What’s it like to run a Post Office?
Securing four nominations in the 2019 Post Office Retail Awards, with one class win, would be a remarkable achievement for any Postmaster.
But Rizwan Salahuddin’s phenomenal performance is even more impressive as it comes after just one full year as a retailer.
He took the bold step of taking on his own branch in Finsbury Park in November 2017, fulfilling a personal ambition after 15 years of managing Post Office branches in north London.
Rizwan immediately set to work turning what was a Crown Branch into a part-retail business specialising in stationery while also utilising his own expertise and interests.
“We are branded as Sea Stationers, but as I have a Masters in IT, as well as Microsoft and Cisco certifications, I started offering services like web design, graphic design, and shop-front design,” he said. “I also have a contract to be a franchised Kodak Studio where people can make personalised photo gift items like canvases, photo albums and mugs.”
The products and services offered by this multifunction business combine perfectly with the requirements of a high percentage of Post Office customers.
“To be an employer with a retail operation and work with a big organisation like the Post Office is a great opportunity,” said Rizwan. “Customers who come to post a letter or a parcel need packing or stationery essentials; those applying for a driving licence or passport need our digital studio expertise.
“You have to take the customer on a journey. Just handing over an application form and saying ‘thank you, goodbye’ is a missed opportunity, because they will go somewhere else to use a photobooth and buy their groceries and other items. That’s business we have lost. Here, I help them fill the form in, take the picture and send off the application straight away.”
It’s good to talk
Rizwan has set up a dedicated ‘conversation area’, complete with comfortable chairs, to facilitate such journeys, opening the door to additional business.
And Rizwan’s top tips?
“Once the customer is sitting down, then you can talk to them about other products, like post office financial services,” he said. “Last year I sold 123 life insurance policies, which brought in an extra £9,000.”
It’s that kind of performance that earned the Finsbury Park branch those award nominations for Best Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), Best Banking (Large) and Retailer of the Year, as well as the title Best New Branch (Large).
As well as giving customers good personal service, Rizwan puts his success down to his team of 12, and the rather surprising motivational technique he employs to get the best out of them.
“Every month I do one-to-ones with the staff and show them my salary slip so they can see how much I’ve received from the Post Office, which transactions that money came from, how much I’ve paid out in wages and bills, and how much profit I’ve made,” he revealed. “That way, they know I am looking after them and that, if I’m not earning anything, they have to do more for the business.”