Telephone Interviews on Winter Services for Private Households in Germany

by Christian Kuhne (Author)

Term Paper 2010 37 Pages

Business economics - Offline Marketing and Online Marketing



Index of Figures

Index of Tables

1 Introduction
1.1 Context and Problem definition
1.2 Objectives
1.3 Methodology

2 Survey research with telephones
2.1 Standardized telephone interviews
2.2 Common errors in survey research and typical errors during interviews

3 The German market of winter services for private households

4 The questionnaire design

5 Survey results
5.1 The interviewed population
5.2 Attitudes to winter service obligations
5.3 Types of contract, service features and way of contract closure

6 Conclusion




Vertrag über die Durchführung von Winterdiensten

Telefon-Fragebogen zum Thema privater Winterdienst für Haus und Hof

Raw data results of surveys conducted

ITM Checklist

Index of Figures

Figure 1 Traditional winter service in Germany

Figure 2 Road accidents with personal injuries because of ice and snow

Figure 3 Number of winter services per season in Reutlingen

Figure 4 Gender Age Size of Household

Figure 5 Correlation of age & type of residence Correlation of age & income

Figure 6 Cross correlation of importance & age, Cross correlation of importance & car possession

Figure 7 Contractor duties, trigger of service, # of service calls per season

Figure 8 Analysis of payment basis, seasonal amount paid, potential lump sum cap

Figure 9 Interest to contribute, reasons not to do so

Figure 10 Cross correlation of lump sum cap & consideration to participate actively

Figure 11 Cross correlation of residence type and contract coverage

Figure 12 References, distance to head quarter, perceived quality of service

Figure 13 How the service is conducted

Figure 14 Resulting hour rates per contract

Figure 15 Hour rates as function of households per contract

Index of Tables

Table 1 Comparison of different survey research methods

Table 2 Numbers of frost and ice days in different regions of Germany

Table 3 Calculation of hour rates per contract based on potential lump sum cap

Table 4 Calculation of contract coverage

1 Introduction

1.1 Context and Problem definition

It probably happens in the beginning of every winter season in Germany - real estate owners, renters, administrations of owner communities and other groups on the liable side rethink their spending for winter services. Some will need just seconds and go for the last winter’s solution, but others will seriously consider changes or even take action to implement those. What is driving their decision?

The other side is the tenant, thousands of private households or the “consumer” paying for a service unavoidable linked to the winter season in Germany. This side most likely rethinks their spending when they get the annual receipt of operating expenses. There is not really an option they have to avoid or reduce the costs related to winter services. Moreover, those costs are not even related to direct consumption. So, do tenants look for ways to reduce costs for winter services? Do they see value in this service or how much they are willing to spend for it?

1.2 Objectives

The objective of this assignment is to answer the raised questions. To do so a precondition is to analyze the market of winter services in Germany according to general facts, types of contract, service features and way of contract closure. The investigations should be based on surveys research and secondary data.

1.3 Methodology

The assignment starts with a quick recapitulation of the basics of telephone interviews. In a next section the German market of winter services is reviewed using secondary data mainly from the internet and from public statistics yearbooks. In a third section the design of the questionnaire is described that was used to gather an initial set of data. The main part of the assignment is designated to the analysis of the telephone interviews. The conclusions section should give the reader possible answers to the raised questions.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1 Traditional winter service in Germany

Source: Ludek, http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Uklizen%C3%AD_snehu.jpg

2 Survey research with telephones

2.1 Standardized telephone interviews

Nowadays the standardized telephone interview is a widely used method in survey research. Zikmund provides a very comprehensive comparison of different methods in Table 1.

Table 1 Comparison of different survey research methods Source: Zikmund 2003 p 228

In a standardized telephone interview a centralized interviewer deployment allows a more close supervision and control. This has a positive effect on the quality of data collected. Further the work of interviewers becomes more accurate, potential sources of errors are reduced (Lavrakas 1993 p. 2).

There are a few disadvantages one should keep in mind. A motivation of the interviewee is almost impossible during the interview. There is no visualization in both directions, so that mimic and gesture can not be monitored. Finally a well established telephone network at the households of interests is required. (cf. Fowler 1993)

The computer assisted telephone interview (CATI) allows lowering the error rate further. Computer programs are used by the interviewers that guide them through the survey and allow an easy setup and administration of logical linkages between the questions in dependence of interviewee responses or other intentional dynamic modifications like rotation. The analysis of the data becomes much more easy and fast. The interviewer is disburdened from the interview structure. An immediate plausibility check of the collected data is possible (Fuchs 1994 p.54).

2.2 Common errors in survey research and typical errors during interviews

The sampling error is the most obvious source of error. It results out of a too narrow or small sample size so that there is no statistical evidence in the findings (Groves 1989 p.13).

If the sample composition during the survey is not representative it bears the danger to miss important parts of a population (like homeless people or others) that might be important for the specific survey topic. Such an error is called coverage error.

When the survey is conducted it might happen that not all sample subjects can be reached at the time or location of interest. In case those subjects can be characterized through common attributes it might result in an error called non-response error.

Another common error is the measurement error. It results out of insufficient standardization of the data collection process or mistakes during the interview itself. (cf. Biemer et al 1991)

Typical errors during telephone interviews can be grouped into the two categories of interviewer and interviewee errors.

