Scanned And Deliver!
How Self-Service Could make Royal Mail Profitable Again
By Matt Parker, Zebra Technologies
Recent news from Royal Mail reveals a massive slump in profits over the past year, but Zebra Technologies thinks that there are still opportunities to be had in the postal business.
According to recently released figures, Royal Mail is losing more than £2m a week. In particular, its letters business has slumped to a loss of £120m in the past financial year compared with a £20m profit the year before that. This was its worst performance for seven years. Not only is the cost of delviering mail increasing, volumes are in serious decline. This is a global trend, not one just isolated to the UK.
In the face of such adveristy, what opportunities do Royal mail and other national postal carreirs have to broaden revenue streams?
The Post Office brand remians an important community focal point and the provider of an essential service, yet one that is associated with inefficientcy, long queues and over-stretched staff. Given the huge variety of offerings postal operators provide from their high street locations, demand for its services is naturally high. But does every interaction need to be completed on a one-to-one, face-to-face basis? Self-service kiosks provide an easily achievable means of engaging with customers; streamlining and expanding the scope of services beyond the traditional and offering valuable connections to third party services such as financial services, utilities and government.
The self-service model is not a new one (as astute readers may have noticed - Ed). The retail sector has proved that the model can reduce overheads, minimise customer wait time and increase checkout throughput. The Averdeen Group report, 'Killer Kiosks: Reinventing the Customer', suggests that 88% of best-in-class operators in the retails sector recorded improved customer satisfaction via the introduction of kiosk systems. With a more diverse portfolio of service offerings, there is surely an argument to take the self-service model as part of a customer-centric apporach into the consumer-facing sectors of the postal industry.
If an audit were commissioned of the most common transactions at the post office, what percentage would be simple everday tasks that could easily be handled using self-service kiosks?
Introducing self-service drop stations for parcels that enable customers to weigh, print a barcoded electronic stamp, and pay for their parcel is not beyond the realms of possibility. This redirection of mundane everyday tasks would reduce the amount of time the customer spends queuing while also giving more time for staff to deal with complex requests.
Given its broad remit and service provision, for many, the post office serves as the primary interface with government and community services. The National Office of Statistics suggests that 30% of UK households do not have internet access and 21% of the adult population have never accessed the World Wide Web. For these individuals, and for those without access to banks or credit line, the post office performs an integral service, and one that can easily be managed via self-service. renewal notices or bills commonly feature a linear or 2D barcode containing the customers's unique reference number.
Once scanned by a kiosk scanner, data pertinent to that individual can be brought up on screen and acted upon accordingly, with a printed document at the end to confirm the transaction. Fishing and shooting license renewals, driving license and tax disc applications are all also easily serviceable via kiosks.
Providing such a wide array of services compounds the Post Office's position at the centre of the local community. And the Post Office should do everything within its power to capitalise on this strength. The installation of self-service allows staff to focus on spending more time engaging with customers who need more assistance, and in turn devliering a higher level of service. This creates relationships that deepen customer loyalty and increase retention.
Royal Mail has evoked over the years to offer us more than just mail. The systems by which they deliver these services are now in need of modernisation to keep up with increasing demands. Self-service solutions offer the postal sector the opportunity to improve customer satisfaction, enhance revenue sources and improve profit margins. And what's more, a self-service kiosk is never reduncant; the kiosk itself provides an additional revnue stream via avertising space on an opportunity to cross-sell internal promotions for the many services a local post office provides.
Friday, October 28, 2011