Discussion Papers

Annette Hillebrand, Martin Zauner

Quality indicators for mail and parcel Services
No. 398 / May 2015

(Full Version only available in German)


Quality aspects are crucially important when consumers make purchasing decisions for services. However, today the quality of service in the letter and parcel market seems to be insufficiently transparent to the public. In the area of letter mail, regular quality measurements traditionally include transit times only. In the parcel market quality measurement solutions are particularly expensive and are therefore rather selective. For business bulk senders, i.e. online retailers, quality is more transparent as for consumers because they are able to specifically analyse the tracking data of all their parcels. In addition, they receive reports on the basis of service level agreements with parcel operators.

Delivery service orientation as well as complaints management is often criticised in the press or on web portals. How relevant this criticism is and whether it should result in action remains unclear as long as there is no valid information basis available.

In this report, we examine the status quo of quality measurement in the postal market and identify other potential indicators to measure service quality. Examples from other industries (distance selling, railway industry, aviation, and financial services) and from other European postal markets (Belgium, France, Sweden, Switzerland, UK) provide an empirical basis for this study.

As a result we determined an information gap as regards the quality level in the German letter and parcel market. Our research demonstrates that in the German postal market a sophisticated handling of quality and customer complaints comparable to the referenced markets and countries cannot be identified. In our study we suggest options to measure quality in the German postal market to improve the situation.

First of all, it seems feasible for political authorities and/or the regulatory body to demand complaint statistics from postal operators and specifically analyse existing customer satisfaction analyses and available delivery quality data. Furthermore, a more transparent and consumer-friendlier complaints management system would be an important step to increase market transparency in Germany. In this context, article 19 of the Postal Services Directive (97/67/EC) should be fully implemented.

Other less invasive options could be envisaged. For example, existing institutions like the arbitration centre of the German national regulatory body (Bundesnetzagentur) could be made even more well known. Then, the Bundesnetzagentur could organise regular workshops on the topic of quality indicators. Representative and independent customer satisfaction surveys may be conducted by companies, associations, or government agencies. Additional transparency would be provided by feedback apps or complaints web portals run by, i.e., online retailers, parcel operators, or other independent service providers. These approaches may be politically supported by taking them into account in running innovations and technology development programmes.

Discussion Paper is available for download.

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