December 28, 2011 by Frank Peditto
As we end 2011, we reflect on where the relocation industry has
been and where it’s headed. Rather than pontificate ourselves, we reached out
to one of the foremost experts, Ms. Peggy Smith
, Chief Executive Officer of
for a candid interview. Here’s what she had to say.
Question: According to the latest Worldwide ERC Transfer and Volume Survey
(2011), relocation activity began to increase in 2010 and is expected to
continue to grow. What do you see for 2012 in terms of relocation growth and in
what areas (new hires, experienced, global, types of industries, etc.)?
Ms. Smith: I keep saying that flat is the “new up”… meaning, of course, that
we feel fortunate as an industry if we can maintain and not lose any traction
that we’ve gained in the last year or so. From an industry perspective, we’re
hearing that volume will be up modestly. I was pleased to see that in a recent
survey of hiring intentions that the U.S. hiring outlook for early 2012 appears
to be the most promising since 2008: it noted that 14 percent of employers expect
to add to their workforce in the first three months of 2012.
Question: Coming from the corporate sector, you have a strong history in the
relocation industry. How do you feel the industry has changed, if at all,
permanently due to the last three to five year of economic challenges?
Ms. Smith: There’s more customization of programs and policies – this serves
two purposes. First, it allows a company to individualize assistance when possible
for the range of employees and needs that we have in the workplace today, and
it also helps control costs by “sizing” benefits appropriately to either proven
or untested talent. There’s more incorporation of mobility within the talent
management structure. And there is certainly more change coming in worldwide
mobility patterns based on a country’s commitment to growth and corporate
Question: Employee reluctance continues to rise, primarily due to the real
estate market and the fact that one in four Americans is underwater on their
mortgage. What top three strategies have you seen at Worldwide ERC of how
corporations are working with employees to mitigate these challenges?
Ms. Smith: One significant shift we’ve seen is that pre-decision counseling
programs are now an integral part of the domestic relocation process. Some of
the other ways our member companies changed policy include incorporating
“incent to rent” programs, property management services at origin if a family
decides not to sell; and the development of long-term commuter benefits (e.g.,
so that the employee can continue to live at their current location, but
commutes back and forth to the HQ as needed).
Question: As an organization, what do you feel is most valuable as a resource
in today’s economy to your membership? What tools make the most impact to them?
Ms. Smith: The ability to benchmark within the mobility industry is very
powerful. For our corporate and government employer members, we have two
benchmarking forums – one for global and one for U.S. issues – where, 24/7, our
employer members can pose a question and get responses in seconds from their
peers – that’s a phenomenal benefit in our rapid-fire environment. Because
investing in training in a tight economy is a concern, we have gotten great
response to our webinar series, where a member can access a free or moderately
priced webinar and invite multiple employees to attend. We have opened our live
meeting programs on a complimentary basis to corporations who haven’t attended
within the last 3 years so they can experience our conferences… and it expands
the corporate community and mindshare for other corporate and relocation
members. We’re also expanding our government relations resources, which are
already searchable and accessible online, to address more global issues in
addition to the strong base of U.S. information we have.
Question: With the ongoing advent of technology and the ability for employees
to work from anywhere in many positions, telecommuting has continued to grow
over the past ten years. Do you feel that this will have an impact on
Smith: Good question! The short answer is “yes.” There
is no doubt that the ability to work remotely changes the scenario for an
industry where physically moving someone to the job has traditionally been
necessary to achieve a strategic outcome. Time will show us the full effect of
technology on the mobility industry, and I believe we’ll see a creative mix of
traditional and new work options. We’ve seen some work structures that are a
product of our current business environment: short-term assignments and
extended business travel are a couple of the most prominent. And telecommuting
is gaining ground as more employees have the ability to effectively work at a distance
with the technology we have today. But the other side of this issue, as most
employers will tell you, is that not every job can be executed well at a
distance, no matter how sophisticated the technology. So much of what must
happen on the global front, for example, is relationship-driven, and we need to
recruit and manage talent with a global mindset who can forge fresh business
channels and partnerships for a company in a new frontier.
Thank you to Ms. Smith for taking the time to
participate in our blog this month and share her views and expertise with our
team. We appreciate your insight and your time. In short, the relocation
industry is one, like many in today’s economic climate, which is changing.
Unlike past cycles where there are more ups and downs, this period of change is
more of an evolution where the process is changing and the dynamics of relocation
We wish all of our readers a very Happy New
Year and we look forward to 2012.
November 4, 2011 by Frank Peditto
I never imagined writing a blog post
on whether or not to ‘tweet’, but, as Twitter
continues to grow, it’s a
question more and more individuals and businesses alike are asking themselves.
