Improving the service quality of ocean container carriers: an Indian case study

Vanumamalai Kannan (Department of Management, Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, India)
S.K. Bose (Department of Management, Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, India)
N.G. Kannan (Lubrizol India Pvt Ltd, Chennai, India)

Benchmarking: An International Journal

ISSN: 1463-5771

Publication date: 19 October 2012



The purpose of this paper is to assist ocean container carriers in their service quality improvement strategies to ensure breakthrough performance in India.


A total of seven container carriers have been involved in this study. To explore the list of service criteria, reviews of transportation literature, customer satisfaction survey questionnaires of container carriers, SERVQUAL battery, telephonic interviews and focus groups were conducted. For data collection, a shipper satisfaction questionnaire was administered. After data collection, a mean score analysis using SPSS 15 was taken up to assess the present service performance levels of the select container carriers. Then a performance gap analysis was carried out using the gap analysis formula found in the benchmarking literature.


Out of the 48 service criteria which decide the service quality of ocean container carriers, Maersk is the top performer in respect of 23 criteria, both Hanjin and MSC are top in eight criteria each, Evergreen is top in five criteria, APL is top in four criteria and CMA CGM is top in two criteria. Hapag has not scored top in any of the criteria. The gap analysis shows that APL needs to improve 44 areas in which it has shown negative gaps, CMA CGM needs to improve 47 criteria, Evergreen 45 criteria, Hanjin 47 criteria, Hapag 48 criteria, Maersk 40 criteria and MSC 43 criteria to become excellent.

Practical implications

This paper has enabled container carriers to understand the list of criteria that decide their service quality in the Indian container carrier industry. It has also informed them of their present service performance levels, and their areas of strengths and weakness. This will help them in efficient resource allocation. Understanding the areas and sizes of negative gaps, they can take appropriate steps to close them and become excellent.


This is the first service quality improvement study undertaken in the Indian container carrier industry and it has opened up enormous scope for future research.



Kannan, V., Bose, S. and Kannan, N. (2012), "Improving the service quality of ocean container carriers: an Indian case study", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 19 No. 6, pp. 709-729.

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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