With Prohibited and Restricted Goods Training going live this week, we asked Julian King, Mails Product Manager why it is so important, for branches and our customers.
- What are Prohibited & Restricted Goods?
“Many everyday items, such as aerosols, nail varnish and perfumes are considered dangerous goods under transport regulations and these are now referred to as prohibited and restricted goods. Many countries also have their own restricted lists of goods.
There are over 3,000 items covered in the regulations, far too much to memorise, so our process and the training try to make it as simple as possible for branches.
Customers are responsible for checking whether or not an item is prohibited or restricted. Post Office branches then accept the items on behalf of Royal Mail.
Whether in a delivery van, a sorting office, or on a plane, some of these items can pose a risk to people’s safety. The regulations and our process have been carefully worked out over the years, to minimise that risk.
- Why is it important for branches to know about this?
Ultimately, getting prohibited and restricted items right is all about the customer. A customer coming into your branch may not know whether an item in their parcel is prohibited or restricted or not.
The responsibility falls on our branch teams to ask the question, ‘For the purposes of safety, please can you tell me what’s in your parcel’. And by using questioning, the laminate and the Horizon process, to then find out what action you need to take.
We don’t expect branches to know it all off by heart!
But there are a few principles to remember and this is what the training is there to help you with. We want to support branches in getting it right, which will in turn help customers avoid delays to their mail, or the inconvenience and distress of their parcel not reaching its destination.
This training will help everyone in your branch understand their responsibilities, so please make sure you and your team all complete it on time.
- What trends are we seeing?
How well Post Office branches follow our procedures is measured by a mystery shopping programme; but unfortunately, performance has been poor over the last year.
The research tells us that branch teams are sometimes not asking the question, or are relying on memory or habit to decide what to do, rather than following the Horizon prompts.
And this is having an impact on customers too. We’re receiving higher numbers of customer complaints and parcels being held by Royal Mail and not reaching their destination.
This is a poor outcome for our customers who have sent the parcels. It is disappointing for their customers, contacts, friends or family who didn’t receive their mail – many of whom are customers or potential customers too. These days, it can often generate complaints on social media. This all reflects poorly on the reputation of Post Office and chips away at that hard-earned trust people have in us.
The good news is, we can turn it around.
- Why does it have to be done every year?
“Regular training means everyone keeps up to date with the latest regulations, which change slightly from time to time. It is also a refresher, to help everyone be confident they know the steps to follow.”
- What happens if I don’t do it?
“There can be a few unwelcome consequences. If you or members of your team don’t complete the training, Smart ID controls means that they won’t be able to complete certain mails transactions and serve customers until the test has been passed.
If a branch fails a mystery shop more than once, together with the field support team we’ll look at areas to improve.
And importantly, if the process isn’t followed, it can lead to customer complaints and poor feedback, including on social media.
- How does doing the training help customers?
“It means that we and customers can be sure that their item will reach its destination safely and on time, giving them the service they have paid for.
When the process isn’t followed, it causes delays to customers’ parcels, which may be detected and removed from the mail and may not reach their destination at all.
So, by completing the training and test in time, you can avoid a lot of inconvenience later for your team and your customers.”
- Why is it important to you and everyone at Post Office?
“Post Office branches across the country are trusted by customers to take care of their parcels with care and expertise.
Post Office is also trusted by the regulators to handle more restricted items than our competitors in the parcel market, because of our branch expertise, better training and track record; so we want to see that continue.
A quick look online at complaints against our parcel delivery competitors show that customer experience matters a lot. In a competitive market, our superior expertise and customer service in branch are so crucial to our future.
Postmasters and branch colleagues are the ones who interact with customers on a daily basis and represent the Post Office brand so well.
So please encourage your teams to do the training and the test. Feel free to use this Q&A to help you get across to them how important it is to refresh their knowledge.
Good service, including mails expertise, means customers will come back to branch again and again and continue trusting in us. Our excellence in mails is something to be proud of.”