SINGAPORE: Following a spate of high-profile delivery lapses, national postal services provider Singapore Post (SingPost) will do more in the coming months to improve standards in its postal operations and win back the public’s trust.
Mr Vincent Phang, the company’s newly-appointed chief executive for postal services and Singapore operations, admitted that it will take time before some of these longer-term fixes kick in, but he noted there are already “early signs” of improvements.
The 45-year-old, who took up the top job on Apr 1, was speaking to reporters on Friday (May 31) ahead of the announcement of new measures aimed at boosting efficiency while lightening the workload of its delivery staff. These include segregating letterbox and doorstep deliveries and allowing residents to provide ratings for postmen, among others.
“I’m here to … look at the service issues that are getting quite prominent, classify areas that we need to improve on our own and those that we can develop better solutions by partnering Government agencies,” said Mr Phang.
SingPost, the country’s only public postal licensee, has come under fire, notably for a series of service lapses that included incidents of undelivered mail found to be thrown away by its postmen.
For failing to meet Government standards in 2017, the postal services provider was fined S$100,000 in February by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). The following month, it was slapped with a heavier penalty of S$300,000 for underperforming service requirements last year.
On the back of that, SingPost announced in February a series of “stop-gap” measures, such as beefing up the numbers of delivery staff and enhancing their remuneration packages.
When asked for an update, Mr Phang said the company has since recruited 240 new postmen, with a majority being foreigners. The number of new hires is much higher than the original target of 100 and will be “sufficient” to address immediate concerns, like attrition, for the time being, he added.
SingPost has also put in place a round of “significant adjustments” to the remuneration of its delivery staff, though Mr Phang declined to reveal details.
Noting that he has been monitoring service metrics on a daily basis thus far, the Singapore chief said: “There are early signs that things are improving … We hope that can be sustained.”
NEW MEASURES TO HELP IT DELIVER
As it continues to grapple with a host of challenges that have impacted its reliability and service standards, SingPost is set to roll out a series of new measures over the following months.
The rise of e-commerce, for one, has served up complications for its delivery system that is “primarily” designed for letters, said Mr Phang. With parcels being unable to fit into letterboxes, postmen have had to make more doorstep deliveries.
SingPost also has to deal with ageing infrastructure, such as letterboxes “in all sorts of state” at private properties, and a manpower crunch as locals shun the job of a postman.
“We need to rethink our operations and how we absorb this changing volume and profile of deliveries,” Mr Phang told reporters, while noting that an average of 3 million mail items are delivered in a day.
One new measure, set to be rolled out from August, is the segregation of letterbox and doorstep deliveries. By having separate teams for each delivery, this will help optimise delivery routes, ease postmen’s workload and increase successful deliveries.
Doorstep deliveries will also be extended to evenings, as part of this move.
At the moment, a postman straddles both types of deliveries on an assigned mail delivery beat.
“For example, if a postman always gets to this block at 2pm, he will make the doorstep delivery at 2pm,” explained Mr Phang. “A lot of our doorstep deliveries end up not being successful as a result of it being part of (a postman’s) regular beat.”
On whether this will increase the company’s manpower needs, Mr Phang said while it remains early days, the company “don’t expect … any material difference”.
SingPost is also looking to launch a “trackable letterbox delivery” option – an additional paid service for customers who would like to track the delivery of their mails, but may not require a sign-off service such as that of a registered mail. This will start in October.
Other measures include a streamlining of postal product offerings by standardising the sizes of letterbox postal items from October, and a planned installation of 60,000 letterbox master doors with a slam-shut mechanism.
The latter, scheduled to take place from September pending regulatory approval, comes on the back of feedback that SingPost has received about letterboxes being left open due to mechanical faults with the latching mechanisms, said Mr Phang.
There will also soon be a microsite for residents to find out more about the postmen serving their neighbourhoods and rate them.
This new initiative, called “Know Your Postman”, is aimed at boosting community engagement and gathering feedback, said Mr Phang, who stressed that ratings from residents will not be part of the postmen’s KPIs.
“What we will be doing is to have every resident at home equipped with a QR code, for example, that links them directly to our microsite. Our postmen’s details – who they are, which sector they serve – will be (provided) and people can have a chance of providing direct feedback about the service that they received.
“Hopefully there are compliments but if there are areas to improve and feedback that we should take note of, we will look into all those,” Mr Phang said.
A trial of this “Know Your Postman” initiative will start in Bukit Timah and Yishun in July, before being rolled out islandwide.
Further down the road, SingPost will continue to invest in technology and automation, as well as enhancing jobs and wage structures, to ensure consistency and reliability of its processes and systems.
Mr Phang declined to reveal the cost of these new measures.
Asked when he expects these new efforts to translate into real improvements in service standards, the newly-minted Singapore chief said it will take time given that these long-term measures remain “roadmaps” at the moment.
Mr Phang said there are approximately 15,000 to 20,000 deliveries that are not achieved every day, with “a good 30 to 40 per cent” due to factors like incomplete addresses or illegible handwriting.
“Some of them are clearly service issues and I’ll be the first to admit that these are things that we should look into and improve on. But the truth is the vast majority is actually stuff that are a bit out of our control.”
He added: “We will continue to engage the public, community and our customers, and do a better job collectively.”