How can Royal Mail assist during the Coronavirus pandemic?

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With the Coronavirus pandemic turning our world upside down, for many online shopping has become the only way of obtaining household essentials and perhaps some discretionary purchases to ease the way through the lock down, which has now been in place for two months. There are even now, only small steps being made by the government to slowly start to ease out of the lock down and online shopping is likely to remain, if not the only option, at least the safest option for the foreseeable future. As the only carrier to delivery to every household in the nation on a daily basis, we all expected to see Royal Mail assist businesses and keep them connected to consumers.

What was the initial Coronavirus impact on Royal Mail?

With the lock down and exponential overnight increase in online shopping, the Royal Mail have been busier than ever, so we spoke to Royal Mail’s Jon Nicholson and the first thing we wanted to know is what the initial impact on Royal Mail was and what they’re doing with eBay and the Post Office to assist small businesses, many of who are selling online for the first time:

How can Royal Mail assist new and existing businesses trade through the pandemic?

We wanted to know what Royal Mail are doing to ensure that new businesses can despatch their parcels and how existing businesses might need to change their working routine when it comes to posting mail. If you’ve not got a Royal Mail account, then if you are sending as few as 20 parcels a week then in this video Jon explains how they can assist you and when it’s time to open a business account and arrange a daily collection:

What do we need to know about handling parcels during the pandemic?

We also wanted to ask Royal Mail on how to pack and handle parcels to keep everyone, including the posties, as safe as possible:

We’ve got some more questions for Jon, so look out for further video answers coming soon…

45 Responses

  1. Most of our items go with DPD because they are over 2Kg, however for items under 2Kg we just use normal 2nd Class small parcel service and for me it is very reliable and certainly the most cost effective service going at only £2.95 per parcel with a franking machine.

    However, I find it so hard to get the parcels in to the system and even more so now with COVID. The post office is in a SPAR which now has queues outside and as of this week only one of the 3 post office counters can be open rather than the 2 – which odd as they are far enough apart. So a 15 minute round trip to drop parcels off is now 30 or even 45 minutes and just doesn’t work.

    As only a tiny portion of our orders are this small we only send around 8-12 small parcels a day – but have now requested a daily collection which is £779 + Vat per year- but that looks like around 10 days to set up. What is frustrating is that there are 21 units here on our estate – at least 2 of them have a collection every day because they do volume (so it is a free collection for them). Will the driver take the odd bag for us which is going to the same place… not a chance. “More than my job is worth” or “I would get sacked if I was found out”… is that really true or is this another example of the difference between people employed and those self employed courier drivers who thrive on helping (well in my experience anyway).

    I just think it should be easier to get the parcels in to the system.

  2. Well we have just had our Amazon SFP badge taken away as Royal Mail consistently fail to scan RM 48 Tracked items on time. I will now have to jump through hoops for the rest of the day to get the badge back. Not happy with Royal Mail at all at the moment.

  3. @Darren – unfortunately for Royal Mail collections it is not as simple as handing over a few packages. We have to provide a manifest of all packages including weights and quantities, already uploaded, and printed to give to the driver, and all items to be put into sacks with the relevant sales order number, and account numbers on, and also each collection location needs a barcode to be scanned by the driver to associate with the collection, so any ad-hoc packages added to the van will be obvious as they are not in the sacks, prepared in the way described, and with no paperwork to support them.

    It is not like with couriers where there is just a barcode on the package and they scan the barcodes, and nothing else, so additional packages don’t look any different. Royal Mail don’t scan the barcodes of the packages upon collection, just the barcode on the manifest and the barcode provided to the collection address.

  4. I use Royal Mail for all my below 2kg parcels and find them to be very good. However, there is one big problem. On all postage labels there is a 2D Bar Code. Only about 10% of these packages are scanned by Royal Mail. This has been happening ever since they introduced 2D bar codes to the labels, so not a coronavirus related problem. I know my own postman scans 2D barcode packages / parcels when he delivers and he told me that all postmen around the country should scan them. He said that in his opinion it appeared the other postmen were being lazy or Royal Mail’s system was not linking properly with Ebay’s system, to upload the delivery information to confirm that delivery had been made.

    I spoke to Ebay Customer Support about this, hoping that if they reported this to Royal Mail they would have more clout than me. I unfortunately never heard back from Ebay about this and the problem still exists.