It’s hard to believe that Twitter, which now reports over 100 million active
users and more than 350 billion tweets per day, launched just over five years
If you follow us (@ReloTrans) on
Twitter you will see that we have about 150 followers, which in the Twitter
universe is extremely low. But, our numbers continue to grow, so we remain
optimistic of its potential long-term value both in terms of brand exposure and
also potentially customer service. After all, according to Pew Internet
Research, 13% of online adults are using Twitter – a percentage that rose 5%
from only 8% in just six months. And, during that same time period, use of
Twitter amongst adults 25-34 more than doubled from 7% to 19% and it rose from
8% to 14% with adults 35-44.
While I was, like many, skeptical of
this online medium at first, a marketing friend of mine encouraged me to create
a Twitter account for my company. As first, I protested saying that I didn’t
have the time or knowledge to tweet each day and also that our industry wasn’t
really engaged in social media. After a lot of additional discussion, I finally
gave in and ReloTrans was on Twitter. As I began I was tweeting once a day or
maybe twice and I maintained a laser focus on what I felt would be resources or
articles auto transportation specialists would find relevant. After scouring
the Internet regularly, I realized that there wasn’t that much regular news, so
I began expanding my daily reads to include information about travel and
transportation at large and then also the larger market of relocation and human
resources. Today, I begin each weekday morning with a cup of coffee and a scan
of several leading online sites that provide free content. When I find
something relevant to the industry, managers, small business executives, or the
community at large, I tweet it. It also educates me as I read each of the
articles prior to posting. And, in addition to sharing it on Twitter, it feeds
through to my personal LinkedIn account and it could feed automatically to our corporate
Facebook page as well.
What has been most surprising to me
is how easy it is. We use a free tool to schedule and send messages and through
that tool, Hootsuite, I can schedule and post to Twitter, Facebook and
LinkedIn. And, through sites like Mashable, I can stay on top of the current
trends and continue my education about the world of Twitter.
While we haven’t been able to
directly link any new business to using Twitter, I have found it to be a valuable
tool, not only to serve as a resource to our industry, but also an internal
resource as I have shared many of the articles I found while looking for
content for our Twitter account with our internal team.
Looking to get started on Twitter,
check out the Twitter blog and also the Mashable how to guide.
October 3, 2011 by Frank Peditto
In the transportation industry,
there are two primary types of companies, asset based and non-asset based. Asset
based companies are those that own their own equipment. For example, in the
niche of vehicle transportation, asset based companies own their own trucks and
their driver’s work for the parent company. All of the operations are typically
centralized through one primary dispatch. On the flip side are the non-asset
based companies, of which ReloTrans® is one. Typically referred to as ‘brokers’, non-asset based
companies do not own any of their own equipment, but rather partner with
numerous carriers nationwide and even internationally.
From a service perspective, asset based providers
may offer customers lower rates as they own their own equipment and, as such, sometimes
have more flexibility in pricing, especially if they have a driver needing to
get from one location to another and a customer with a parallel need. Some may
argue that asset based providers also have more control over the service
quality being that their drivers are employees of their company.
Non-asset based companies rely on their network
or database of providers, which allows them to be 100 percent customer focused
when selecting a carrier and driver for their customer. In many cases, they are
also able to obtain bids from multiple providers, all of the same quality, to
ensure that the customer receives the lowest possible cost. They are not
limited by physical equipment or ‘assets’ and their capabilities are scalable
based on the number of partners in their network.
While both types of companies have advantages
and disadvantages, our recommendation to customers is to select the company
that best meets their needs, not only in terms of the physical transportation
of goods or vehicles, but also in terms of their business needs in reporting,
communications and technology services. In this business it’s often said that,
‘you are only as good as your last move,’ and in today’s competitive landscape
that is even more true.
September 1, 2011 by Frank Peditto
Starting a new job is never an easy
task. It’s a daunting one for the employer as well as the new employee. Over
the past year, we have increased our overall team by more than 25 percent and,
while our team is thrilled to be growing, especially in the current economy, our
growth has forced our leadership team to take a closer look at our onboarding
While many large organizations have entire
teams dedicated to onboarding, in many small and mid-sized companies the
responsibility falls on the leadership team and a secondary team of
pre-identified trainers. Needless to say there are a variety of tools, top 10
tips, videos, white papers, checklists and more available online about onboarding,
but, being a company reliant on our service and our professional team, we have
found it more successful to build our own plan.
