CHICAGO, Dec 16, 2008 - Shipping holiday packages to family and friends once required a trip to the post office and a long wait in line.Instead, December is now the busiest time of year for online shipping. To identify which online shipping site was easiest for casual holiday shippers, User Centric, Inc. ( http://www.usercentric.com), a Chicago-based user experience research firm, compared FedEx, UPS, and the US Postal Service.
"We wanted to see how well the major carriers take care of consumers who do not regularly ship packages," said Wendy Yee, a director at User Centric. (None of the carriers are User Centric clients.)
During the three-day evaluation (December 9-12), User Centric compared the carriers' online registration process, cost calculators, shipping forms,ability to schedule a package pickup, and payment process.
User Centric noticed that the US Postal Service site -- although streamlined and suitable for consumers -- experienced significant reliability issues. Five separate attempts were needed over three days to complete a single shipping transaction on this site.
Although FedEx and UPS were generally comparable, User Centric selected UPS because it took a more consumer-friendly stance on payment information. UPS did not require payment information until final shipping costs had been calculated. In contrast, FedEx required payment information during registration, before final shipping costs were offered.
"It seemed somewhat unfair to ask consumers to provide their payment information before final shipping costs were available," said Yee.
UPS also permitted users to schedule a pickup using online tools, while FedEx requested that the final request be made via phone.
For the full evaluation, complete with detailed comparisons and images, download PDF.