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Customer Experience

Post Office: Going beyond metrics to improve customer and employee experience during the COVID-19 crisis

In late March, as the UK went into lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Post Office branches around the country remained open, designated an essential service.

“In normal times, we’re such an integral part of UK life,” says James Scutt, Director of CX at the Post Office, “and our importance to local communities has only increased during this crisis.”

“As the distribution network for thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, we’ve enabled companies to continue operating, sending essential products to millions of people.”

While most of the Post Office’s 11,500 branches remained open, some went to reduced hours or services to account for staff shortages.

But if you thought the lockdown would have quelled people’s desire to share their views on the experience they were having - think again.

Supercharged customer feedback

“By the second week of April, we received record levels of customer feedback - and we were struck by two things,” explains James.

“On the one hand, there was customers’ massive appreciation of their local branch and its hard-working staff.

“But on the other hand - though customers were more forgiving of poor experiences related to Covid-19 - there was still an expectation for good customer service, no matter the context.”

With those things in mind, James and his team didn’t slow their CX program. They accelerated.

Safety as a key driver of CX

In early May, the Post Office brought forward improvements to its CX program, including more advanced driver analysis and new-and-improved dashboards for postmasters.

“We knew that now’s the time to listen and act on customer feedback - not later. Our improvements are about giving branches the tools to meet current demands,” says James.

Newer tech was combined with existing CX drivers. Post Office focuses on six key CX attributes, based on analysis of years’ worth of customer feedback.

“We didn’t stray from focusing on these areas as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, encouraging our branches to focus on what we know customers want,” explains James.

However, one new customer expectation jumped out to James and his team based on AI-powered text analysis, shining a light on the actions the Post Office had to take.

“‘Keep me safe’ emerged as customers’ number one expectation and what we’d be judged on most,” says James.

How the Post Office acted on feedback

“Sneeze guards and bespoke signage was rolled out to branches - some of our bigger stores could enforce 2m distancing, smaller ones had to have a one-in, one-out system in place.”

“We saw customers praising any safety measures taken by branches, like wiping down PIN pads regularly - so that’s something we’ve encouraged other branches to do.”

But customer safety has gone beyond the branch. In order to help those having to self-isolate and unable to withdraw cash, the Post Office launched a new cash delivery service.

“With Cash Direct - created in partnership with other financial institutions - we were able to deliver cash to our most vulnerable customers, safely and securely.”

Leading with emotion - a new employee experience

Acting fast to meet new customer expectations requires full buy-in from branch postmasters.

“Our Postmasters are feeling the same anxiety and fears as our customers - and on top of that, they’re dealing with 100s of people a day,” says James.

“We thought about our Postmaster experience in a similar way to how Bruce Temkin laid out how businesses would return to normalcy.”

For the Post Office it’s about exploring what works and what doesn’t; settling into new patterns and habits; and finally establishing operating models that support the new normal.

“We see this as a cycle that may repeat until this crisis ends, whereby new normals are always disrupted by the latest guidance or issues out of our control.”

Going beyond metrics

‘Forget the numbers’ was the instruction sent out to postmasters and area managers.

Instead, postmasters are being encouraged to go in and look at verbatim customers’ comments to see what customers are saying about their branch.

“It’s so moving for our postmasters to see the actual impact they’re having for customers,” says James. “It’s not about metric-watching. It’s about celebrating the actions we’ve taken.”

The same guidance was given to area managers, who have been working with postmasters to return to normal hours and ways of working.

“We asked area managers to never lead with a number when talking to postmasters,” explains James, “but instead to lead with emotion and highlight positive verbatim customer comments.”

It’s this focus on the human element that’s enabling Post Office to support both its Postmasters and customers - and continuing to drive towards a new normal.

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