Opinion

Australia Post posts downturn in service quality

By Shepparton News

You have to feel a little sorry for ‘‘Sami’’, the poor Australia Post drone whose job it is to answer each and every complaint made on productreview.com.au

There are a lot of complaints. The overwhelming majority, all 3878 of them, rate the service of Australia Post at one star or ‘‘terrible’’.

‘‘A Christmas card took 3 weeks to get from Mitcham (in Victoria) to Canterbury (in Victoria) — a distance of 13km!’’ — One star

‘‘Safe drop was cancelled by courier. Now I have to go to post office to pick up a heavy package. How hard is it just to leave my item at my front door? Pathetic,’’ — One star

‘‘A courier pulled up outside while I was home, car in the driveway and dumped a card in my letter box stating no one was home and to pick it up from the PO!’’ — Two stars

‘‘Paid for express post (and) was told (it would) get there next day as was only 30 minutes away. Not only did it not arrive they lost parcel ... I have had to refund buyer $900.’’ — One star

And this was only yesterday.

A few decades ago, Australia Post was a highly trusted brand.

As a government-owned corporation with its own legislation guiding operations, the Australian Postal Corporation Act, the job was relatively straightforward — deliver the country’s mail and parcels in a timely manner.

The service was very reliable. A locally posted item would usually arrive the next day in the case of local mail or within the next two working days for just about everywhere else in Australia.

‘‘Lost mail’’ was next to unheard of.

Somewhere along the line, something went drastically wrong.

The obvious suspect is digital disruption. Email and later instant messaging services gradually eroded, then all but wiped out, the written letter. The mail that comes in dead-tree form these days is usually unwanted: bills, notices, thinly disguised advertising.

Australia Post subsequently suffered a crisis of confidence; what does a postal service do when its primary function all but ceases to exist?

Whatever it is they did, they did it wrong.

In 2010, with much fanfare, then chief executive Ahmed Fahour announced Australia Post’s ‘‘Future Ready’’ strategy. Five years later, the organisation announced its first ever loss. Two years after that it was revealed Mr Fahour’s salary was a cool $5.6million, a figure that drew criticism from the highest levels of government.

The latest chief executive is paid considerably less.

Australia Post is not a business. It has no shareholders. When customers sit on hold to the complaints line for 30 minutes, there is nobody to complain about the complaints line to.

Under its governing legislation, the only two people Australia Post answers to are Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

Seeing as both seem to spend most of their time plotting over who the next prime minister will be, Australia Post doesn’t seem to be answering to them much either.

Myles Peterson is a News journalist.