Amazingly the United Kingdom suffered a second national mail strike in three years on the lead up to Christmas. The one by Royal Mail staff in autumn 2007 was bad enough and directly caused many businesses to go under and former mail customers to be permanently lost. To subsequently embark on a national strike in a recession and again on the lead up to Christmas 2009 is considered by many an act of sheer lunacy.
Private companies in the UK bore the brunt of the recession, but elements of the public sector appeared to operate under different rules. Indeed as many private companies including well known names such as Woolworths go bust, the UK private sector actually grew – adding to the UK's unprecedented levels of national debt.
The United Kingdom’s Royal Mail, formerly had a cherished reputation of offering an excellent efficient post service delivering to the most isolated address in the British Isles. However, over the past decade or so the Royal Mail has been in decline – the service has deteriorated, many post offices have closed, and the norm of early morning next day delivery has been replaced with late afternoon for many customers.
It has to be acknowledged that the UK membership of the European Union has had an undoubted adverse interference in the running of the Royal Mail. EU directives lead to lucrative business removed from Royal Mail, and ever imposing rules and regulations hindering efficiency. Two examples include imposition of pricing by size (including thickness) in addition to weight and limiting the hours delivery staff can work.
However, the latest Royal Mail strike is considered an act of suicidal madness by many. Customers will find alternatives, and some of these may prove more reliable and efficient. The Royal Mail permanently lost around 10% of its custom during the last strike. The online bookseller Amazon pre-empted the latest 2009 postal strike and utilised alternative couriers. Amazon will make their business decision once the strike is finished, but they will no doubt take into consideration the fact that Royal Mail has let them down twice out of the last three Christmas lead periods.
The United Kingdom's former series of postal strikes in Autumn 2007, had a devastating effect for numerous small business as well as alienating much of its customer base. Datalite UK Ltd got through this period and passes on some more coping strategies. This article supplements Datalite’s original 2007 article titled: Mail Order Business - How To Cope With A Postal Strike which may be found with a Google search on the title. This piece provides five further tips on how to survive industrial action resulting in national suspension of postal service, such as that currently experienced in the UK.
The first tip is to appraise current business model and seek out alternatives. As an example Datalite UK Ltd has a number of retail outlets namely:
Frame & Gift Products – Sales from High Street retail shop.
Personalised Gift Products - Mail Order mostly by website www.dayborn.com.
Picture Frames - Small Quantities - Mail Order again mainly by website www.framesonlineuk.com .
Picture Frames - Medium Supplies -Courier Delivered.
Picture Frames - Bulk Supply - Delivered by Pallet.
Roughly a quarter of business output is dependant on Royal Mail (formerly half, lesson learnt from last strike!). If a business is solely dependant on Mail Order delivered by one provider - a failure by this provider such as the Royal Mail series of strikes in the years 2007 and 2009 can literally break the company. Out of the business streams above, it is only really the small items supplied by Web/Mail Order that will suffer. The strategy here is to offer an alternative courier service for the smaller items, perhaps negotiating special deals; but to primarily focus on the business not reliant on Royal Mail for the duration of the strike.
The second tip concerns general administration of a business. A protracted mail strike gives an unpredictable element to postal communications. The risk of substantial delay or indeed total loss is much higher. This is a time to explore and utilise other means of communication such as emails, telephone communication, faxes, and online submission wherever possible. By way of example the UK’s Autumn 2009 strike coincided with tax return submission due on 31st October 2009 this can be undertaken online instead.
The third tip concerns businesses that use eBay. A national postal strike has a huge detrimental effect on eBay; potential customers are driven away in droves from using online/mail order facilities. This can affect businesses using couriers unaffected by strike – due to customer’s perception of overall delay. The customer base for eBay is dramatically reduced as a result, but a prime area of concern is their feedback system which is heavily tilted against the seller (sellers can only leave positive feedback to non-payers!). There are unreasonable customers out there, whom will automatically blame a postal delay, even caused by strike, on the seller. Even just a few negative feedbacks can disproportionately affect a business for the future. The tip here is to temporarily remove/adjust all eBay adverts to only offer alternative carriers if at all feasible.
The fourth tip is to keep customers fully informed. This can be simply achieved by website notifications for companies with an online presence, answer phone messages, shop posters etc. Customers may for example, be unaware that courier services and the UK's Parcel Force are unaffected by strike action - other than having increased business.
To finish on a
positive note, the final tip is to utilise an entrepreneurial spirit and seek
alternative selling options. Datalite for example uses City Link next day
express courier for many of its despatches. This facility has been offerred to
the general public as a delivery service, hence generating extra income and more
retail store callers. People still need products and services, and as many
customers will be seeking solutions during a period of industrial action such as
a mail strike, this can present unique business opportunities.
Further information on Datalite UK Limited can be found by visiting website http://www.dluk.info
Here we go again! The Royal Mail embarks on yet another post strike in Autumn 2009, and again on a lead up to Christmas. Datalite UK Ltd in a previous article on the UK Post Strike of Autumn 2007 passed on some of its coping experiences. This article provides further lessons learnt and an update on business tips to survive a mail strike.