Picture this: You order a set of pricey wine glasses with money from your stimulus check. You eagerly await its arrival only to receive a failed delivery notice or no notice at all. You walk 3 miles round trip to pick up the package. After a lengthy search, It’s not there. You open up a delivery claim. You hear back 2-3 weeks later. They don’t know where it is. Your wine glasses are gone.

This is not at all a personal experience. But if it were, you should be happy to know that your credit card company will likely refund you for such an issue. Anecdotes aside, this made me think. Was this an isolated incident? Or a pattern?

As an experiment in brand perception, I used Relative Insight’s text analysis platform to compare reviews for The United States Postal Service, FedEx, UPS and DHL. These language insights helped me to uncover which service has garnered the most public trust, and what these companies need to do to moving forward.

The United States Postal Service
Keep in mind these reviews are from the past year. In recent months the USPS has had funding issues, leading to late deliveries, lost packages and other consequences of limited resources. The reviews analyzed are partly from before the budget cuts.

As a government entity, USPS receives federal funding (less and less by the day) and can offer ‘competitive’ shipping rates. Customers were more likely to mention low rates in USPS reviews, using words like ‘economical’ and ‘affordable.’ Maintaining competitive rates should be a priority for the USPS. Necessary rate increases will likely see pushback, but relaying the necessity of costs could ease anger.

Very few bonds rival that of the one between you and your neighborhood delivery person. You see them every day, probably more than you see your own parents. Reviewers were more likely to characterize USPS drivers as ‘friendly’ and ‘personable.’ It seems that a nice courier can help these reviewers forgive a late package or two. Brand perception could benefit from marketing materials that highlight friendly mailmen and their customer friendships.

Friendly employees aren’t the only positive thing customers have to say about USPS. Reviewers were more likely to use words like ‘good’ and ‘great’ when describing their experience. And you know what good experiences lead to? Happy customers. Reviewers were also more likely to say they were ‘happy’ or ‘satisfied’ with USPS.

The biggest complaint seen from FedEx reviewers was the delivery experience. Customers were more likely to slam drivers for carelessly dropping packages on lawns or driveways. Some reviewers also accused FedEx employees of damaging property, and concluded that these issues are due to laziness and lack of effort on behalf of the delivery driver. FedEx could benefit from an internal review to understand the frequency of this issue. We would suggest implementing better delivery practices that are still easy for the driver but safer for the package.


One topic seen repeatedly – but in two different contexts – is the word ‘claim.’ Some used the word to refer to the process of filing a claim for a missing or damaged package.

Others used to word to describe their communications with FedEx customer service – ie. “…they claim was delivered…” This second usage suggests distrust. Increased accountability from the customer service team could help remedy this issue. Customers would appreciate more comprehensive status updates on their claims in order to feel that their issue is working to be resolved.

UPS was guilty of a different shipping sin: late deliveries. Reviewers were more likely to mention untimely arrivals specifically after they had splurged on quick delivery options. Customers who mentioned late delivery were also likely to have experienced it multiple times, suggesting that this is a recurring issue. If faster delivery is not possible, the UPS should consider implementing more accurate arrival times to hedge customer expectations.

UPS reviewers were also more likely to describe their issues as ‘odd’ or ‘unusual’ compared to other shipping companies. These problems included ‘weird’ delivery times, ‘random’ tracking updates and receiving incorrect mail. This suggests that UPS is doing something different, but necessarily in a good way.

As a German company, it’s not surprising that customers were more likely to use DHL for international shipping. Reviewers often mentioned specific locations – Israel, Guatemala, China, Greece, Istanbul, India, Mexico, Canada and even Kentucky to name a few. DHL could benefit from incorporating this globe trotting image into branding and communications.

Shipping internationally can come at a cost – a cost reviewers weren’t thrilled to shell out on. Customers were more likely to mention the topic of money, using words like ‘price’ and ‘fees’ to describe their aversion for expensive deliveries. DHL should provide more explanation as to why the extra costs are needed. Some fees are related to customs and not shipping, DHL should state more clearly that those are unrelated to their service.

Comparative text analysis can show you how a brand stacks up against competitors, revealing insights from an audience that you didn’t even know existed. Relative Insight can compare any sets of qualitative data – whether it’s review data like we’ve just seen, or data from your social media listening tools. We can compare survey results or even transcripts of customer service calls to reveal the differences and similarities in topics, words, phrases, grammar and emotion from people you care about.

To make a long story short, The US Postal Service is friendly. FedEx delivery drivers are careless with packages. UPS is late. And DHL is pricey.

While you’re here, you might like:
Is there a difference between how home workout brands talk vs their customers?
Comparing online marketplaces through the language of seller forums
What can I learn from social listening data?

Put our technology through its paces – give us a call to see what we can do with your data, or contact us using the form below – it is 2020, after all.

By Michaela Kilgallen - Content Marketing Coordinator