The impact of responsiveness of Third Party Logistics Service (TPLS) on customer satisfaction in the Chinese C2C context (Research Proposal)


The impact of responsiveness of Third Party Logistics Service (TPLS) on customer satisfaction in the Chinese C2C context (Research Proposal)

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Research background

With the development of market economy, the idea of Chinese modern enterprises production and management has undergone a great change from vertical integration strategy to horizontal integration. For example, the state-owned China Shipping group managed to enter into a partnership with trade giant Alibaba in a bid to establish an integrated shipping platform that will benefit clients from both sides (Jiang and Sau-wai, 2015). This could be seen as vertical integration on the side of Alibaba. Enterprises essentially focus on their major business and entrust their logistics activities to the professional logistics service providers (Xiu-xia, Kan-chang and Lin-yan, 2006).  Under such background, the third party logistics service is developing rapidly as exemplified by such a merger as between China Shipping Group and Alibaba. Other logistics firms that have had tremendous growth over the years include Ceva logistics which is currently employing over 14,000 employees, Schneider logistics, Penske logistics and Menlo logistics. In addition, the prosperity of online shopping in China further motivates the development of third party logistics service. All the customer-to-customer (C2C) business over the internet needs the Third Party Logistics Service (TPLS) providers to transport the goods from sellers to buyers. However, although China’s third party logistics service sector has been operational since the mid 1980s, it only grew significantly after China joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) (Liu, 2008). In addition, with the increasing customer needs such as prompt response, empathy, availability, personal understanding et cetera, firms are being stretched to offer logistics services although their services may not be in full tandem with the contemporary trends such as e-shopping in China (Bauer, Falk and Hammerschmidt, 2006). The development of information systems for the TPLS is also lagging behind (Ying and Ru-chao, 2010). In the C2C business over the internet in China, the buyers usually consult with the sellers rather than TPLS providers over the logistics information. The responsiveness – ability to respond within the short time period – of TPLS providers in China is very weak. In light of the discussed perspectives, this study seeks to analyse the impact of responsiveness of TPLS on customer satisfaction in the C2C business context. The study focuses on Taobao, a popular online platform in China to act as representative of other online platforms in China. The study will also focus on the customer perspective and thus only customers of Taobao will be investigated.

Research aims and objectives

This study aims to study the impact of responsiveness of third party logistics service on customer satisfaction in customer to customer context by taking Taobao a a representative case study. In terms of responsivensess of TPLS providers, Sohail, Austin and Rushdi (2004) pointed out that the customers have needs for logistics information about their goods such as inquiry of logistics dynamics, receipts and other relevant documents. Besides the employees (i.e. order reception staff and transport staff) of TPLS providers are supposed to provide on-time responses for customers during communication (Sohail, Austin and Rushdi, 2006). The TPLS providers should also be competent to deals with the errors that appear in the service process (Min and Ko, 2008). In view of this discussion, this research intends to focus on investigating the impact of responsiveness of TPLS providers on customer satisfaction from the perspectives of error handling, information quality and personnel communication. Error handling essentially involves the ability of a support team to address errors occurring before during or after delivery and prevention of future occurrences (Guchait, Paşamehmetoğlu and Dawson, 2014). Information quality centers on the ability to offer comprehensive information on a particular issue in service delivery. Lastly, personnel communication refers to the manner and effectiveness of communication between TPLS providers and their customers. The aim and research objectives of this dissertation are as follows:


To investigate the impact of responsiveness of third party logistic service providers (TPLS) on customer satisfaction in the Chinese customer-to-customer context


While analysing the customers of Taobao as representative of China’s C2C businesses, this study focuses on attaining the following objectives;

To investigate the effect of error handling on customer satisfaction

To investigate the effect of information quality on customer satisfaction

To investigate the effect of personnel communication on customer satisfaction

To put forth recommendations regarding improvement of elements of TPLS to boost customer satisfaction

In essence this study being an investigation into a service industry relies heavily on the SERVQUAL model. The SERVQUAL model and theory were developed earlier by Parasuraman to measure and to quantify the level of services offered (Lee and Lin, 2005). In addition, the study attempts to modify and further research an element of the SERVQUAL model (responsiveness) to fit the TPLS context. By doing so the study will hopes to contribute to the SERVQUAL theory.

