There are more than 11,500 Post Office branches around the UK, making it the country’s largest retail network. However, unlike other big brands that would take a cookie-cutter approach to running over 10,000 branches, the Post Office is different. Each of its branches is unique, each having its own quirks. Some are based in town halls and churches, some share a shop floor with another brand. Some are run by local community groups, while some Postmasters actually live above the shop.

So how does the Post Office deliver high-quality and consistent customer experience across such a varied set of branches? The person in charge is James Scutt, a former chef who’s bringing some of the lessons learned in the kitchen to bear on Post Office’s nationwide CX transformation.

On the demands of the hospitality industry

Focus on every potato’ – that’s what you need to keep in mind if you want to deliver good customer experience in a restaurant

I went to school in Falmouth, a big tourist town in the UK with a high number of hotels and restaurants. So it made sense that out of school I went to college and became a professional chef. I even won a few awards along the way.

When I was a chef, it was all about customer service not customer experience. And in the restaurant industry I quickly learned everything had to be 100% right – from the moment someone walks into the restaurant, to the moment they leave.

Nothing could be left to chance. If one customer had a bad experience, and you didn’t deal with the situation right away, things could spiral. And everyone in hospitality knows bad word of mouth will kill you in a community.

So that’s where my CX journey started – in an industry where things were always on a knife edge. And it was imperative that everyone in the restaurant understood their role in the overall experience – whether they were a kitchen porter, server, or chef. We could all make or break a customer’s overall experience.

On engaging Postmasters in the CX mission

Customers give their honest feedback about their local branch – so we empower our local Postmasters to own their CX

98% of our branches are run by franchise partners. So there’s only so far we can go with centralized efforts to improve CX – it’s mission critical we give ownership to the branch itself.

We do it by focusing on more traditional values of doing the right thing by customers – not NPS, as this doesn’t resonate as well with many branches.

Interestingly, our customers want to know that their feedback is going directly to their local branch. After all, our customers often know their Postmaster – they may be friends. Rather than complaining about the quality of service they are being constructive, to help the branch improve.

On brands’ role in the community

We’re doing our bit for the social economy

I’ve seen the difference a good Post Office can make. We have over 11,500 branches in the UK – and it’s often hard for people in cities to appreciate how they act as focal points for entire communities. Communities that may not be cashless or digitalized yet, and rely on the Post Office for a connection to the wider world.

We have branches run by local community or residents’ associations. Some double up as a venue for community or police-run events. Some of our Postmasters even live above the branch – these are real, local businesspeople, opening up a nationwide distribution network to other local businesspeople. We’re powering local entrepreneurship in so many ways and don’t take that task lightly.

As a result, we’re so much more active in communities. This isn’t a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy we’ve left to languish, or something we shout about in a marketing push. This is part of the Post Office DNA.

On delivering CX recommendations, not just numbers

By analyzing our customers’ written feedback, we can deliver insights that make sense to postmasters

With Qualtrics and its advanced text analysis software, we’re able to deliver plain-language recommendations to our branches. This makes so much more sense to Postmasters than, for example, telling them their NPS is 60, and it should be 63. Instead, we’re able to surface to them actionable insights that make so much more sense.

And we’re also able to go beneath the surface and discover whether things we thought of as a negative are considered the same way by customers. For example, branches being busy – with text analysis, we’re able to see that busyness is usually mentioned in a positive sense. Whether it’s the fact people are happy to see their branch doing well, or they’re complimenting staff on working so hard to serve so many people.

On the balance between technology and people

It’s not about technology vs people; it’s about useful vs not useful

With our position in cities and smaller towns and villages, we’re really seeing the varied attitudes towards technology. Its adoption is at different stages, so we need to account for different customer expectations and needs.

For us it’s always about delivering the best outcome for customers, while staying relevant and convenient.

Take, for example, our travel money cards. They’re safer and more convenient than cash, and just as easy to set up and maintain. Anyone can see their advantages over bundles of cash in your wallet.

But there will be other instances where the traditional way of doing things will still be preferred, and for us it’s about listening to customers, responding to their needs, and changing how we work.

As far as our Postmasters are concerned, it’s not about technology vs humans. It’s about ensuring that what we deliver via technology makes it easier for them to do their jobs and serve customers. Technology simply allows us to do this at scale, delivering specific recommendations to 1,000s of Postmasters.

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