An office of exchange (OE) is mainly a processing facility of international mail, but it can play a pivotal role in the delivery of undelivered international mail items. As a rule, an OE either returns undelivered parcels to senders or disposes of them, in line with national legislation. However, Pakistan Post has found a way to make thousands of undelivered inbound parcels reach their addressees without any additional investment.It has done so by introducing small but effective innovations that have transformed its Lahore Office of Exchange. Pakistan Post started this continuous journey at the Lahore OE in January 2019 and, since then, has managed to reduce the number of undelivered items by 68%.
The Post commenced with an exhaustive study of the reasons for non-delivery of inbound parcels. After a thorough examination of data on non-delivered items, the processing team at the Lahore OE has found the following six primary reasons for non-delivery:
- Incorrect or incomplete address;
- Moving of addressee to another address;
- Postman or delivery agent’s half-hearted delivery attempt;
- Detention of parcel by customs;
- Confiscation of parcel by customs or Anti-Narcotics Force;
- Refusal of addressee due to a heavy customs duty.
The second half of the challenges listed above called not only for in-house innovations but also for establishing effective cooperation with regulatory agents. Customs and Anti-Narcotics Force are two legitimate and active stakeholders when it comes to the examination and processing of international mail. Detention of high-value items, suspicious items and confiscation of parcels containing prohibited goods is a vital aspect of international mail security. However, timely communication to addressees about the fact that their parcels have been detained or confiscated and why is equally important.
Though detention or confiscation memos are issued by customs and the fact of detention or confiscation is also reflected in an online track and trace system accessible to customers, it does not guarantee that an addressee will receive the detention memo or that they even have a stable Internet connection to access our track and trace system, which is particularly true in rural areas. Moreover, addressees do not always understand reasons for detention or confiscation and what to do in such cases. To address this, once again, we have found direct phone calls to be highly effective. By informing customers about the detention of parcels and its reasons and providing guidance on how to obtain customs clearance, we save our customers’ time, money and effort that they would otherwise spend on visiting the OE in person.
When an addressee refuses to receive a parcel due to heavy customs duty and it is returned to the OE, there are two options left to dispose of that parcel, specified within our national legislation: it should be either returned to the sender or sent for auction. However, last year, the pandemic pushed us to search for alternative solutions to support our community hit hardly by the global health crisis. During the peak infection time in Pakistan from March 2020 to March 2021, people’s paying capacity was significantly reduced due to rising unemployment rates and salary cuts, which was reflected in a growing number of parcels returned based solely on a heavy customs tax. Our response in these circumstances was not to abandon but to support our communities by reassessing the level of customs duties. Through effective liaison and cooperation with our customs colleagues, we have been eventually able to ease the economic burden on the already stretched budgets of our customers.
Our transformation journey has been long, ambitious and challenging, but the end of it is more than rewarding. Today, around 50 calls are made per day informing recipients about undelivered, detained and confiscated parcels, registered packets and EMS and, as a result, 90 % of these initially undelivered items reach their addressees within 72 hours. This approach helps Pakistan Post gain trust of its customers and shows its commitment to deliver.
Muhammad Fiaz Gul, Head of Lahore Office of Exchange, Pakistan Post