“Royal Mail has to respond to the fact that ten million fewer letters are being posted each day than three years ago and total mail volumes have fallen by a further eight per cent in the first half of this year,” says Mandelson. “In other words, if it stands still, this company faces terminal decline.
“I very much regret what is happening. Candidly, I think it is totally self-defeating for our postal services and those who work to deliver them,” he continues. “Taking industrial action will not resolve this dispute. It will only serve to drive more customers away from Royal Mail.”
Lord Mandelson says that small businesses will be looking on with “anger and exasperation”. Just as there are signs of the economy recovering and the prospects for their businesses are improving, strikes now will set them back and put their businesses in jeopardy.
Stephen Bentley, chief executive at Granby Marketing Services, accuses the Royal Mail of being "notoriously weak" when it comes to working with small businesses. “I’d expect that many businesses are getting very close to either switching or at least widening their supplier base to include alternative downstream access providers,” he says. “While the strikes continue to do untold damage to Royal Mail’s reputation, it’s a great time for competitors such as TNT to steal a march and capitalise on the goodwill that will inevitably come their way if they can step in to fill the resulting void. However efficient the competition is, however, we’ll still face the problem of the Royal Mail controlling the ‘final mile’.”
Stefan Foryszewski, co-founder of OB10, agrees that the strike will cause serious cash-flow headaches for SMEs. “Not only has your business got to deal with the likelihood that invoices may not arrive but also that your customers’ payments are going to be late, lost among the millions of letters held up in warehouses.
"Over the past few weeks we’ve seen big companies, such as Amazon and John Lewis, turn their backs on the Royal Mail. They are huge multi-national companies – they can afford to do that," he continues. "Small businesses, on the other hand, and those who are most likely to suffer from a number of late payments, cannot easily avoid using such services. This is where e-invoicing can help.”
Stuart Wallis of ISL Tours, a football tournament tour operator, says he’s already turned his back on Royal Mail. "This week we launched our 2010 Football Tour Brochure and sent out 20,000 digital copies in our digital letterhead. This would have cost us over £20,000 using traditional paper and post methods, costs which would normally be bundled into our retail price."
As well as having no worries about brochures being delayed in the strike, Wallis says this digital approach has helped to speed up the sales process and cash flow, reduce operating expenses and open up new routes to market. “We are doing our bit for the planet at the same time," he says.
Are the Royal Mail strikes crippling your business or have you found a way to bypass snail mail” Post your comments below.
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