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Avoiding a right Royal Fail at the Royal Mail

Stamp prices going up and service going down

Stamps rise in cost 2019

First class stamps will increase in price by 3p to 70p on Monday 25th March 2019. And second class goes up from 58p to 61p!

However, Royal Mail has also made a “mistake” in doing this! Ofcom capped any rise above 60p until 1 April 2019. On its website it says “Due to an error on our part, our new 2nd Class stamp price of 61p will be 1p above the existing regulatory price cap for a period of 7 days – from March 25 until April 1. We are donating the revenue that we expect to collect from the error – around £60,000 – to the charity Action For Children, which helps disadvantaged children across the UK.”

The cost of stamps has risen year on year.

Cost of second class stamps                                   Cost of first class stamps 

Year cost % rise on previous year Year cost % rise on previous year
2009 30p 2009 39p
2010 32p 6.67% 2010 41p 5.13%
2011 36p 12.50% 2011 46p 12.20%
2012 50p 38.89% 2012 60p 30.43%
2013 50p 0% 2013 60p 0%
2014 53p 6% 2014 62p 3.33%
2015 54p 1.89% 2015 63p 1.61%
2016 55p 1.85% 2016 64p 1.58%
2017 56p 1.82% 2017 65p 1.56%
2018 58p 3.57% 2018 67p 3%
2019 61p 5.17% 2019 70p 4.47%

Price of stamps over the years

In researching historic prices for stamps I thought I would find a huge rise in percentage terms following privatisation. Interestingly, that is not the case. Although frequently not in line with inflation (and often lower) and apparently with no sense of planning by Royal Mail throughout the years, it actually raised its prices more before privatisation. But although privatisation may have actually kept the cost of a stamp down, it has spectacularly failed in other areas, apparently due to bad financial decisions by management.

Royal Mail and the move to privatisation

Royal Mail was a public service. However, Wikipedia states that “following the Postal Services Act 2011 a majority of the shares in Royal Mail were floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2013 A 30% stake was retained by the Government but the rest of Royal Mail was sold in 2015.” An Essex postman of 20 years who wants to remain anonymous (we’ll call him Essex Postie), says that about 18 months prior to privatisation things changed dramatically. Posties were told that they would have new, regimented, working hours which meant more ‘calls’ and longer hours, but no pay rise. Essex Postie says “If we finished our rounds within the time period set, we would have to return to the office and complete other duties / deliveries. We were allowed to ‘cut off’, meaning if the day was heavy and we couldn’t deliver before our specified time we could take the remainder back to the office. However, this was highly frowned upon by management staff who wanted a clear office to meet their targets”.

And remember the rebranding of Royal Mail to Consignia in 2002? That was a massively expensive failure. Royal Mail is still reeling from the cost of that.

Royal Mail changes to service over the years

With the increasing use of couriers and email over the years it is no surprise that Royal Mail profits are down and we certainly haven’t seen the increases of previous years. But Royal Mail and even Essex Postie says that the prices are still some of the lowest in the world. However, remember when the postie was the first to notice when an elderly person didn’t come to the door and the postie could raise the alarm that something was wrong? Essex Postie says that, historically, it was always ‘job and finish’, meaning that you were given the autonomy to manage your round, albeit if you were paid beyond your actual work time (good for posties but not so cost efficient for Royal Mail!) But, because of this most took a sense of civic pride in their work. Essex Postie says “I didn’t just deliver mail, I helped people who’d locked themselves out of their homes, notified countless customers that had left their keys in their doors and gave witness statements to police following incidents I had seen on my round. I could stop and chat to a lonely pensioner, or ask if the housebound needed anything bringing to them.” All that has gone. Whilst I appreciate that giving posties unrestricted hours would give rise to obvious issues, surely there is scope for some middle ground?

Essex Postie says that the numerous changes over the years have contributed to a culture of resentment towards management and no sense of office camaraderie. This, he says, has led to colleagues taking much less pride in their role and not having time, good will, or inclination to offer the pastoral care they used to provide to their customers and communities.

Delivery offices once had experienced managers who worked their way up and remained loyal to their office and staff who were hired on permanent full-time contracts. This has changed significantly. Managers started to be moved around from office-to-office, causing upheaval and uncertainty. ‘Casuals’ had always been employed at Christmas to assist with the four-week busy period. However, slowly but surely ‘Casuals’ started to appear as part of the general workforce, to the point of actually taking over some roles completely. New staff hired now are only offered 20hrs per week contracts and if an existing employee (who may have worked in their office for 20 years plus) requests a transfer to another office they must also drop down to 20 hours!

old fashioned post box on stick on cliff top background sea

Lack of strategy and consistency

There seems little cohesion of national policy and procedure implementation and one manager at one office can decide to do something very different (and, often, controversial) to a counterpart elsewhere, creating disparity and resentment amongst staff. For example, some offices do ‘absorption’ and some don’t have to. This is the round of a walk that is not permanently covered by a permanent delivery person which is shared out between 4 people who are expected to deliver this without any extra pay. Other examples are staff being sent out again after their walks have been delivered, although this doesn’t happen at all offices. Some offices still allow staff to use their own cars for deliveries.

