In depth: Customer service at Post Office
Regional teams across the country have been counting down to National Customer Service Week which starts on Monday 5 October. Post Office will be marking this through simple discussions about the basic but fundamental aspects of customer experience and the key drivers we have in place.
Here we speak to James Scutt, Head of Customer Experience about what Post Office’s customer experience drivers have shown us during covid-19 and how to prepare for the peak period.
Who developed our customer drivers?
Really it was Post Office customers who developed these drivers. We looked back across five years’ worth of data and insight found that our customers always talked about six distinct areas in the behaviours that we display when we serve them in branch.
When we get these right, customers are happier with the service they receive and consider us for additional products. Our Customer Drivers are Friendly, Professional, Knowledge, Understanding, Efficiency and Expectations.
What are our drivers showing so far this year?
This year is not like any other. Everyone has had to step up how they serve customers and customer expectations have changed.
As we moved through the very early stages of Covid-19, we soon realised that a seventh driver was coming into play very quickly. Through our Qualtrics analytics, key words like ‘safe’ kept appearing and customers were talking about this in their droves. Because it was important to customers, we added ‘Keep me safe’ as an additional driver.
This year over 6,500 of our customers left us some feedback that included a mention of Covid-19. 92% of those comments were positive around the way branches were managing this difficult time. Customers said they felt safe because branches were displaying the right posters and signage, screens were in place and branch teams wearing masks or visors and really showing they cared about their customers.
What else have we learnt about customer experience this year?
It’s been a difficult year for the Post Office as it has for so many in the retail sector but our standout heroes are our Postmasters and branch teams who are adjusting to life in a covid world. They’ve really stepped up.
They've provided amazing customer experience to our customers, all the way through the pandemic and that’s because they are listening to customers, and responding to community needs.
An excellent example I come across was from Ipswich branch which read: Gentleman who served me was very polite, friendly, cheerful and very helpful. These things are hard to find especially as staff are under pressure due to Covid-19. I came away from the Post Office with a smile on my face, even though no one could see it due to the face mask.
How will customer experience change as we enter the busy Christmas period?
We know all retailers are experiencing challenges especially with the latest guidance around face coverings so the next few weeks, and as we head into the busy Christmas peak, customers will naturally become less tolerant of waiting times and slow service. People want things here and now and social distancing will really test the patience of the UK public. Frustration will grow and how branches respond across the Drivers will make a big difference.
Are we providing additional support to branches this Christmas?
Post Office is there to support and enable Postmasters so they can continue to provide excellent service. We don’t always get it right, and customers tell us experience varies from branch to branch.
Postmasters are providing the face to face service but customer service really is everyone’s responsibility and on a weekly basis we share customer feedback by product with the Commercial product teams, like Banking, so they use this insight and build into service developments.
Area Managers are supporting Postmasters and their teams with a series of virtual training sessions for Mails, and we’ve also started a programme called Customer Experience University.
Working on the front line is challenging, Postmasters have told us this so we are supporting a campaign led by the Institute of Customer Service called ‘Back our essential workers: Service with Respect’. This aims to highlight and address the hostility experienced by people in customer-facing roles since the start of the pandemic. We’ll be showing our support on social media and on our website, so please look out for that soon and share this with your online community.
In addition, we’ll continue to provide guidance to branches about dealing with challenging customers, we know that Postmasters and convenience retailers deal with verbal abuse and there is a wealth of guidance out there. For example, The Association of Convenience Stores has launched a great video containing tips and guidance for people working in stores to ensure that they stay safe in the workplace and do everything they can to prevent violent and abusive situations from happening.
How can I see what customers are saying about my branch?
Around 4,000 of our branches already have a Qualtrics account. It’s free and an invaluable resource to understand what your customers think of the service you offer, many customers won’t tell you face to face.
Customers don’t leave feedback for fun, they give it to us for free and in return for their time, they expect us to listen and take action from what they tell us. Area Managers can help you understand your feedback for your branch and support you to make improvements. If you don’t have a Qualtrics account, speak to your Area Manager who will get you set up.
Use this ready made social media image to encourage customers to give you feedback.
What is Customer Experience University?
The pandemic resulted in a decision to pull forward a number of things we were planning, a key one being our “Customer Experience University” initiative.
This targeted programme helps you to look at things from the viewpoint of your customers. You put yourself in your customers shoes, really take into account your own behaviours and match them against times when you're shopping as a customer yourself and see if there are small traits within your behaviours that you could change that would make the experience you give to your customers.
All of our Area Managers have now worked through the Foundation level and are now accredited. This means they have been through a validation process to make sure their knowledge and understanding is there.
Purley branch (pictured right) in South East Region recently completed accreditation level in their branch and in the coming days and weeks, they’ll be able to see the real impact of this through Qualtrics.
What’s the difference between Customer Service, Customer Experience and Experience Management?
The three terms get mixed up a lot. We are all used to the term Customer Service but in today’s world service is seen more as the thing you offer, you have services with features and benefits, for example a service might be changing the name on an account.
Customer Experience is more about the whole experience a customer has with us. It can start way before a customer enters a branch when they visit our website or have some contact with our Customer Care Team. The easiest way to think about Customer Experience in branch is about how we make our customers feel, maybe delighted, sometimes irritated. Our behaviours in our Drivers are the biggest influencer when customers visit us in branch.
Experience Management is the term given to the processes and tools we use to actively manage customers experiences. Qualtrics is our Experience Management system that feeds customers comments back to us so that we can take action.
Join the conversation
James and Regional teams will be discussing customer service this week on Regional Facebook groups. Join the conversation and share your views. Here are the links to the Facebook regional groups: