SingPost taking steps to deliver better service

Mr Vincent Phang, country head and chief executive of postal services at SingPost, says it is in talks with government agencies to upgrade infrastructure to make receiving mail and parcels more convenient and efficient.
Mr Vincent Phang, country head and chief executive of postal services at SingPost, says it is in talks with government agencies to upgrade infrastructure to make receiving mail and parcels more convenient and efficient.

Mail notification, postman ratings among new measures aimed at regaining trust after lapses

Singapore could be among the first in the world to roll out smart letterboxes nationwide, with features such as identity authentication for mail retrieval.

It is one of the potential infrastructure upgrades that SingPost is discussing with government agencies to make receiving mail and parcels more convenient and efficient, said its Singapore head and chief executive of postal services Vincent Phang.

But for a start, it will launch a new product that will notify customers when an item is delivered to their letterbox.

This is among a number of initiatives that the postal service provider will be introducing this year - including role specialisation for postmen and letting residents rate them - in a bid to win back the public's trust after a spate of service lapses.

A new feedback channel will let residents read short biographies of their neighbourhood postman and leave a rating and comments.

"The main motive is to have community engagement between postmen and residents, to put a face to a name," Mr Phang told the media when he announced the initiatives on Friday.

The ratings will not be tied to incentives for now, he added.

SingPost has hired 240 new postmen to meet demand and address attrition rates as many senior postmen are set to retire. And "significant adjustments" have been made to postmen's wages, said Mr Vincent Phang.

A microsite will be launched next month, when the feedback programme will be on trial in Bukit Timah and Yishun. It will be rolled out nationwide in October.

The new "trackable mail" product due to be rolled out in the same month will provide an alternative to registered mail, which requires a signature to acknowledge receipt.

 
 
 
 

"A good proportion of customers who require high-confidence deliveries use registered articles... A tracked letterbox product would essentially improve on that experience," said Mr Phang, 45, who joined SingPost in April.

Shifting some demand to this service would lead to fewer overall doorstep deliveries that postmen need to make, and fewer missed encounters, he added.

A surge in e-commerce volumes strained the mail system and led to heavier loads and more doorstep deliveries for postmen, SingPost said in February, amid a series of high-profile delivery problems.

International postal standards allow for packages that are larger than letterboxes here to be sent through the postal system. This means if an item cannot fit into a letterbox because it is too large or the box is cluttered, the postman has to make a doorstep delivery.

To make deliveries more efficient, postmen will specialise in either letterbox or doorstep deliveries, instead of doing both currently. This will entail a pre-sorting process "to segregate what's doorstep and what's letterbox", said Mr Phang.

Roughly two-thirds of SingPost's more than 1,000 postmen will focus on letterbox deliveries. Together with doorstep delivery hours being extended to the evening, delivery success rates will hopefully increase, said Mr Phang.

Of the three million mail items sent for delivery daily, about 0.5 to 0.7 per cent fail to be delivered.

SingPost will streamline postal products to aid the new workflow. To improve security and reduce human error, it is working with regulators to replace all 60,000 Housing Board letterbox masterdoors.

The firm has hired 240 new postmen to meet demand and address attrition rates, as many senior postmen are set to retire.

And "significant adjustments" have been made to postmen's wages, said Mr Phang, though he declined to reveal the amount.

The new initiatives come as part of a longer-term review of SingPost's operations, which include discussing with the authorities the possibility of making letterboxes bigger to accommodate the changing profile of mail items.

In future, delivery systems could incorporate a configuration of parcel lockers, smart letterboxes and other technologies.

"I do foresee that in a country like Singapore, there's potential for us to have all deliveries tracked. Just think of a day that, without some level of authentication, you cannot retrieve that letter from a letterbox.

"All that is within our grasp... Whether it's cost-effective is another thing, but we certainly have to discuss some of these areas to build the infrastructure, so it can sustain the future," said Mr Phang.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 02, 2019, with the headline 'SingPost taking steps to deliver better service'. Print Edition | Subscribe