Dick Stead: What couriers do well and what can be improved

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With over two decades experience in the Parcel’s business, there’s not much that Dick Stead hasn’t seen. Rising through the ranks at Royal Mail he become Managing Director of Parcelforce before moving to Yodel where he was Executive Chairman for six years.

Dick has now left Yodel, spends time fishing on his boat and is a consumer, shopping online, and seeing the courier industry from the other side of the fence. Today Dick discusses that missing part of the courier jigsaw – all couriers deliver a superb service to consumers compared to two decades ago, but what about the collection side of the business?

Dick Stead: Out of the Parcels business and now a consumer

It has been interesting observing the world of parcels as a customer rather than a supplier. Like in many modern households, I am a frenetic internet shopper and tend to get multiple parcel deliveries each day.

I am visited each week by most UK parcel carriers and my experience of on-time delivery of perfectly presented parcels has been excellent.

Most parcel carriers will now give me a delivery time-slot, an ability to redirect my parcel in flight, an option to ask for the parcel to be left in my chosen safe place, or an option for me to pick the parcel up from a nearby retail store or locker box. I have received excellent service by all carriers and on the very small number of occasions when things have gone wrong I have been entirely satisfied with the steps taken by the retailer and their parcel carrier to rectify the issue.

It is also exciting to see so many retailers innovating and allowing me to order later in the day and offering me a range of delivery options. Most retailers are working hand in glove with their parcel carriers to make sure that their sales promises can be met in full by their delivery partners.

I have so many delivery options to choose from including same day, nominated day and in some cases I can even specify my chosen timeslot on my chosen day.

The age of near perfect parcel delivery has arrived and I am a very satisfied Internet shopper.

How couriers innovated and what does has it cost?

For parcel carriers the route to improving home delivery has been a costly affair and their investments to achieve near perfect deliveries are not always reflected in the price they can charge to the retailer. I am convinced that parcel delivery prices will have to rise to better reflect the costs of near perfect delivery if we want to maintain a vibrant and innovative parcel industry. It’s funny that a relatively modest price increase is probably all that is needed to change the fortunes of the majority of parcel carriers.

The inconvenience of ad hoc Parcel collections

With the parcel carriers’ singe minded focus on developing the highest quality delivery experience it is not surprising that the same rapid improvement in performance has not been seen in parcel collections, particularly for small businesses sending less than 100 parcels per week.

Parcel carriers are very good at doing large and medium sized scheduled collections from larger businesses, but the smaller trader who orders collections on an ad hoc basis continues to get a sub-standard collection service with same day collection efficiency often below 80% and sometimes below 50%.

To get into the higher end of the efficiency range the small trader has to place collection requests very early in the morning so their collections can be scheduled in amongst the drivers timed delivery schedule. Few small traders take all their orders so early in the morning; orders taken later in the day inevitable miss being collected in the same day and result in the small trader getting, at best, a 48 hour end to end delivery service.

Some parcel carriers actively steer away from doing business with these small traders because they cannot effectively do ad-hoc, low volume, collections efficiently and effectively.

The small, ad-hoc, senders have a personal attachment to each order they receive; they know failed collections will damage their businesses. It hits them in their own pocket and can damage their reputations through negative marketplace feedback. So many small businesses make repeated calls into the parcel carrier for assurance that their collection will be made and demand to know when their parcels will be collected. Handling a high level of inbound customer service calls quickly turns a profitable parcel into a loss making parcel for the parcel carrier and reinforces their view to stay out of this marketplace.

As a result parcel prices offered by parcel carriers tend to be high and many small traders are forced to drop their parcels off at a post office or a parcel shop. This latter route works well for many small traders but for some, having to leave their shop/phone for an hour to drop off parcels is not an effective use of their time.

The lack of reliable ad-hoc, same–day, parcel collection services is placing small businesses at a significant competitive disadvantage compared to large businesses and to me this does not seem right. This is the reason many small businesses are reluctant to develop an Internet based sales channel.

Our small business community should play on a level playing field and be given every chance to reach their full potential, which for many would include a multi-channel sales strategy. Effective and sensibly priced parcel collection will play a big part in achieving this objective.

For a parcel carrier industry with a track record in innovation and solution development, this should be an easy one to solve…..

