Royal Mail admits that 1 in 5 letters and parcels sent in first class don’t arrive the next business day.
After raising the price of a first-class postage stamp from 10p to 95p within weeks of raising the price of stamps, the company says its services have been hit by the continuing impact of the coronavirus and more staff absenteeism.
Royal Mail said less than 82% of first-class mail was delivered the next business day in the 12 months through early April. That’s an improvement from nearly 75% a year ago, but still falls short of the main target of 93%.
Annual service statistics show that Tier 2 shipments were handled better and 95% of these items arrived as expected within 3 business days. However, this is still below the company’s goal of shipping at least 98.5% of Tier 2 items within this timeframe.
The Royal Mail said quality of service through April was “substantially affected by the Covid-related absence and the exceptional continuing impact of the pandemic increasing self-isolation and social distancing in accordance with government guidelines”.
A London-listed company is required to deliver to 31 million homes and businesses across the UK, six days a week, at the same price, regardless of distance traveled, under its universal service obligation.
Meeting typical service standards is “very challenging” with far more parcels and far fewer letters being sent during the pandemic, he said.
Royal Mail staff absenteeism peaked in January when more than 15,000 employees were ill or in self-isolation.
The company said it had recruited temporary additional staff and set up a special delivery task force to provide support to the offices most affected by the staffing shortage.
The company says service has improved in recent weeks, with more than 86% of first-class mail arriving the next business day and more than 97% of second-class mail arriving within three business days.
The Royal Mail previously blamed a long-term decline in letter use and rising costs for the most recent inflation-beating postage hike that took effect in early April.
The company also faces an increase in customer dissatisfaction, which has skyrocketed to over 1 million, a 100-year high by March 2021.