Help Yourself? Current and future use of self service at post offices
Post office queues cause frustration for consumers. Queues are on average longest in large branches, and our research shows that self service kiosks (SSKs) can significantly speed up service. Customers queueing for self service kiosks (SSKs) save an average of 3 minutes compared to staffed counters and are 3 times less likely to have to queue at all.
There are currently SSKs in around 220 of the UK’s 11,500 post offices. Most people who use SSKs have a good overall experience. Self service is particularly popular with younger consumers, and increasingly expected and provided in other retail and service outlets. But our research shows that habit and lack of confidence stop many consumers from using self service in post offices.
Whilst face to face services must be preserved, providing more SSKs and helping more people to use them can reduce queues and improve public perception of the Post Office. Expanding SSK provision can also free up staff to spend more time assisting consumers who need or want a more personal service.
However, our research also shows consumers experience some problems with the machines, including navigating options, identifying equipment, and posting items. Some consumers also have problems waiting for or finding staff assistance to complete SSK transactions.
We recommend 4 improvements to maximise consumer benefits.
Post Office Limited (POL) should:
1. Significantly increase, by at least double, the number of post offices with SSKs, and retain SSKs in Crown branches that go on to be franchised. We would expect SSKs to be available in the largest branches.
2. Improve consumer awareness of SSKs in branch. POL should improve signposting and ensure operators are providing assistance to increase consumer awareness of SSK services, and help customers complete transactions.
3. Make the current stock of SSKs easier to use and improve reliability. Addressing machine breakdown, making it easier to find supporting equipment and simplifying screen processes would improve consumer confidence and speed up transactions.
4. Develop new generation machines that are significantly more intuitive for consumers. These could make kiosks easier to use for more complex services, and potentially give consumers 24 hour access to postal services.