DPD is now the UK’s leading domestic parcels carrier, with 10 consecutive years of profit growth. It has more than doubled turnover since 2013 and 2019 was another successful year, with turnover up £72m to £1.38bn.

This put DPD at number one in the B2C parcels market, although the company does not include Royal Mail in this league table because of its large letters volume.

“We are number one in the domestic B2C market in terms of revenue,” says Tim Jones, DPDgroup marketing director. “We are number one in other ways too – we have topped the Money Saving Expert annual poll for eight years in a row and more than ever this year consumers have endorsed DPD by some distance as the best carrier in the market.

“That says two things – we have the spontaneous awareness, so when you say ‘parcels’ people think ‘DPD’, and also people rate the quality of what we do because the poll rates carriers from ‘great’ to ‘poor’.”

DPD has noticed rising awareness of its service levels among consumers. “The pandemic has made people even more aware of who is delivering to them,” says Jones. “The relationship on the doorstep between the driver and the consumer is bigger than ever. The pandemic has highlighted to people how important home delivery is and how much they rely on it.”

During the pandemic, DPD has delivered to more than 1.5 million new home addresses for the first time ever, because 45% of consumers have bought something online for the first time that they’d only ever bought in-store before.

Tim Jones DPD UK Nov 20

“It is something people look forward to,” adds Jones, pictured. “When you’re stuck at home, the stuff that is getting delivered to you is usually something good that you want. With our consumers and their children they know exactly when we’re coming so they can watch the countdown and greet the driver at the door.

“We know this from the amount of messages we get, the snacks pinned to doors and drawings by children. There is a lot of love out there for our drivers!

“Likewise, we love it when a local community values its DPD driver so much that they ask him to switch on the town’s Christmas lights, which is exactly what happened in St Ives, Cornwall last December. You can’t really put a price on that kind of emotional engagement.”

DPD delivers over 300 million parcels per year from 84 depots for 7,500 active customers, including leading brands such as ASOS, John Lewis, Selfridges and Next. Around 70% of DPD’s top 100 customers have now been with the carrier for five years or more. A survey in January 2019 of these largest customers found that 92% were “very satisfied” or “satisfied”, 93% were likely to remain a customer, and 68% would recommend DPD.

“It’s not always the case that our customers put 100% of their volumes with us for a whole range of reasons,” says Jones. “They would want to offer their consumers choice between next-day or a deferred service. There also might be some items sold by retailers that we don’t carry. We are less concerned about what percentage of their volume they give us than what percentage of what they give us we deliver right first time.”

Rise and shine

In 2018, DPD launched Project Shine, designed to put the shine back on DPD’s performance after what it admitted was – by its high standards – a below-par peak in 2017. This involved going to see its major customers and all of the directors spending time on the shop floor.

One of the outcomes that improved performance in 2019 was the DPD Intelligent Operations Centre (IOC), a 24/7 team drawn from different parts of the company. “The IOC has become a really crucial function within the business, especially during the pandemic,” says Jones. “It helps us plan early and implement planning based on joined-up thinking between different teams. It helps in all kinds of unusual situations, not just peak, and has been one of our best initiatives in recent years.”

Small differences

A strong theme to emerge from DPD’s regular meetings with customers were requests to “put some cherries on the cake”, “come up with marginal gains” and “make the consumer experience more personalised”. One of them commented: “It’s the ‘tiny noticeable things’ [TNTs] that separate the truly great companies from the rest”.

As a result, DPD took customer closeness to a new level in 2019, with a series of small but significant initiatives to improve its doorstep experience. It did so using Design Space, a group of what was then 45,000 regular users of the DPD app, which had been downloaded by six million people in 2019 (a figure now approaching 10 million) who are willing to help DPD improve its service.

“This number is probably now closer to 60,000 people, making it by far the industry’s biggest focus group of people who are actively buying online,” says Jones. “We want to get ideas to give our customers a better service. One of the reasons for using Design Space is that they are the people who experience our service on the doorstep, who look at the app, who look at the tracking and the nuances, and suggest ways to make it better.

“We aren’t going to reinvent the wheel and most of the suggestions are small tweaks to what is already a good experience. It enables us to go to our customers and say ‘This is what your consumers want, do you want us to do it?’ That is the final piece of the jigsaw.”

Several TNTs were launched in 2019:

  • Prove yourself – this means you can use a bank card instead of a utility bill to prove who you are when collecting a high-value parcel from a DPD site;
  • Message the driver – allows consumers to contact the driver with useful information;
  • You’re next – alerts a consumer when the driver is five minutes away, so that they can listen out for the doorbell. DPD sent 750,000 messages in the first four months;
  • In-flight – consumers can make changes to their delivery once it’s already out on the road and in 2019 a massive 22.4 million parcels were diverted to a neighbour or a DPD Pickup shop, for example, using this service, including 747,000 in the pre-Christmas cyber week;
  • Rate my driver – consumers can now give instant feedback on their driver and the doorstep experience they’ve received, enabling DPD to reward and recognise its highest-performing people.

“It is hard to say which of these had the biggest impact, but my hunch is it was the ‘You’re next’ notification,” says Jones. “The comments on that were ‘Yes, the app lets me see when the driver is coming, but it would be really handy to have one last notification when I’m next’. It is just getting down to that last detail to make sure they never miss the delivery.”


This marginal gains approach to customer care produced DPD’s best-ever service level of 98.95%, as well as powerful testimonials from both shippers and shoppers. These included this from a major retail customer: “The commitment we make to our customers is, ‘For us, it’s personal’ and DPD has been our preferred delivery partner for over five years because it helps us deliver on this crucial part of our brand promise.”

DPD’s record-equalling five MT Award wins in 2020 put the company (including its previous incarnations Parceline and Interlink) on 34 wins, one ahead of previous leader TNT. This fulfilled a long-held ambition for management and the company made a big noise about it among its 22,000 employees and 12,000 registered customers. “We are very proud of it,” says Jones.

Pandemic like 'Christmas every day'

While the 2020 Motor Transport Awards focused on 2019, well before the coronavirus struck, the long periods of lockdown since February 2020 have been described as “like Christmas every day” for the home delivery sector. How has DPD coped?

“It required rapid investment,” says Jones. “We quickly drew up the plan outlining how we needed to scale up. We had already planned to put in five new depots in 2020, but that became 15. Luckily we have a very good director of technical services who looks after all our property. They had to get out and find 10 additional sites that could be quickly converted into a fit-for-purpose depot.

“We are not just talking about sheds – our business is automated even in the depots. So we had to find the sites, get the automation and IT in, and crucially recruit the people capable of doing the work. Then finally we had to buy the vehicles.

“This is all done in-house by specialist teams with the full backing of our shareholder – it all added up to a tidy £200m of investment. That has given us the long-term platform to keep growing as the extra people and depots are now a permanent addition.”

The deadline to enter the 2021 MT Awards is 9 April. Go to the website for full details on how to enter.