Policy & Research
Viability of the Post Office network
If the post office network is to remain viable, opportunities to bring new business to the network should be grasped with both hands. Consumers rely on post offices to access a range of essential services, and we believe the assets of the Post Office network – that it is trusted, local and personal – leave post offices well placed to offer an expanded range of financial products (see Opportunity knocks PDF 505KB), as well as a wider range of ‘face-to-face’ central and local government services.
Government services represent an important source of income for post offices and many consumers are reliant on the Post Office as a provider for them.
The key strengths of the Post Office are the trust of its customers, the reach of the network and its ability to provide a face-to-face service. The post office network is well placed to offer government services in the future but it must anticipate what these services will be and build the case as to why its strengths will add value.
New government services and initiatives that we believe could be delivered through the Post Office network include:
- identity services that require the physical authentication of identity and the collection of personal data
- a ‘government general practitioner’ role, providing face to face information and low-level advice on a range of central and local government services. Postcomm research has found that many subpostmasters already perform this role on an informal basis
- the ‘digital bridge’ between those government departments and agencies that will seek to realise cost savings through a total shift to electronic channels, and those (often vulnerable or low-income) consumers who are unable to use these channels, or prefer to continue with paper-based applications. Introducing a service whereby subpostmasters can check, authenticate and digitise documents and forward to the relevant department would play to the Post Office’s strengths
- the single points of contact for face-to-face ‘Tell Us Once’ notifications of changes in circumstances (births, deaths, changes of address) whereby customers could inform their post office of a change in circumstances which would be passed to all relevant central and local government agencies
Local government services could also be offered at post offices and local government should give greater consideration to the ways in which it can support the viability of post offices.