24 Responses

  1. couriers pat their selves on the back and self congratulate
    for doing what they are in the business of doing, and take payment for,
    as a small business we dont what bells and whistles, we simply want reliability and accountability,
    royal mail especially use terms and condition to squirm out of responsibility,

  2. I have received excellent service by all carriers and on the very small number of occasions when things have gone wrong I have been entirely satisfied with the steps taken by the retailer and their parcel carrier to rectify the issue. ‘ Wow? He never said he worked for Ebay PR now?!!
    I find it very hard to believe this. Most people you speak to have had horrible experiences with various couriers… indeed yesterday i had a box left outside my front door in the rain…. the box was clearly marked as keep dry and was a signed for at address only delivery… Apparantly i signed for it! Today i get into the warehouse to find a stack of boxes left outside, again in the rain…. wet and lucky they weren’t nicked.
    Please can i have his couriers.

  3. The couriers round here can be quite aggressive; banging on doors, upsetting neighbours, and tearing round the village at some speed in order to make their money. Hardly any good for road safety or the environment.

    It’s so hit and miss, and such a risk of upsetting my neighbours, that I never buy from sellers using a courier.

    That being said, I’m perfectly happy buying if I can pick up using eBay’s click and collect service at my local Argos, or an Amazon locker, but the business model that involves van drivers hurtling round, desperate to offload their parcels to neighbours, or bang on doors sometimes well into the evening is, frankly, both socially and environmentally unsustainable.

    For most buyers, and probably most small scale sellers too, lockers or drop off/collection points, within walking or cargo bike distance, are the key to efficiency, convenience and sustainability.

  4. Dick Stead went from working at Parcelforce to Yodel, Yodel!!! WHo in their right mind would want to work for the UKs worst carrier? With such a bad career choice, how can anyone take anything he says seriously?

  5. One’s got 2,000 odd reviews and the other has over 125,000 reviews – so I’ll go for the second!!

  6. We dont know which is correct
    But why 2?
    We simply carried our a basic google search

  7. @Jim – Yodel.com isn’t their web address to start off with. Stick it into your browser and see for yourself.

  8. As (mainly) a buyer, here’s a few tips for you sellers who use couriers.

    There’s a “click and collect” button in the left hand column of the eBay site, so that I don’t have to worry about the hassle of coursers banging on my neighbours’ doors, or indeed mine late into the evenings. I click it, so if you’re not offering “click and collect” then your product is completely invisible. If I were a betting man, I’d suggest that before long, eBay might add a few more of those boxes you can tick; a Royal Mail box for instance, or a “collect from a locker” box. As sellers, you need to be ahead of the game in anticipating these options that sellers might be given in the future.

    For small items , capable of being put through a letter box, I will buy from sellers who offer delivery via Royal Mail because they drive sensibly. This is important to understand, because more and more of us are aware of the impact of vans or cars being driven aggressively, with the increased danger and environmental impact this will cause. Obviously, if you pay couriers per delivery they will drive aggressively – it’s human nature, and it’s pretty bonkers for any society to have “professional” drivers effectively being paid according to how fast they drive. More and more of your customers will be becoming “emissions aware” and this will affect your sales if you rely on aggressive, pay per drop, delivery methods.

    If, as a seller, you are using a courier service, then you need to offer “click and collect” where possible, try to offer locker drop-off options, and perhaps a Royal Mail option in the drop down menu shipping choices. Personally, I’m happy to pay extra for a Royal Mail delivery, if it’s available as an option. And, whatever you do, don’t claim you offer Royal Mail, then discover the parcel was slightly over 2kg, and think it’s a smart idea to use a courier instead; because if you do, you’ll risk non-acceptance.

    Finally, for goodness sake tell potential customers how you’re going to ship. You’ve just got a few seconds before someone using a smartphone scrolls down to the next seller, so don’t force them into extra hassle through having to click the postage section in order to discover how you’re going to ship. Lots of buyers will have their own courier preferences, perhaps following a bad experience, and they may be comfortable about ordering from you if your chosen courier is ok with them. But if you leave them in the dark, they might buy from a rival seller who gives more information about which courier they use.

  9. were anything but complacent were constantly tweaking altering and experimenting
    though we need to go for mid range and above on the graf
    plus few things take a few seconds when ebay are involved



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