We are in the service industry; we do not produce better laptop computers, higher performance motor vehicles or any other product that could be measured in sales, we sell service, and service is based on skills. Our companies rely on a “team” effort, from sales, to operations, to lead people, down to the newest helper. That team is interdependent on each other and like a chain, is only as strong as the weakest link.
Education, whether in the field or in the classroom, is vital to the wellbeing of the team, with good and bad points associated with each teaching atmosphere; hands on training can expose deficiencies to the customer, (nobody wants to pay you for training your employees), and slows down your process although actual skill practice in the field can be an excellent learning atmosphere. Classroom training can become expensive as there is zero billing occurring during the class time although there is little risk to negative exposure to the general public.
Speaking of education, how many of you advertise your service providers as “trained” and how do you justify that? At what level do you consider your labor to be trained, and what skills do you guarantee proficiency in? Approximately 40 million people will move this year and 32 million will move themselves, 8 million people will use some form of mover service and while that does not translate straight across as 8 million moves, the number is still substantial. What do you and your organization offer above “a strong back and weak mind”? If labor is all that is required, why should a potential customer employ your services as opposed to staffing labor and a rented truck? Your company has to be more professional than that option and must create the perception as well, not just to your customer but to the public in general, everyone is watching, everyone has a camera, and social media can kill your reputation if situations go awry in public. Positive perception of your service is critical to your success and untrained labor will kill that positive perception.
“Knowledge is power” Sir Francis Bacon (1597)
What is a lack of knowledge; A hindrance, a liability, a risk? When do any of these concepts migrate into the “benefit column”? My mom once told me, “being stupid may not get you killed, but it’ll make you sweat an awful lot”. I don’t know where she learned that from but it is something I have remembered my entire professional life and have shared with others, especially after we have witnessed ourselves or others performing tasks that were not nearly as difficult as we made them to be. As I grew in the industry, I often wondered if I was embarrassed or relieved when someone showed me easier ways pf performing basic tasks.
Let’s look at some topics that could add to your crew’s preparedness.
Do you have an Orientation Process for new hires
New workers enter into your organization, are they introduced to company philosophy? Do’s and don’ts may vary from company to company, does anyone take the time to explain your position, requirements, and needs? Where do they park, work area, restroom facilities,f irst aid kits, on-time expectations, dress, grooming rules, acceptable / unacceptable behavior, office etiquette, breakroom rules, shared office space rules, or any other situation that has arisen from the past. Don’t just rely on an employee handbook, this is someone you may have around for a long time, invest some personal time.
Do you have a particular set of standards / required behavior regarding customer service?
Is the customer always right, or the reason we have a job? How are conversations conducted with customers and by whom? Do you have protocols for curious or questioning by your customer? Do you train on a variety of potentially embarrassing situations that may arise on a job or do you just keep your fingers crossed that nothing will happen? Do you address:
- Damage on the job to customer belongings?
- Damage to customer residence?
- Allegations of theft?
- Allegations of a sexual nature?
- Smoking at origin / destination?
- Customers setting up the crew, (planting cash, jewelry, drugs, etc)
- Allegations of drinking or drug use?
- Allegations of lack of effort or professionalism?
- Customer refusing to sign off or pay at end of the job?
- Confrontational customers / Family member’s infighting? (that’s fun!)
- Inebriated / “high” customer?
- Unsanitary / unsafe conditions
- Embarrassing personal items?
- Customer pets/children
- Customer residence manners (i.e. restrooms, water, break times)
- Customer neighbors and visiting family members and their behavior
- First impressions, including the confidence of the customer.
- Services that may not be available and how it is presented.
- At origin, all paperwork and processes explained to customer. Special needs identified.
- At completion, all documents signed, all damage noted, no shortages the customer can get on with their life.
In all these cases, you may choose to let your lead person deal with this and it may be the right call or not, if not, you not only get to deal with the original situation, but you may also inherit the fallout from a poor decision by your crew leader in the field. What would be more effective, finger crossing or discussion of these points with the old adage, “call operations”?
Do you maintain general public protocols?
- Do you require your vehicles to maintain a professional appearance.
- Do crews dump trash, tape balls, dunnage, from cargo area every day?
- Is equipment strapped off, straps rolled up, all pads are folded neatly?
- Is trash emptied daily from passenger compartment.
- Are pre / post trip inspections performed, damage reported?
- Are trucks chocked when parked in public.
- Is area around the truck “policed” prior to departure?
- Everyone knows about “catcalling”?
- Everyone knows about “road rage”?
- Everyone knows about where not to park? (i.e. outside a bar, adult video store, etc.)
How about vehicle and equipment safety standards?
- Do you train for pre and post trip inspections?
- When was the last time you saw a hood/cab raised in the morning?
- Do your workers know how to check slack adjusters?
- Do you have tread depth gauges available? Do your workers use these?
- Do you have spare tail and brake light bulbs, clearance and marker lights?
- Do your workers inspect their walk-boards, do they note loose trim or worn surfaces?
- Do your vehicles carry specified equipment?
- Do you leave equipment on O & I moves for customer convenience? Is it noted?
- Do any of your trucks require cardboard underneath to catch oil drips?
- Is your crew embarrassed to bring dirty worn pads into customer’s homes?
- Do you inspect cabs after hours?
- Instruct on lockout / tag-out of equipment, proper (legal) ladders?
- All reflectors, safety flares, spare fuses are in the vehicle and where they go.
- Safety procedures to protect the general public. (example: walk board safety)
- Fire extinguishers, first aid kits, accident or injury reporting.
- Do your workers know what not to say following a vehicular accident?
This is the first article of three (3) parts presented to appeal to your sense of preparation, I, by no means wish to imply that these are all the topics that should be covered nor do I wish to infer that all these examples would apply to you or your organization. I have worked for many different moving companies over my 42 years in the industry and have personally witnessed the ensuing confusion for each of the previous examples and the angst it generated between lead people and their crew as well as Operations, Sales, upper management, as well as customer/clients and national accounts. Part 2 of this series will cover physical acts of moving and storage, Part 3 will implement crew development as well as developing “Lead People”.
There’s an old saying about paying for something now versus paying for something later; keep in mind, paying for something later usually has added cost.