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Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Post Office Dreams

Oscar Foulkes September 7, 2010 Uncategorized No comments

I can’t say I’ve ever thought of myself as a Post Office kind of guy. In my aspirations – and very, very occasionally in real life – I dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, buy my shirts at Ted Baker, make my travel bookings online, avoid fast food and generally live a privileged life.

No, the South African Post Office is not a brand or service with which I feel any affinity. It is desperate in every possible respect. The design approaches Soviet-era grimness, and the queues move at a pace that give the expression “slow-moving” a new extreme. I’ve been in many queues; what distinguishes Post Office queues from all others is the uniform displeasure etched into the faces of everyone else in the queue. Even the queues at Heathrow security checkpoints seem happier.

When you finally get to the counter, you’re likely to find that similar transactions will be handled with random consistency, depending upon which staff member is helping you, or which branch you’re in. If there is such a thing as a Post Office training manual, it is used as a vague guide rather than the set of inviolable protocols it should be. What is consistent is the length of time it takes for the person behind the counter to do whatever they do.

All the orders are sent using the Post Office’s counter-to-counter service, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Post Office. Much more time than I would choose to.

In the spirit of remaining positive and solution orientated, here are a few initiatives that could yield results:

  • Identify functions that could be changed to self-service
  • Review all systems and procedures, so that processes can be stripped down to the efficient bare minimum
  • Train staff properly
  • Develop some kind of incentive programme for frontline staff
  • Equip staff with the correct tools. I’ve seen a variety of sticky things (some of them probably quite costly) used when ordinary sticky tape is not available

In addition, I think there’s a huge opportunity for retail activity, but until such time as the Post Office adopts a customer-focused attitude any such initiatives will be doomed.

The Post Office claims to “deliver, whatever it takes”. Perhaps they’ve sorted out that problem, which – after all – is one of the key performance indicators of a postal service. However, delivering the mail is just one of their required functions.

The organisation may well be part of the engorged government bureaucracy, but there’s no need for it to behave like one. Imagine how much more motivated its staff would be if the Post Office were a dynamic enterprise, loved and respected by its customers?

It would make me so much happier spending time in Post Office queues if it was that kind of place.

I can dream…

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