Research methodology

The following conceptual model guides the methodology of the research

Figure 1: A conceptual model of dependent and independent variables in the research (Source: Author)

This dissertation plans to adopt mix methods, both quantitative and qualitative, to collect primary data. The reasons for adoption of mixed methods are as follows. Quantitative method helps collect quantitative data (numerical data) which can be analysed applying scientific tools (i.e. SPSS) (Curwin and Slater, 2007). Analysis of data in this way, this dissertation can scientifically and accurately identify the level of responsiveness of TPLS providers in Taobao, whether responsiveness of TPLS providers has impact on customer satisfaction, and also the extent of the impact. However, quantitative method restricts the collected data within the designed investigation questions. To make up this deficiency of quantitative method, this dissertation also adopts qualitative method which allows the respondents freely show their views about research topic (Bryman and Bell, 2007). The qualitative method by allowing unrestricted responses can offer new information related to the research and therefore the depth and comprehensiveness of the collected data can be improved or recommendations made for future research.

To fulfill the collection of both quantitative and qualitative data, questionnaire and interview will both be used as research instruments. Close-ended questionnaire will be used to collect quantitative data and in-depth interview will be used to collect qualitative data. The research instruments are selected under the guidance of case study strategy which involves the empirical investigation of contemporary particular phenomenon in its real life using multiple sources of evidences (Miller and Tewksbury, 2008). TPLS in C2C context is a particular phenomenon in current China. It’s possible that TPLS is replaced by other types of services as the development of technology. Therefore, the research context needs to be considered. Besides, case study allows the use of multiple sources of evidence. Thus, it will be used as the research strategy. In regard to sampling, this research will apply convenience sampling in collection of data. This is majorly because convenience sampling allows for respondents to be chosen on an availability and suitability basis. Further the researcher may have limited time to adhere to other strict sampling procedures.

As for the practical data collection process, this dissertation plans to collect quantitative data by distributing questionnaires and interviewing the customers of Taobao. The products that the researcher will be interested in are home appliances – bought mostly by men – and clothing, food and accessories – bought mostly by women (Business wire, 2011). This will capture the entire customer base in terms of preference – as these products are most bought – and gender. The researcher intends to interview three customers and distribute 150 questionnaires, with an expectation that 90 of them shall be valid for analysis. The expected place for questionnaire is a prosperous shopping mall (i.e. Wanda Plaza) and the researcher will identified the customers of Taobao by designing a question “have you purchased from Taobao” at the beginning of the questionnaire. Also, the researcher will use this method to confirm the three respondents for interview and the place for interview will be a quiet place such as a café. Only customers of Taobao will be qualified as respondents.

Significant resources required

This dissertation needs a small amount of financial support. I will distribute conduct data collection in during weekends. Some transportation fees are necessary for me to arrive at the investigation place. If the investigation lasts ten days and 10 Yuan for each day, the total transportation fees are about £10.53. Besides, I may need to prepare small presents for the respondents in order to increase response rate. Suppose I distribute 150 questionnaires and add the three respondents for interview, I need to about £ 80.55 which I can get from my personal savings.


Bryman, A. and Bell, E. (2007) Business research methods.2nd edn. New York: Oxford.

Business wire., (2011) Taobao Reveals Online Shopping Trends for 2010 | Business Wire (Online) Available at: (Accessed 12 Mar. 2015).

Curwin, J. and Slater, R. (2007) Quantitative methods for business decisions.6th edn. London: Thomson Learning EMEA.

Guchait, P., Pamehmetolu, A. and Dawson, M. (2014) ‘Perceived supervisor and co-worker support for error management: Impact on perceived psychological safety and service recovery performance’, International Journal of Hospitality Management, 41, pp.28-37.

Lee, G. and Lin, H. (2005) ‘Customer perceptions of e‐service quality in online shopping’, International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 33(2), pp.161-176

Miller, J. M. and Tewksbury, R. (2008) Research methods. London: Prentice Hall.

Min, H. andKo, H. J. (2008) ‘The dynamic design of a reverse logistics network from the perspective of third-party logistics service providers’, International Journal of Production Economics, 113(1), pp. 176-192.

Sohail, M. S., Austin, N. K. andRushdi, M.(2004) ‘The use of third-party logistics services: Evidence from a sub-Sahara African nation’, International Journal of Logistics-research and Applications,7(1), pp. 45-57.

Sohail, M. S.,Bhatnagar, R. andSohal, A. S. (2006) ‘A comparative study on the use of third party logistics services by Singaporean and Malaysian firms’, International Journal of Physical Distribution& Logistics Management, 36(9), pp. 690-701.

Xiu-xia, Y.,Kan-chang, W. and Lin-yan, S. (2006) ‘Third party logistics services usage: A case study of medium and large scale Chinese firms’, IEEE International Conference on Service Operations and Logistics, and Informatics, 2006(21-23), pp. 442-447.

Ying, Z. and Ru-chao, Z.(2010) ‘Study on the third party logistics service providers’ performance evaluation based on the weighted entropy and analysis process of grey relation’, International Conference on Management Science and Engineering, 2010(24-16), pp. 582-587.

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