    What is the point of having 2D barcodes on the postage labels if Royal Mail seldomly scan then or there is another problem? It makes it very difficult to prove to the buyer or to Ebay, if the goods go missing in the post.

  5. It can start by doing the basics, and scanning items.

    Your also down to 1 pick-up before 11am around here a day.

  6. RM’s case would be more credible if they delivered 1st class parcels within a reaasonable time.

    Do any of their own (PO-affixed) labels have a date & time stamp -or would that be giving the game away?)

  7. I have a lot of sympathy with Royal Mail and think under the unprecidented circumstances they are doing a great job. It is a nightmare to get to the sorting office. Once they were open from 7am to 6pm 5 days a week and also on Saturday mornings. Now it is 7am to 11am Mon/Tues/Thurs/Friday. Getting 15 bags of mail there for 11am is a real struggle. But our customers have (mainly) been very appreciative of the efforts. Our postman tells me at this time of year their sorting office would expect 5000 parcels on a Monday. This week there were 14,500, and they are working at only 2/3rd capacity of staff. All the couriers are under strain and I wonder if we will ever get back to normal, whatever that was!!

  8. HELP !!!!! How can they help

    I would have said the best starting point would be do the job properly even if it means slowly.

    We have customers getting in touch saying that it says delivered but they are in due to isolation and nothing has been attempted.

    Royal mail say the GPS shows it was at the correct address. Then we send another item then 6 days later we get a lovely message from the buyer saying the postman has delivered 2 do we want one sending back.

    Well come on RM please advise how it was scanned as delivered at the address then again when it actually was delivered.

    another was delivered and tracking shows it was out for delivery then delivered that’s all ok then it shows out for delivery the next day then it shows out for delivery the next day then it shows delivered again.

    That’s just 2 items. Since covid 19 we have had to refund over £120 in items stating delivered but not and then arriving and others that just go nowhere ones that say nothing at all in the RM tracking site.

    so what else would they like help improving.
    I have also been reliably informed they purchased a disused marks and spencers in Sheffield to cope with the extra mail as the sorting depot could not cope yet some of the mail there has not been touched for over a week.
    Absolute farce

  9. Really wished there was some proper competition to Royal Mail so they would up their game like couriers have over the last number of years.

    We had most of our mail sent out 20/04/2020 delayed over 2 weeks or not delivered at all, it was confirmed by our account manager that they had opened an over-spill center to deal with extra mail but were processing mail on a last in first out method meaning our mail was not processed for a long time. This cost us an estimated £5000+ in refunds or resend for customers not getting their orders at all or after 14 days (Orders send RM48). I understand currently there are shortages of staff but this was a mistake rather than staff related issues, we always seem to have to bear the cost of their failure. Even with tracked international orders they say they will not compensate unless lost or damaged but when an order is delivered 60 days late then how is the customer meant to wait, of course we have to refund or resend an order and Royal Mail just state the delivery times are estimates and not guaranteed so do not even a refund the postage cost.

    We have also had the issue with SFP and tracked items not being scanned so it affects our ratings.

    However I do appreciate how hard the posties have been working over the last couple months but I think they need to address their systems as if their is no real alternative then they have to expect and be able to handle larger mail volumes.

  10. We are now threatened with losing our prime badge as Amazon say we do not ship on time.
    We do they collect at 3pm and then they are not scanned till the early hours of the morning meaning the next day according to Amazon.
    So why do they sell you a deal saying they can fulfill a criteria when clearly they cant.
    If they had to refund every late or non delivered item they would soon sort it out.

    What use is a system that says delivered but gives no clue and no card left. We spend more time sorting royal mails mess than we do our own.

    it’s becoming a joke.

  11. Yes but royal mail say the driver cannot stand and scan 700 individual parcels

  12. Royal Mail keep operating a LIFO model which is creating a disaster for mail sent 1-2 after the bank holiday.

    They’re also signing and scanning special deliveries / tracked mail themselves and delivering these items late.

    The company only cares about its metrics. Since Coronavirus I’ve shifted 20% of my parcels away from Royal Mail. 50% of my tracked international away from Parcelforce (another Royal Mail dinosaur) and Royal Mail MP1 services.

    We’ve shifted a larger amount to FBA / SNL due to the RM monopoly.

