In a study looking at how people use the post office, a survey of over three thousand adult consumers (deemed to be representative of the British population) found that almost half (49%) said they thought that a post office branch is one of the most important services in their local community. Behind the post office came a bank branch (31%), a library (29%) with a pub at 25%.
There are around 11,600 post offices in the UK offering a variety of services from sending parcels to passport applications, and bill payments to banking. Over half the people who took part in the survey said that they use a post office at least once a month, with nearly all (96%), saying they use the post office to send letters and parcels, or purchase stamps. A significant proportion of people (38%) also use the post office to return mail order goods – clearly an important service as online shopping continues to grow.
Citizens Advice also surveyed a thousand small businesses and found that nearly two thirds (62%) use local post offices more often than once a month, showing that a thriving post office network is important to the economy as well as it is for consumers. A major transformation project of the UK post offices has been underway since 2010 and by March 2018 two thirds of branches will have moved to new operating models. Many are now based in convenience stores, shops and petrol stations rather than in stand-alone branches. The survey also found that 74% of consumers interviewed rated convenience stores as most important in their community.
Citizens Advice says that this programme has been a qualified success in ensuring that most people have convenient access to a post office – with the number of locations people can access Post Office services remaining about the same. Mystery shopping surveys of the Post Office carried out by Citizens Advice have also shown that levels of service in the new branch models are the same or better than in traditional post offices.
Citizens Advice is calling on the government to confirm appropriate funding for the post office to maintain the current network of 11,600 branches, once the transformation programme is completed, to make sure people can access a local post office to meet their needs.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice emphasised the importance of maintaining the levels of customer service achieved so far during the transformation project.
“Consumers and businesses rely on the Post Office for many services, not just sending and receiving parcels but accessing banking, getting local information and paying bills. People’s preference for a post office over a pub or bank near their home highlights just how much people value this service.”
“The government’s Network Transformation Programme has been broadly successful in ensuring that people can access Post Office services. Citizens Advice will continue to monitor the impact of the changes to the Post Office and make sure the service meets people’s needs.”
If you have a complaint about post office services you can get help and advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06. You can also get information and advice on how to deal with Debt, Benefits, Work, Consumer Issues, Relationships, Housing, Law and Rights, Education, Discrimination, Tax and Healthcare by: