Delivery to a safe place

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LEFT: Royal Mail’s Safeplace gives people the option to have their goods delivered to a secure place of their choice, or with a nominated neighbor

First-time parcel delivery is a hot topic for postal operators and parcel and express companies. Recipient choice is emerging as the main theme for increasing first-time delivery rates, and was the subject of a session at the E-BISS International Postal Delivery Benchmarking Workshop held on June 1-3 in Vienna, Austria.

A number of postal operators have introduced the concept of delivery to a ‘safe place’ when the customer isn’t home to receive a parcel. Delivery to an unattended address poses challenges for parcels that require a signature on delivery.

Royal Mail offers Safeplace, where customers can nominate a safe place for parcels to be left unattended. Australia Post offers Safe drop for non-signature items. Post Danmark offers Modtagerflex, an opt-in service where customers specify a safe place at home for parcel delivery.

The aim of each of these services is the same – first-time parcel delivery to a safe place at an unattended address – but they use different methods to achieve that outcome.

Post Danmark’s flexible delivery service is a free, opt-in service. When the service first launched, customers could choose from ten standard delivery points (in the shed, on the patio, etc) and in time this evolved to include customer-tailored delivery points.

Australia Post’s Safe drop started as a way of formalizing previous informal delivery arrangements, where the customer arranged with the local delivery driver for consignments to be delivered to a pre-arranged safe spot.

Safe drop was not designed as an opt-in service. When first launched, it was the sender’s responsibility to opt out by requesting that a ‘Do not Safe drop’ sticker be placed on the parcel to ensure that it was not left unattended at the recipient’s address. It is left to the discretion of the Australia Post delivery driver (usually a contractor) to decide if and where the parcel might be left.

Safeplace, Royal Mail’s unattended delivery option, is similar to the Post Danmark service. Customers nominate their own preferred delivery location and this preference is printed on the delivery label. The delivery driver will still assess the suitability and safety of the nominated delivery location.

Austrian Post on the other hand offers a ‘permission to drop off’ service. This is a formalized arrangement, where the customer signs a contract with Austrian Post specifying the safe place.

These delivery options are free to the customer and have contributed to increased first-time delivery rates. These types of safe place delivery options to unattended addresses (and other options such as Royal Mail’s Delivery to Neighbour and variations on the click-and-collect principle) require little investment from the postal operator when compared to parcel lockers, time-specific delivery, and other premium delivery alternatives.

These free flexible delivery options are proving popular with customers and are contributing to the slow take-up of premium delivery services. Delivery to a safe place is not a foolproof delivery option, and it won’t suit all customers, but it is a crucial part of recipient choice and is contributing to successful first-time parcel delivery.

Ian Kerr is the founder and host of the Postal Hub Podcast (www.thepostalhub.com). Ian has a deep knowledge of the Australian postal network, both in retail and delivery, through his many years working for the Post Office Agents Association Limited (POAAL), the national association for small business owners in the Australian postal sector.

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