Does end of Covid restrictions end Royal Mail excuses?

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Royal Mail have missed their third Quater 1st Class delivery target of 93% of mail being delivered by next day by over 16%, worse than the 10% under-performance in their second quarter. In the third quarter of their financial year they only achieved 76.8% of 1st Class mail being delivered on time. Royal Mail excuses include Covid absences.

During the last quarter, the ongoing impact of the pandemic and COVID related self-isolation and absence impacted service levels. Our focus is to restore our service to the high standards our customers would normally receive.

– Royal Mail

Their latest Quality of Service report for the third quarter up to also reveals that Royal Mail also missed their 2nd Class delivery target of 98.5% by almost 5%, delivering only 93.8% of mail on time.

Ofcom recognised significant pressures on Royal Mail during the pandemic and waived the obligations to delivery the post on time but since then Royal Mail excuses have remained the same, pointing out that up to 15,000 employees at a time were off sick or self isolating.

Ofcom has recognised that the COVID-19 pandemic qualified as a ‘regulatory emergency period’. The regulatory emergency period commenced in March 2020 and ended on 31 August 2021. This meant that during this period Royal Mail was not required to sustain the Universal Service without interruptions, suspension or restriction, according to the regulator. Ofcom acknowledged that due to factors outside our control it would not always be possible for us to meet our regulatory obligations, which included our Quality of Service targets.

– Royal Mail

How long can Royal Mail excuses be based on Covid?

The question that has to be asked however, is how long Royal Mail excuses can be based on Covid? Today, all legal restrictions in England have been removed leaving ‘personal responsibility’ being the reason people might decide it’s better to stay at home when they are diseased, rather than infect others. However, Royal Mail can’t be the only company who have been impacted by Covid absences and, while other carriers are under no obligation to deliver on time and report their performance we’ve not seen huge nationwide complaints of under performance.

At some point the Royal Mail excuses will have to stop and they’ll either have to deliver the post on time or Ofcom will surely step in and decide that something has to be done. It’s somewhat telling that Royal Mail have stopped automatically distributing their Quality of Service Reports and have paused publishing them alongside their press releases, preferring instead to slide them out on their Quality of Service web page with little or no commentary.

(Updated to add: The latest Quality of Service report appeared on the Royal Mail Press site by this morning (25th February), backdated to the 18th of February)

Having said that, Royal Mail’s reporting only covers the postal services that are of least interest to online retailers – letters are included in the reporting but parcels are not. If the parcels get through on time do we really care if our credit cards statements and spam mail is delivered late. You might prefer to received your birthday card on time, but you’d probably rather get your online purchases on time than anything in an envelope.

We’ll be looking out for the fourth quarter report from Royal Mail in three months time and are hoping service levels have been restored. Royal Mail need to throw all their resources at getting the nations mail delivered on time if they are to maintain faith in their service. This might mean starting to pay a lot of overtime to hard working Posties with less importance given to shareholder returns.

12 Responses

  1. Things have changed for the worse since the start of the year with RM. Seeing a lot of items not arriving or delayed up to 10 or even 14 days. Nobody underestimates the difficulties in delivering during the plague, but other carriers appear to have coped better. As an aside, what is RM doing with items that don’t arrive??? Even tracked items that vanish in the UK never get returned, whereas overseas items frequently come back. Are they auctioning them off rather than sending them back?

  2. Does not matter on parcel or letter. We send out mainly large letter and 2nd class. We do have a liberal sprinkling of parcels and Special Deliveries.

    All have been impacted since Christmas and we are at the closest point ever to loosing Top Seller Status on Ebay.

    Even had a collection go missing for a week which meant we ended up sending replacements for over half of the orders dispatched and of course everything was late.

    Ebay do not help either as its either delivered on time by their dates or your fault. Even postal terms of service are different to Eba’ys decided postal terms of service. I.E. Royal Mail timing for opening delayed or lost item cases is far different to opening a case and having to respond on Ebay. lose lose every time. These are generally low value items that would not withstand the cost of upgrading to tracked services

  3. No Royal Mail will just find more excuses . Our lots services were in demand more than ever during covid and they simply ramped up employed more drivers put more vans out and most important put the wages up also unlike Royal Mail if a customers delivery cannot be done “people get their money back” NOT excuses.
    I have never known a service that can take your money and FAIL to deliver and get to actually keep the money and deliver such world class poor service to business.

    We all had Covid etc and all the same issues but managed to cope without all the “excuses”.

  4. You would think that with failed delivery figures like these that ebay may look at removing late delivery defects and INR defects.

    I have friends loosing their TRS badges despite every item being dispatched on time ( large letter). One of them is even upgrading the service to first class large letter (from second class) to try and compensate for the atrocious level of late deliveries by RM. This can obliterate a lot of profit when dealing with small transactions.

    Its not just the financial impact – it can be real depressing working hard to ensure everything is sent on time – I mean really bending over backwards – then to loose TRS anyway. With the late delivery figures quoted above NOBODY would keep their TRS. I know ebay will protect if an acceptance scan is present but it is not always viable to send smaller items through a service that provides an acceptance scan.

    ebay should be reacting to these atrocious figures from RM and protecting sellers within the boundaries of these percentages.


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