The interviewer-bias occurs if the interviewer thinks to know what the interviewed persons might answer. The interviewer starts to moderate the interview rather than to mechanically conduct the interview according to the directives of the researcher.

The interviewer-fatigue sums up effects of decreasing concentration of the interviewer what results into modifications of the interview situation.

Selective listening is a third interviewer error. The interviewer thinks to know what the interviewed person answers what results in erroneous data registration.

Another rare but potential error is the partial or complete falsification of data sets. Often interviewers are paid per interview conducted. Modern controlling methods should help to discover obtrusive data sets.

On the interviewee side the most prominent error is the social desirability. That means answers are based on a perception of desirability rather than on the real situation.

If the interviewee answers with stereotypes e.g. if the interview situation is more and more uncomfortable for the interviewee, it is also called error of response sets.

Last but not least the refusal to answer or the interview abortion represent typical errors on the side of the interviewee. (cf Fuchs 1994 p.19ff)

3 The German market of winter services for private households

Winter services is nothing typical German, however, the extent of regulation in this area can be seen as another example of German neatness. Winter services can be defined as the observance of obligations to preserve road safety on public streets and ways. The obligations are based on a set of laws of the different German states and related regulations of cities and communities (Wichman 2009 p13). The obligation for winter services also includes the ways to the front door, ring, mailbox and garbage containers (LG Köln, Az.: 1 S 3/94). Exceptions are documented only for extreme weather conditions (OLG Hamburg, Urt. v. 24.03.2000 - 11 U 45/98, NJW-RR 2000, S. 1697). However, the burden of proof stays with the bordering owner (LG Berlin, Urt. v. 22.06.1998 - 58 S 549/97).

The extent of these obligations is defined differently by each community. However, the intention is always the transfer of liability for winter services of public streets and ways to the bordering owners of houses and real estate. Exemplary, the attachment section to this assignment lists the “Winterdienst-Anliegersatzung” of the town of Dresden (Dresden 2009).

Figure 2 shows the development of road accidents with personal injuries over the past decades. The positive trend can be related to better car safety systems but also to improved management and quality of winter services.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2 Road accidents with personal injuries because of ice and snow

Source: Own drawing, data taken from Statistisches Bundesamt 2009 p 440

It is important to note that there are many court rules in Germany related mainly to liability suits. Renters can transfer the obligation to the tenants, but the liability most often stays with the owners, as they can not rely on the correct execution of the duties through their tenants. Under these circumstances the liable side very often engages professional providers of winter services, as those can be hold liable. To do so, the contract between both parties settles the transfer of liabilities for damages, injuries and potential fines to the contractor. A typical contract is given in the attachment section - “Vertrag über die Durchführung von Winterdiensten”.

Obviously winter services are a seasonal business. Therefore providers often offer those as part of service packages, like facility management. This includes also cleaning services. The contribution of facility management to the German GDP was approximately 5% or 112 Bn € in 2008 with 4.1 Mio employees (GFMA 2009). The share of winter services to this amount is unknown.

Other typical service providers of winter services are traditional gardening enterprises (Garten- und Landschaftsbau), a combination that combines two seasonal businesses. In 2008 gardening services generated a revenue of roughly 5 Bn € with 90,000 employees. The share of winter services to this amount was approximately 30 Mio € or 0.6 % in 2008 (Galabau 2010).

The German Statistical Yearbook 2009 provides additional secondary data of sufficient validity (Statistisches Bundesamt 2009) to characterize the market of winter services for private households. Unfortunately it does not detail neither the spending of households for winter services nor their service spending in general. Most likely the range of service occupations is just too different. However, around 22,000 enterprises are captured through the German tax offices, whose occupation is described as “other unspecified services”. Those enterprises generated in 2008 a joint revenue of approximately 12.6 Bn € and employed around 780,000 blue collar workers (Statistisches Bundesamt 2009 p 461).

The yearbook reports further roughly 39 Mio private households in Germany. 33% lived in private houses, ~ 12% in semidetached house and the remaining 55% in buildings with three and more apartments. Approximately 22 Mio of the household were tenants. The majority of them (~ 80%) lived in apartment buildings. (Statistisches Bundesamt 2009 p 551)

Based on the previous elucidations one can assume that the majority of those 17.6 Mio tenant-households (80% of 22 Mio) pay for winter services that are performed or ordered by the renter.

Another aspect in this review is of course the winter weather in Germany. Table 2 shows numbers of frost and ice days in different regions between December and March. A frost day is defined as a day with a lower temperature limit of less than 0°C and an ice day with an upper limit of less than 0°C. The table shows under “a” the numbers for the winter season 2007/2008 and under “b” the numbers for the long term average. A quite simple assumption could be a snow fall on all of the ice days. This would require winter services on 14 days per season in the south west of Germany and on up to 26 days in the north-eastern part, or on average on 20 days for whole Germany.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Table 2 Numbers of frost and ice days in different regions of Germany

Source: Statistisches Bundesamt 2009 p 26,

3 ) Frost: Tiefsttemperatur in 2 m Höhe weniger als 0°C; Eistag: Höchsttemperatur weniger als 0°C

However, the number varies a lot year over year. Exemplary Figure 3 shows the development for the town of Reutlingen over several years.



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telephone interviews winter services private households germany


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    Christian Kuhne (Author)


Title: Telephone Interviews on Winter Services for Private Households in Germany