    We ship 1000-2000 parcels / large letters a day and they’ve already lost a chunk of it due to their awful service during Coronavirus.

    Workload has gone up for everyone, but keeping customers happy should always be paramount. The customer service at Royal Mail is awful and their operating practices are outdated. The company has been destroyed by management and a short sighted unionized workforce.

  13. Following on from James, since we saw delays at the start of lockdown I am so pleased we shifted ALL our RM small parcels to Amazon Shipping, and most from Parcelforce to Amazon Shipping.

    When it got to Easter weekend we sent out 160 large letters and ALL were delayed nearly 3 weeks but Royal Mail.

    Amazing Shipping delivered nearly all parcels in time, mostly next day for similar cost to RM 2nd Class and it is fully tracked. When an item gets lost they reimburse the full sales price without any issues. Can’t fault this.

    Now that we have switched I don’t think we will switch back.

    Even RM large letters if they get lost we now resend using Amazon Shipping large letters which is more expensive but not as much as a parcel and is fully tracked and insured.

    Royal Mail seem to be keen on their parcels service as the most profitable – however they are losing out as there are great alternatives providing a much better service.

    Only large letters are still most cost effective with RM for now, but as things are progressing we will probably move as soon as Amazon Shipping or another service can fill that gap.

    Before anyone says it, all our next day packages are delivered by Amazon Shipping and not Royal Mail, only the economy packages that we don’t use might go but Royal Mail with Royal Mail labels with an Amazon logo on it.

  14. Of course we know why RM continue to operate a LIFO model – it is because of their targets.

    If they did FIFO then they could miss their targets every day. LIFO allows them to meet their targets win post received same day and once it is late, the targets don’t care how late they are so they get put aside and onto the next day’s post. Hence why some have been put aside for 2-3 weeks or more lately. If it is 1 day late or 3 weeks late does not impact their targets. But by allowing them to be 3 weeks late that allows them to meet their targets on many more packages received that day.

    If only they would do FIFO when dealing with the backlog – that would be a big improvement, even if still prioritising new items received that day.

  15. I would switch from Parcelforce to DPD in a hearbeat if we could. DPD have now offered us cheaper rates than Parcelforce.

    However there are 2 reasons for us to stay with Parcelforce (for now anyway) and put up with some parcels being delivered late:

    1) Parcelforce and DPD both charge a small fortune for parcels destined to the highlands and islands, which just don’t work for our low value prodicts. HOWEVER we use SEND.PARCELFORCE.COM and import our Parcelforce packages that go to these areas and get quite decent rates that makes it viable, and we can still use our daily Parcelforce collection to pick them up too alongside those bought on our account. Switching to DPD would be cheaper for most but would leave us with only expensive options for highlands & islands or having to take them to a post office – not feasible at the best of times nevermind now.

    2) Amazon Shipping are now taking up most of our parcels except for those that are 15-30KG which have to go by Parcelforce. Amazon Shipping used to do up to 23KG but limited it to 15KG due to COVID. Amazon Shipping are much cheaper than DPD and are used already for all our small parcels and most medium parcels. So as a result we can’t provide the minimum commitment for DPD to collect from us.

    Other than these, DPD would be our preferred carrier – I have never had an issue with them as a recipient, and always considered them as the gold standard.

  16. Would appreciate any of our fellow UK traders to share their experience and advise following the issues are are now facing regularly with Royal Mail Special Delivery Next Working Day Guaranteed by 1pm.

    We understand 1pm is not now guaranteed but now aimed to be delivered by end of day. The issue we have is parcels are being signed by somebody other than the customer and the customer is claiming not to have signed the parcel.

    Upon contacting the Royal Mail to attempt further information as this is a tracked item, they either shrug it off and say that the delivery postman does not recollect (okay hundreds of parcels fair enough), or, they say the following ‘ the parcel was signed for and delivered in the vicinity’

    ‘Delivered in the vicinity’? What does that mean?

    So a high value order sent out delivered and either the customer is exploiting covid-19 measures or the Royal Mail cannot be bothered to delivery accurately. Despite the reduced workforce and high parcel volume this should not affect them delivering to the right address and securely – only that the parcel can take longer to process.

    We have lost thousands in lost sales because of this discrepancy. The problem is items not being scanned, signature obtained, no transparency in the information of a tracked service and reckless attitude of the Royal Mail. Regardless of covid-19 the service standards of communication should not change (although its always been poor anyway!).

