A fully integrated communications concept

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Royal Mail has acknowledged, and been told by many that it must modernise its services, but what does this actually mean? Royal Mail is in the media again for many of the wrong reasons. Privatisation is on the agenda to help meet the pension deficit and the union is calling for modernisation – or at least a version of it. I feel for the position they are in. I truly believe they provide an excellent service but are hamstrung by the legacy of their infrastructure.

Modernisation is without a doubt the way forward but for some it means the use of more efficient sortation machinery or the better tracking and tracing of items. In reality it probably means the better use of technology, which will ultimately lead to a more efficient system but by default one that requires less people to run it. For those of us who have come to the postal industry from a business background modernisation is more about a paradigm shift that sees post enter the bigger forum of integrated communications. This will in turn create new opportunities as the sector morphs from one dominated by traditional carriers to a fully integrated communications concept.

Businesses need to communicate with customers and other stakeholders. How they do this will depend on a number of factors, including how formal the communication is, what the message is, the speed in which businesses need delivery and response, the level of tracking and interaction, and the legal needs of the communication.

Hybrid mail is one of the new kids on the block and it bridges the gap between physical delivery and electronic transmission, enabling businesses to dramatically reduce hard and soft costs. Essentially the user inputs a letter or invoice directly into the hybrid mail system without the need to print, stuff or frank/stamp it locally. It is then sorted, distributed and printed near to its final destination, dropped into Royal Mail and then delivered through the recipient’s door. This is all done for the price of a second-class stamp. As a result it is cheaper, faster and greener than standard post.

This is a stepping-stone that begins to bring into play the blurring of physical and electronic delivery. Ultimately it will be up to the recipients as to how they would like to receive their post, either through one of the many multimedia channels available in the marketplace today, or physically. Physical mail will never disappear completely –the paperless office was supposed to come into play a decade ago yet email could be said to generate more paper as the printed word is still easier to read!

Modernisation must relate to customer desires, it looks to find cheaper and more environmentally friendly ways to communicate but it must also be effective. It has been regularly documented that we have moved from a service-led consumer market to an experience-led one. I would suggest that we are now in the interactive and somewhat lazy consumer market where people can sit at home and the market comes to them. Throw the economic crisis into the mix and we all want the same quality and service as before but quicker and for less money. This is what will drive the modernisation of the postal industry.

Change is easy and customers are more demanding. Any organisation that cannot cater to these needs and add value through ease of use, lower costs and environmental sustainability will find the future very difficult.

Simon Campbell is the CEO of ViaPost – an alternative mail service that allows customers to send physical post direct from their PCs. www.viapost.com

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