There were a number of changes, with posties starting out on foot, then using a Royal Mail bicycle, then their own cars, then cars were banned, trolley boxes were introduced, then a return to Royal Mail mountain bikes, then working in pairs (one of whom would drive due to moving into a new fleet of Royal Mail vans (because ‘parcel drivers’ would no longer exist and all delivery staff would now have to take letters AND parcels as all the rounds were reassigned.)

Royal Mail and the community

A Royal Mail spokesperson said “Every day we receive reports of our people going above and beyond in the communities they serve. Royal Mail takes its corporate responsibility very seriously. We are proud of the work our people do in the community, which goes far beyond delivering mail and parcels.”

Last year it began working with the Home Office on a new community service, “Safe and Connected“, to help tackle loneliness. During the trial postmen and women from three delivery offices – Liverpool North, Whitby and New Malden, made regular scheduled visits to pre-selected volunteer participants to check on their well-being.​

However, it is a trial. It is specific. It was not what we used to know, the natural part and parcel of the job. I asked Royal Mail if staff were given extra hours to undertake this work, or if their rounds were shorter and if there were plans for a roll out. A spokesperson said “We do not anticipate any delay or disruption to the postal round from this trial. We will be considering feedback from all parties including the trial participants before any decisions are made about the future of the service.”

Is it just me that thinks it is peculiar that what used to be part and parcel of a job which staff were clearly happy to do now needs to be part of a limited trial?

What of the future for Royal Mail?

So, perhaps the privatised Royal Mail wants to be seen as working to keep costs down for consumers and with improved service for its customers compared with before privatisation? However, you know what? I for one would be more than happy to pay a penny more for a stamp if it meant that Essex Postie and his colleagues could go back to taking pride in their work, looking out for the vulnerable and helping to be the eyes and ears of local communities.

What do you think? Would you be happy to spend an extra penny on a stamp if it meant an improvement in service?


Business Companies customer service

Why and how your company should have a presence on Twitter

Companies on Twitter

Companies and Twitter interactions

Many companies have a presence on social media and some are much better than others at interacting with their customers on these platforms. When companies engage with customers, whether for compliments or complaints, it is helping the company’s image and reputation far more than those who don’t have a presence or who ignore complaints.

Twitter has its limitations for consumers when it comes to complaining. At some point, unless it is very simple, they will have to take it into direct messages (DMs) or email to explain the situation and/or give personal details. But in all this time many thousands of people can see how well (or not) a company is dealing with complaints. Frequently you will find that when done in good humour and swiftly people accept the situation and engage positively with it. Let’s take Kentucky Fried Chicken as an example…

KFC chicken shortage and Twitter getting it right

The KFC chicken shortage in 2018, caused by delivery problems, gave rise to a widespread advertising campaign where the company apologised for the fiasco. Two adverts apologising with humour won them an award


These press adverts resulted in one billion impressions on Twitter. Millions and millions of more people saw and took notice of KFC sending itself up. What could have been a reputational disaster actually resulted in a successful PR outcome.

That would not have been the case if the company had not been willing to take a risk and it certainly would not have been the case had KFC not been on Twitter.

Companies can use Twitter in another way

Another recent and amusing case study here shows how it is possible to go further and fight back at haters at the same time:

A Coconut Water Brand Is Offering Free Piss on Twitter Because This Is the Future When a “hater” told the company that he would rather drink piss they offered to send him some. The thread shows how the tweet went viral, got in the press and increased their followers.

This tweet was retweeted nearly five thousand times and liked by over thirty three thousand. Twittersphere  enjoyed the reply and the company received many many followers as a result.

There is a debate of course as to how far you should go in terms of taste and what is acceptable for your brand.

Companies getting it wrong on Twitter

Compare this with other companies such as TSB. In April last year it had a serious IT issue arising from an upgrade resulting in thousands of customers not being able to access their account, whilst others encountered fraud on their account. It did not communicate well with customers.


TSB lost financially and in September 2018 the CEO, Paul Pester, stepped down.

How you deal with mistakes on Twitter

Although perhaps one cannot compare personal finance with a fast food, it does show how TSB could have handled the matter better and perhaps not lost the customers it did. Keeping people up to date, responding to people on social people may well have ensured that it did not lose the number of customers it undoubtedly did. Every company makes mistakes, it is how it deals with them that matters.

A few years ago, I helped someone on Twitter. The company was trying to fob her off getting a refund. I got her a refund. The company’s Twitter team blocked me. That move backfired badly because I then spent the next hour looking for people who were complaining to the company and helped them with their consumer rights! Never underestimate what people will do on social media, for whatever reason!

Using feedback on Twitter to improve your products

To use KFC as an example again… KFC has always been criticised for its poor chips but last year chips went chunky with skins on and were, in my opinion,. much improved. Story around this here.

In its social media campaign to raise awareness of the new chips it went even further than acknowledging that it was down to customers’ feedback. It went back four years and used old tweets. That’s really listening and responding to customers. (Not that it should have taken four years, but you get the idea!)

The future for companies and Twitter

Companies ignore the value and impact of social media at their peril. Social media is where the majority of your customers are. You need to engage with them where they hang out. The better companies not only keep customers informed and engage with them, they actively reach out and ask opinions. Not only are you showing that you value customers but you would get some useful feedback too. AND it’s cheaper than traditional media.

outstretched hand with Twitter symbol on it

BBC Breakfast Helen Dewdney and Steph discuss complaining on social media 06/07/16

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