    What would anybody else do in this situation?

  17. When the pandemic started it was obvious that there was going to be a big uptake in online sales as the shops had started to shut and people were self isolating but the main problem I found with the number of late deliveries which were inevitable was the lack of statements from Royal Mail to the general public informing them of the staff shortages and the increase in parcels been sent. I say lack but the reality is there was none except a note on their website. I went from 20 emails a day to over a hundred all customers complaining item not received and being accused of not sending or sending late as they all said that if Royal Mail had had problems they would of told the public. It has cost me over £1000 a month in refunds and probably the same amount resending parcels ( win win for Royal Mail ). I get it that by saying nothing people would still continue to use them and all the online sellers would take the blame and pay for this. I wonder if this would of been the case if they were not such a monopoly? I doubt it. Come on Hermes, start doing large letters!

  18. @Alan My account manager at RM does no this and has already written 4 letters for me to add to my “plan of action”. Yes I have had to do 4 plans of action for Amazon in the last 6 weeks!

    They all say the same and have all been accepted, yet this week without warning we lost our Prime badge. I can’t really blame RM at the moment because the pandemic is obviously causing many issues with logistics. The problem here is Amazon and its unachievable metrics.

    Every Prime item is sent on time so how are we meant to improve on that?

    Today’s “plan of action” effectively says we will stop using Small & Light (Using Royal Mail) and just send our larger items by DPD.

  19. Thats very good Alan . You have told us exactly how royal mail delivery works which is written in there welcome pack.

    Can you explain the 6th delivered the 9th delivered and the 14th REALLY delivered.

  20. @ Carolyn, not completely – but partly.

    using ebay as an example. ebay are looking for an acceptance scan SAME DAY as dispatch. (or whatever you have set as your dispatch time on your listing). however, tracked 48 is non-priority service and therefore can be scanned next day by RM. This registers that you have sent the parcel out late if the tracking number is uploaded to ebay. This gives you a late “defect” HOWEVER, under normal circumstances the parcel arrives on time and this then cancels the defect (most of the time).

    In order for ebay to class the order as “successful” only ONE of three things needs to happen. either

    1. tracking shows dispatched on time
    2. tracking shows delivered on time
    3. customer indicates item arrived on time by clicking box in feedback

    so normally the “late dispatch” is canceled out by number 2 or number 3.

    However during the pandemic it becomes a major reason for defects as parcels arrive late. Even at normal times its a pain in the neck. Not ebays fault (see my “lost in translation” post further up the page) but shows how flawed the defect system can be. A similar thing is happening on Amazon who are far less tolerant and less understanding than ebay.

  21. @ Northcrystal.
    You have hit the nail on the head. Its really frustrating for sellers and for ebay. One of the main call drivers to ebay customer service (during normal times) was defect removal. I done my best to make ebay aware of this issue even before the late delivery defect system was introduced. Its not that they don’t listen – Concierge listened and passed the problem “upstairs” – but nothing was ever done.

    It all came back to the fact that Royal Mail apparently originally informed ebay that all tracked mail was scanned on the day of collection which is obviously not the case with Tracked 48.

    Yes you would think Tracked 48 would be a 48 hour service and that Tracked 24 would be a next day service. – at least ebay are aware of this. The Tracked 48 is the biggest problem with the next day acceptance scan. If sellers dispatch on time they are MEANT to be automatically protected from the late delivery defect. Very frustrating. I had times when I would have lost my TRS badge if I hadn’t phoned ebay up to have the defects removed.

    At least ebay are protecting sellers at the moment.

  22. @Alan Paterson

    Many thanks for sharing this information. Everything above makes sense now.

    We have been contemplating replacing RM Special Delivery for the very reason of the flaw in now obtaining a signature as this has left a huge loophole in fraudulent buyers and maybe postmen/postladies delivering.

    These are for our website orders where a signature has been recorded other than the buyer and they then deny receipt because of this. The Royal Mail’s only response is that it has been delivered in the vicinity and no further information so we cannot make a claim.

    In this situation how would you handle the buyer? Refund them? Send out a replacement? Or stick to your guns and deny either on grounds Royal Mail state the item as being delivered even though it has been signed by somebody else? £200+ sale

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