The Post Office provides a variety of services to its 28 million customers each year. Customer service assistants serve customers over the counter in post offices with a wide range of products.
Post offices are either run by Post Office Ltd (usually in towns and cities) or by small business owners on a franchise basis. These are usually in suburbs and small towns or villages, and are often combined with other services such as the local grocery store.
The range of services provided usually depends on the size of the post office. Main post offices usually provide a full range of services, whilst some of the smaller branches may not offer everything. A large main post office may also have a retail section - a post shop - which sells lottery items as well as cards, stationery and small gifts.
Customer service assistants need to have a thorough knowledge of all the products their post office provides.
The duties may include:
The job of a customer service assistant is a combination of dealing with customers and using computers to aid sales and other transactions. There is now a great deal of emphasis on sales, and all consultants must be comfortable in promoting and selling the products on offer at their branch.
Customer service assistants usually work 35 hours a week over five days, but this may include working on a Saturday. In the larger post offices, there may also be two training sessions per week which may involve starting work at 8.00am. There is usually ample opportunity for part-time work.
Most of the larger post offices are in modern buildings which are heated, well lit and clean. Other post offices, especially some of the smaller ones, may be in older buildings or shops, such as a newsagent's or general stores. Customer service assistants working at a counter usually work behind a transparent screen, which provides security. They may work at an open till in a post shop or a smaller branch, especially if it is combined with another business, such as a general store.
Most of the time will be spent sitting though, in some till areas, standing for long periods of time may be required. Some lifting and bending may be involved when moving stock, dealing with large parcels and restocking leaflet display areas.
Depending on the branch a customer service assistant may be required to wear a uniform.
The starting salary for post office customer service assistants working for Post Office Ltd is £15,525 a year. After six months this may increase to around £16,560 subject to assessment.
There is also the opportunity to become part of performance-linked bonus schemes and pension schemes.
Fixed-term contracts are often available and pay an hourly rate of around £8.50.
There are around 525 post offices throughout the UK run by Post Office Ltd, which is part of the Royal Mail Group plc.
There are also approximately 12,000 smaller/rural post offices throughout the country, run by private agents on a franchise basis, often as part of a wider business, such as a newsagent or general store. The franchise operator usually undertakes the post office work, but employs one or more staff to assist, often on a part-time basis.
Vacancies are advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, Connexions centres, on posters in main post offices, on the Post Office website and occasionally in local newspapers.
All applications for jobs in post offices managed by Post Office Ltd are now via the Post Office website.
There is a demand for people to enter this work, especially for part-time and casual posts.
No formal academic qualifications are required to become a customer service assistant in a post office. However, applicants need to show they have numeracy, accuracy and good communication skills and an ability to sell. Related work experience, such as working in a shop, would be an advantage. All staff complete a health declaration form as part of their application for the job and undergo a criminal records check.
All new staff working for Post Office Ltd will be expected to successfully complete a six-month probationary period. Operators of privately run post offices may also set their own probationary periods.
When starting work on the counter, new customer service assistants undertake a four-week training programme. The first two weeks involve learning the background knowledge needed for the work. The following two weeks are spent as a trainee in a post office. It may be necessary to travel to a training branch for initial training. Additional support and training is then provided, as needed, by the supervisor/manager.
Customer service assistants focusing on post shop work are trained on the job under the supervision of more experienced colleagues.
Customer service assistants who join privately run post offices are usually trained on the job by the owner/manager of the branch.
Customer service assistants may find it useful to do NVQ's Levels 2 and 3 in customer service, which are available through colleges and other training providers. The Post Office does not currently offer the opportunity to do NVQ's.
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A customer service assistants should:
Customer service assistants, interested in further developing their skills, may be able to move on to senior consultant, supervisor or assistant branch manager positions, especially in larger post offices.
Opportunities may exist to move into a sales advisory role with the Post Office.
Experience in a small, privately operated branch may improve the chances of moving on to a position in a larger main branch.
This role would also provide excellent experience for working in other customer-related work.
Post Office Ltd, Customer Care,
Freepost, PO Box 740,
Brampton, Barnsley S73 0ZJ
Tel: 0845 722 3344
Royal Mail Group plc (registered office),
100 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0HQ
Tel: 0845 600 1801 (Recruitment)
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.