Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Post watchdog wants short queues

Queue at Post Office
Time on their hands...customers wait for service

A consumer watchdog has called on the Post Office to reduce lengthy queues and says too many businesses assume customers are happy to queue.

At least a fifth of Crown post office customers have to wait for more than 10 minutes for service, it said.

Post Office customers in Wales and Scotland face shorter queues than customers in England.

Customer service has improved compared with last year, despite a government closure programme.

Line time

The survey of 424 UK post offices found that 38% of customers waited more than five minutes to be seen.

The average waiting time in Crown - standalone post office branches - and franchise offices - which are found in other stores - was down slightly to four minutes, 20 seconds.

Priority should be given to improving service at poorly performing branches, said Consumer Focus, the watchdog that has taken over the role of Postwatch.

"Around the world people associate Britain with queuing. We need to ditch the service culture that assumes that the customer can wait," said chief executive Ed Mayo.

"Branches with queuing and service problems should be targeted first rather than those that make the most money."

The watchdog said that queues were shorter when post offices had been franchised, such as in WHSmith.

Overall, customers in Wales and Scotland were in the shortest queues, with those in London and the north of England facing longer lines.

A Post Office Limited spokeswoman said: "We will clearly continue to work towards providing the best possible service to our customers and are determined to reduce queues.

"We are encouraged that the survey found that 94% of customers were very positive about the service they received in our branches."

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