Changing customer behaviour is certainly having an impact on the traditional post office. So what are the most important customer experience trends, and how will changing customer behaviours influence customer journeys and the post office of the (very near) future.
Customer Behaviour is Driving Change at the Post Office
The pandemic has accelerated many customer preferences, like the desire to opt for digital first and self-service options. Customers don’t want to wait until Monday morning to deliver their parcel when they could go online Saturday night or Sunday and complete 90% of the process themselves. And of course, there is a clear preference for quick service. Customers want to choose the place and time of service they receive, not just from Posts, but any retailer or service provider for that matter. They want a frictionless experience at every step of the process and above all, it has to be convenient with everything on their terms.
These evolving consumer preferences and behaviours that have been put into hyperdrive as a result of the pandemic, have already begun to change the traditional customer journey with the central themes being convenience, accessibility, and supporting online and self-service-based journeys. Let’s examine what the customer journey looks like now.
The New Customer Journey
While there are many potential paths, the new customer journey is radically different than the traditional journey of visiting the local post office to mail a parcel. The new customer journey might look like this:
The entire experience is not only 100% driven by the customer, but it’s convenient, easy, and completely contactless.
Embedding Postal Services Across Retail Environments Everywhere
Customers are clearly looking for more options and convenience when deciding how and when they ship their parcels. However, building out a Post-owned retail network is expensive, and time-consuming. Even dedicated postal areas within third-party locations can be expensive to set-up and maintain and can take up more retail floor space than is really required. Posts are looking for faster and easy-to-set-up solutions for expanding their network of locations and services in an age of digital transformation where customer expectations are rapidly changing.
Customers should be able to enter any retail establishment (such as a convenience store or petrol station) and pay for all general merchandise from the store along with postal goods and services, in a single transaction at check out. This can be accomplished by embedding the Post’s POS system directly onto the retailer’s existing POS system or payment terminal. At far more convenient times, customers can enter any of these retailers and take care of any number of postal transactions such as bill payments, parcel returns, parcel drop off, parcel pick up, flat rate parcel shipment, Click n Ship and more.
Even the Post Office on Demand should be a possibility. With Post Office on Demand, a post office can be set up in any number of locations in less than a day. This makes it possible to set up post offices in less time, for less costs, and in more locations than was ever possible before. If applied to an existing convenience store chain, then the retailer would be provided with the POS software, hardware, service, and support – enabling any existing retail location to transform into a post office environment overnight. Of course, the Post Office on Demand approach allows any Post to set up a temporary post office overnight in the case of a natural disaster, or , alternatively to quickly set up pop-up stores in a busy mall during peak season. Again, the possibilities are limitless.
Imagine the benefits of these solutions, particularly where Posts are mandated by the Universal Service Obligation (USO) to have a set number of branches where postal services are provided.
Time is Ticking
Now if we carry on with the parcel delivery scenario above, it’s important to note, it’s not just Posts, couriers, and other logistics providers vying for the same customer. Retailers are keen to create a seamlessly connected and effortless experience for their customers as well, that is in line with their preferences and current behaviours. So time is ticking.
And at the same time, the volumes of parcels we’re talking about are increasing dramatically. Pitney Bowes’ Parcel Shipping Index showed that global parcel volumes reached 87 billion in 2018 – the highest since the index began. But they’re forecasting that by 2025, this figure will more than double to 200 billion parcels. Returns are also increasing, along with their associated costs.
The pandemic has only accelerated the growth in parcel volumes and returns and strengthened customer preferences for convenience, self-service, and digital-first. Posts definitely need an improved system in place to accommodate not only a better customer journey but also to efficiently handle these higher parcel volumes.
Embracing the New Customer Journey
So how can Post’s embrace the new customer journey and prepare for a future that is already upon us, defined by these new customer behaviours and preferences? It may sound obvious, but Posts that can maintain a customer-centric view will be successful. These Post will be able to pivot quickly, adapt to these and future customer preferences that continue to evolve. Digital transformation will play a huge role in this, leveraging a unified engagement platform, like Riposte, that can leverage a Posts’ physical and digital points of engagements to create a seamless experience for customers, taking them on a path, defined by them: their preferences, circumstances, desire for convenience, their location and more.
What you’ll find is that the digital transformation itself (originally intended to help deliver an improved journey or experience in line with customer preferences) actually improves operational efficiencies through better automation, real-time data analytics, AI and machine learning and an overall reduction in complexities, allowing for greater focus on innovation to remain competitive. Your retail network in effect become more agile in nature, and you’re able to adapt quickly to changes and evolving customer behaviours.
How Customer Behaviour is Shaping Tomorrow’s Post Office
Customer behaviours and preferences are changing the traditional customer journey with convenience, accessibility, and supporting online and self-service-based journeys as most important. Time is clearly of the essence, as many of these trends have been put into hyper-drive by the pandemic, but also the fact that retailers already have solutions in place to deliver this customer-driven experience. Digital transformation is imperative but with a customer-centric perspective, Posts will discover many opportunities along the way that will strengthen their position in the market and long-term sustainability.