By Chai Hung Yin
SINGAPORE Post is beefing up resources and stepping up quality checks at its mail processing centre and various delivery bases to improve its service.
This move is in response to the recent spate of complaints, reported in the local media, by customers who were angry over the delayed delivery of their letters and parcels.
They have suggested that the five-day mail collection and delivery service system implemented by SingPost in February may have something to do with it.
A SingPost spokesman said: "We acknowledge that the cessation of Saturday mail delivery may require some adjustments on the part of some of our customers and we are grateful for their understanding."
As for the late delivery, the spokesman said that most of the complaints involve parcels, which need more manual processing. Besides, they are too big to slot into the post box.
She said: "Because it's too big, the postman has to take it to the doorstep. And if the recipient is not at home, the postman would have to leave a note for the recipient to collect it from the post office."
All that contributes to the delay, she said.
Unlike letters that are sorted using machines, packages usually take three to five days to process manually.
Nevertheless, SingPost said they take feedback seriously and constantly review the entire delivery process.
"We are...in the process of implementing additional and more stringent checks and measures to minimise misdeliveries," the spokesman said.
To do that, quality service supervisors are on site to conduct random checks daily, such as going through mail that has been sorted by the machines and by postal staff.
This will help to minimise sorting errors, the spokesman said.
Supervisors will conduct checks on the mail that postmen are carrying before their outdoor delivery.
They will also check the letters placed into the letter boxes, to ensure that the addresses are correct.
This is done on top of the current regular checks by postal inspectors.
"We are also putting measures into place which will enable postmen to concentrate on outdoor delivery such as recruiting more indoor staff to help in the mail sorting process," she added.
Currently, SingPost has a total of 2,700 workers. Out of that figure, about 990 are full-time postmen and part-time neighbourhood postmen.
Daily, these postmen deliver mail to more than a million households and businesses in Singapore, she said.
The shorter work week was implemented "to streamline operations, increase staff productivity and provide a better work-life harmony for postal workers".
The spokesman said: "Saturday mail volumes are on average 40 per cent lower compared to other days of the week."
The decline in demand for postal service is not unique to just Singapore. It is a worldwide trend that affects many developed countries.
Here, the demand for postal service has been dropping by 5 per cent year-on-year since a decade ago while business mail has been growing at a slower pace.
Said SingPost's executive vice president (mail), Mr Woo Keng Leong: "Globally, the postal industry is facing a natural decline in mail volume brought about by lifestyle changes, e-substitution and increasing competition."
In the United States, mail volume last year plummeted by 25.6 billion pieces - nearly 13 per cent of total volume - resulting in a Postal Service revenue drop of nearly $7 billion.
In view of this, over here, SingPost has introduced a host of innovative solutions to stay relevant.
One of it is the SmartPac Domestic service which was introduced in October this year.
It allows customers, especially online local retailers, to send items to the doorstep of the recipient the next working day for a fixed price.
Its other service, which is popular among Singaporeans, is the vPOST or Virtual Post.
The shipping volume for vPOST has been experiencing a double-digit increase year-on-year, said Mr Woo.
This increase is fuelled by the growing click-and-buy trend, as shown by recent figures compiled by market research firm Euromonitor International.
The report said that netizens here spent about $689 million shopping on the Internet last year - 15 times more than in 1999.
This article was first published in The New Paper.