So the Royal Mail dispute appears finally to be over. Workers will get a 6.9 per cent pay rise over three years, a £1,400 reward and reduced hours in return for implementing work practice changes and learning to use new machinery.
This, hopefully, is good news for the postal service, which badly needs its workforce on its side if it is to modernise. And it needs to modernise to ensure it is the service of choice for businesses, rather than the default. Its core business of mail delivery has been declining by 10 per cent a year.
Most of the talk about modernisation has been about the delivery and sorting service, but there’s been little discussion about the front end of the system, namely the Post Office. It’s difficult to imagine a less customer-oriented service: the scruffy offices and long queues make it an immediate turn-off. It would be simplistic to say that this is solely responsible for the decline in the use of Royal Mail as those purchasing mail services turn to more efficient, commercially minded suppliers such as Fedex and TNT. But if buyers are learning to use new suppliers for their business needs, how long will it be before they – and everyone else – realise that sending personal mail (such as mum’s Mother’s Day present) this way also is preferable to the 45-minute lunchtime queue at the post office?