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The state of the post office network

30 June 2017

The Post Office is reaching the end of the biggest period of change in its history. The number of branches has been preserved, but the way that most of them operate has been changed significantly. So what does this mean for consumers?

For the first time, Citizens Advice has reviewed service standard performance [ 320 kb] across the majority branch types in the post office network. We used mystery shoppers in order to understand the consumer experience of using different types of post offices.

Overall, the post office network is performing well, considering its size, complexity and the significant change it has been through since 2012. New branches are also performing in line with, or better than, traditional post offices.

Disabled access is better at larger and new post office models. Nearly all (99%) former Crowns have at least one appropriate entrance for consumers with mobility issues compared to 71% of sub-post offices. But too often facilities that should be available are not being correctly advertised, signposted or provided.

Waiting times were lowest in traditional sub-post offices and new style Post Office Locals and Post Office Mains (under 3 minutes) and were most likely to serve shoppers immediately. Shoppers were most likely to queue and queue for longest at the largest Crown and former Crown branches (over 4 minutes).

Single, appropriate recommendations were provided by the majority of staff, after prompting, across all mail scenarios. However, staff were still largely dependent on further prompting to reach the correct recommendation. Initially, this was provided in only half of small parcels and 2 in 5 (40%) large letters.

Parcel collection, banking and government services were available in the majority of visits. But 1 in 5 (22%) visits shoppers were unable to deposit cash.

To improve the performance of post offices for consumers, we recommend:

  1. POL and operators should ensure that hearing loops and portable PIN pads are in place and clearly communicated in branches.
  2. POL and operators should review what more can be done to reduce queues at Crowns and former Crowns.
  3. POL should review training to ensure staff are asking the appropriate questions to determine consumers’ needs before providing a single correct product recommendation.
  4. POL should closely monitor and work with operators to ensure that branches are correctly delivering the full range of banking services.

Our summary report is based on the full research agency repor [ 2.1 mb]t, prepared by GfK.