August 05, 2008

Aren't the Post Office supposed to deliver mail to me?

Here's a little story that explains why certain companies are deemed to be more customer focused than others.

The Royal Mail here in England is commissioned by the monarch to deliver the post to her subjects. They do this by running the Post Offices and providing a fleet of post office vans to make a letter delivery service. Obviously for this they charge an amount of money. This is in the form of stamps. All this is pretty straightforward.

For many years they had a very simple system. You bought either a first class stamp or, for slightly less, you bought a second class stamp. The difference was the target delivery timeframe. For first class this was usually next day, for second class it was a day or so later (although this was not guaranteed).

However, recently they introduced a system where the postage was related not only to the class of delivery but also the weight and/or dimension of the package. So my A4 size envelope with 10 sheets of paper in it will now cost more to send than my DL size envelope with 1 sheet of paper.

With me so far?

Last week the postman arrived at my door. He posted two letters through and a card. I looked at the card. It was notification from the Post Office that something had been sent to me with insufficient postage. Someone had tried to send through the A4 envelope but had only paid for the DL size envelope. Fair enough. Easy mistake to make.

Now here's the stupid thing. The postage was underpaid by 15p. The post office wrote and sent the note telling me the postage was underpaid and informing me that I would need to pay the 15p PLUS an additional £1 administration fee. If I didn't pay it then the letter would be sent back after a period of time.

So let me put this into context. Rather than send the letter to me with the postman (who was coming this way anyway) and asking me to pay the 15p extra, they added a layer of beaurocracy (and cost) which means I will need to pay a 660% premium to get the letter. On top of that I have to go and visit them to get the letter rather than them sending it to me. So, in effect, someone has paid for the letter to be delivered to me and I now have to pay extra for the letter to be delivered and then go and pick it up myself!

What's wrong with this picture?

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