Executive chairman of parcel carrier Yodel, Dick Stead, publically responded to revelations from a Channel 4 documentary, which showed his staff apparently throwing customer packages around one of the company's sorting sites in the north-west of England.

Commenting to industry delegates at technology business MetaPack's The Delivery Conference, less than 24 hours after the Dispatches programme aired on UK TV, Stead took responsibility for their actions. He called them "a disgrace", but was keen to highlight they were isolated incidents.

Tackling the issue head on, before even the Yodel board had made a formal statement, he described some of the footage from Channel 4 – which came from inside a Greater Manchester Yodel site via an undercover reporter posing as a temporary Christmas worker – as "unacceptable", but he proposed that many of the scenes would be reminiscent of those that occur at other parcel companies.

"I'm not making excuses," Stead noted, adding: "The board is discussing the issue and we'll be coming back to all of you [Yodel's retailer partners] to say what we'll be doing differently."

Dick Stead, exec chairman of Yodel

The Channel 4 documentary, which showed Yodel workers casually throwing standard and fragile parcels into vans and on to conveyor belts, in the preparations for the Christmas peak, has prompted viewers to take to social media to register their disappointment in the company. Stead has spoken in the past about the company receiving significant criticism via social channels, and the need to improve service levels.

It comes at a time when Yodel has been talking about improvements in customer service, highlighted by better customer satisfaction figures and off the back of an encouraging festive period where it handled over 22 million parcels in the five weeks running up to Christmas Eve – the vast majority of them successfully and without incurring damage, according to Stead.

Addressing the retail industry at the MetaPack event in central London, he said "What a difference a day makes."

In a separate statement, made later on Tuesday, the executive chairman said: "During the busy Christmas period, over 3,000 self-employed couriers worked for us helping to deliver the high seasonal volume of parcels.

"For the vast majority, the flexible nature of the work suits their lifestyle. An independent survey carried out in the last six months showed that 84% of self-employed colleagues enjoy their job and 85% are committed to the success of Yodel. 

"We handle over 155 million parcels every year and the vast majority of these are delivered successfully thanks to our committed and valued people. Clearly there are still improvements to be made and we will accelerate activities which have already seen our customer satisfaction score increase from a disappointing 35% two years ago to over 80% today which is among the best in the industry."

Stead also used Tuesday's conference to reveal that the company will be releasing a consumer mobile app later in 2016, to help shoppers manage their delivery preferences. However, the immediate focus for the business is on building a new strategy under fresh management, with former Arriva exec Mike Cooper joining the carrier as CEO earlier this week.

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