But, I was wrong, and have been put right by the Post Office via Twitter!

Firstly, good on them for watching the ‘twitterverse’ and contacting people about their comments, that is how good customer service often happen these days. I have also been contacted by Royal Mail on the back of this and they are trying to resolve my issue – time will tell how successful that will be.

It does make you think though – we take certain names for granted , they become generic – like Hoover (although perhaps now it should be Dyson), Sellotape (sticky tape), Google (for doing an Internet search), postit’s (for sticky notes) – you get the idea.

Royal Mail and Post Office parted company from each other last April, so should we now refer to sending something through the Royal Mail as ‘mailing’ rather than posting from here in? Certainly the Post office were quite keen to inform me that mail was not their province any more – glad to be rid? I wonder?

Just goes to show how important it is to get your brand across to people – get it wrong and you can get blamed for something that isn’t your fault!