I was having a conversation with our sales and marketing team the other day and we spent a lot of time talking about changes in the moving industry over the past decade. Driver and capacity shortages, busy season challenges, increased industry competition and tax reform, as well as changes to our corporate clients’ mobility programs, all have had an impact. However, I reminded our team that our business always goes back to just one thing: creating lifelong customers. Our clients count on us to make their employees happy, and productive, as they venture across the country (and sometimes the globe) to start a new chapter in their career.
What’s Changed in the Moving Industry?
Topping the list of industry challenges is the fact that there are fewer household goods truck drivers on the road today. This affects all of us in the corporate mobility industry, especially during the busy summer months. We estimate that about 60% of interstate moves occur within the four months of May, June, July and August. Fewer drivers means fierce competition for drivers, which results in increased costs for moving companies and increased rates for our corporate clients. It is our belief that van lines with a reputation as a great place to work, that offer steady work year-round and competitive compensation, will continue to attract the best of the best when it comes to drivers. Therefore, it becomes incumbent upon us to continuously seek out the very best in drivers across the nation, and equip them with the tools and the training to create Lifelong customers!
Over the past decade, competition for household goods moves has increased from freight companies. These companies, who misleadingly present themselves as household goods movers and online moving brokers, can be confusing for customers who are looking for a quality household goods mover. While these competitors have brought some capacity to the market, there’s a vast difference in working with a freight company to move treasured household goods across country and a professional household goods driver who has been moving families’ most valuable possessions for decades. Many customers don’t realize that our drivers treat your belongings like they are their own, because if they break or lose something, they are responsible. If you compare that responsibility to a freight company that will pay 10 cents per pound for damaged or lost items, you start to get an idea of the difference in quality when dealing with a professional.
What About Capacity Issues? How Does Busy Season Impact Capacity?
Busy season in the moving industry is May 15 – September 15, although it seems to get more condensed every year. (Peak season can end as early as mid-August, depending on the housing market, military moving volume and an individual agent’s quality scores with large corporate clients.) The busy season “phenomenon” is driven by the school year and summer breaks; most parents choose to move when their kids are out of school to limit the disruption. At the same time, demand for houses peaks driving home values to a premium. Increased demand for moving services during the summer months only exacerbates the driver shortage. Fewer drivers means fewer truckloads of household goods can be transported, while new legislation about hours of service and electronic logging devices means that fewer miles can be driven each week. Because the demand for moving services is at its highest point and capacity is finite, it’s important to get any moves that must occur during the summer months scheduled early or as soon as possible. Getting that box checked and a move confirmed on the calendar means less stress for everyone involved, and during busy season, that’s a big win for mobility pros and their corporate transferees.
The Capacity Impact on Industry Pricing and the Value of Trust
For many years, despite fewer drivers, prices continued to decrease. However, over the past year, capacity issues have reached a tipping point and pricing has started to trend in the other direction. I think pricing is relatively a non-issue, since pricing across the board remains relatively consistent among the reputable van lines. Sure, you can always find someone who will move your employees for less, but when it comes to relocating your valued team members and their families, I think the key question is this: Which do you value more – trust and reliability in a moving vendor partner, or low upfront costs with poor service? Smart companies realize that cheap moves ultimately have high costs. Poor service during a relocation leads to lower employee engagement, distractions, decreased productivity and even a lower likelihood of accepting relocations in the future, which can compromise the company’s growth strategy.
Our customers, the companies who hire us to handle their corporate relocation business, fall squarely in the first camp. For them, trust, reputation and reliability are significant factors when trusting a vendor to take the very best care possible of employees and their families as they embark upon a corporate relocation. Quality work is what matters in the corporate mobility and moving industry today as much, if not more than, it did yesterday.
LifeLong Transferees and The Power of Customer Review
Driver shortages, capacity, pricing, trust—our conversation with the team touched on all these things, but it inevitably came back to what I think is the most important thing of all—lifelong, satisfied transferees and the power of a customer review. Moving is one of the most stressful times of an individual’s life, and when you add moving a family into the equation, it’s even more stressful. Our company, our team, and our drivers play a big role in helping transition a transferring employee or a new hire into a new phase of their lives. It’s an adventure to be sure, but it’s also one that’s fraught with stress and uncertainty. One thing I tell my sales and marketing team over and over again is this: It no longer matters what you say, or what we, as a company say. What matters is what our customers say about us and that matters a great deal! That’s the power of the customer, and their experience with their transfer or corporate relocation.
We make it our business to ensure that our customers want to be ”lifelong”, that their household goods are expeditiously and safely delivered to their new homes, and that they and their families can start their new lives in a new location on the right foot, surrounded by the things they love. That focus on the customer, and our commitment to delivering the very best in customer service is evidenced by the reviews that we get from our customers. For those of us in the moving business, those reviews and those customer referrals, are incredibly important. They are the reason our corporate mobility customers come back for each and every new hire or transferee they need to relocate. Because those customer reviews, and the stories our customers tell about their experience with us, tells us everything they need to know: We can be trusted to take care of their most precious cargo—the belongings of their people and their families.
In summary, while it’s true the moving and corporate relocation business has changed, that’s true for pretty much every business these days. Times change, things change, and it’s incumbent upon us to change with them. But one thing remains constant: Lifelong satisfied customers are the very best end result—in the moving business and in every business. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this front.
Elise Benedict-Howard is the CEO of University Moving & Storage, based just outside of Detroit, in Farmington Hills, Michigan, with five locations in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. One of the few woman-owned, women-led moving and storage companies in the United States, the company has a stellar reputation in the moving and storage industry. Benedict-Howard and her team at University are committed to customer satisfaction and creating lifelong relationships with their customers. Obviously, her formula, and her mantra of “Every call counts and every customer matters,” is a key element of her success. University routinely leads the way not only some of the highest customer satisfaction scores, but also some of the highest quality scores in the moving and storage industry.