Over the past several months our
plan has evolved as each new employee has joined our team. We have paid close
attention to the individual, their background, and their new responsibilities to
not only reinforce a positive integration into the ReloTrans business, culture
and team, but also to ask them and the onboarding team for feedback and ideas
on how to improve the process for the next new team member. We have even included
new team members in our onboarding process as more employees join our
Even with our plan evolving over
time, there are a few basic keys to success that have worked for our
- Communicate with the new employee prior
to their start day providing them with:
- Who they will be asking for when
they arrive, where to go, and what time to be there
- A high-level schedule of first week
- If provided, a benefits package so
that they may review in advance and come in with either completed forms or
- The dress code and a bit about the
corporate culture of the organization
- In advance of their first day ensure
- They have functional phone and email
- Their desk is prepared and supplied
with basic office supplies, business cards, and a welcome card from the team
- The onboarding team is succinct with
who is doing what and when; a calendar is helpful
- Their immediate working team
understands the challenges faced being a new employee and is well-versed in
offering lengthier explanations etc. (for example, if your organization or
industry uses a lot of acronyms, having those explained)
- On their first day:
- Everyone knows their roles and
responsibilities for onboarding
- A tour is provided with initial
- Lunch is planned
- A leader is checking-in periodically
throughout the day
- Throughout their first month:
- Leaders are checking-in and ensuring
that they are on track in terms of both knowledge and comfort
- Additional social events are
scheduled; getting to know new team members is critical to the synergy of the
team, especially in a smaller organization
- Feedback is requested from both the
onboarding team and the new team member
- What went well, what can be
improved, and what was missing
- Support is offered
- Positive reinforcement is provided
- Feedback is requested
While some of these ‘keys’ are
practices that we should have with all team members, in busy times, they are
often lost. Onboarding is also a great time to bring your team together and
offer others the change to re-train or refresh certain skills.
August 3, 2011 by Frank Peditto
While most of us view relocation and
moving services as transactional services, we often come across stories that
demonstrate that the relationship developed between the transferee and either
the relocation company or the direct service provider runs much deeper and this
is one of those such stories.
Recently, we received an initiation
from one of our third party relocation customers to transport a vehicle for a very
senior level executive who works for one of their largest clients. We followed
our standard procedures and began working with the transferee and his spouse to
coordinate the specifics for their vehicle shipment. While a few of the
elements of the relocation frustrated the couple, we remained in constant
communication with them regarding the process and dates for their vehicle.
After the vehicle was picked up, the driver remained in close contact with the
transferee throughout the transit process and then phoned them on delivery day to
confirm the delivery location. A few minutes after that conversation, the
transferee received another call from the driver advising that he was having a
heart attack and requesting that they please call 911. The transferee and his
wife, already en route to meet the driver called 911 and then also located a
policeman, who followed them to the driver, where they together met the
All happening in a matter of
minutes, the driver was immediately taken to the local hospital and the
transferee and his wife followed, spending the entire afternoon waiting for
updates on his condition. Some four hours later the driver was released from
the hospital, only to be greeted by the transferee and his wife, who drove him
back to his truck and helped him offload their vehicle. Concerned, the couple
urged the driver to get some rest, but he insisted on continuing on and making
his other vehicle deliveries.
In today’s society, stories such as
this seem especially poignant and touching, as they are often the exception and
not the rule. In the end, the driver was fine, albeit exhausted and overwhelmed
from this experience, the transferee and his wife received their vehicle
without issue, and a new friendship was born. For our team, this story
demonstrates not only the service provided by our partners, but also reinforces
that, when it comes down to it, we’re all people, regardless of who is
providing the service and who is receiving it, and we all care about one
another’s well being.
July 6, 2011 by Frank Peditto
When we hired a marketing consultant
to assist us with our new website design in 2010, I was pretty surprised when
they recommended that we add a blog to our site. First off, I wasn’t sure how
it would positively impact our company seeing that we are primarily
business-to-business focused and within in a niche market. Second, I was
fearful of our team having the time and marketing background to create new
concepts each month and keep it going. After much discussion, and additional
education on my part of blogging and how it could help even a small, niche
based business, I conceded and the ReloTrans blog was born.
When I initially started blogging, I
was focused on keeping the content very industry specific, so I wrote about
some of our stories; highlighting key information for transferees from an
experiential perspective. As time went on, the team began to recommend other
topics including customer service, team leadership and transferee based
information. And, the blog continues to evolve today. After just over a year of
writing, I offer new bloggers, or those contemplating a blog, the following
- Shed the fear of committing to a
blog on your corporate site, regardless of which industry you service and what
your company does.
- Keep your blog open and write about
topics that are germane, but not limiting. I have found that it’s easiest for
me to write about something pertinent and also a topic that I am familiar with
and know well.
- Make your blogs about more than your
organization; let the business come to you and understand that blogs serve many
objectives, but they should not be focused on self-promotion.
- Offer tips and advice; this content
seems to draw the most attention as it is often the most relevant for your
- Ensure that your blogs are to the
point and keep the readers engaged.
- Use links to enhance the resource
nature of your blog posts.
- If you make the commitment to blog,
keep up with the schedule and work to post at least once a month, all the
while, keeping content fresh and on point for your industry and audience(s).
- Have fun and view blogging as an
extension of your personal expression and that of your organization. If it’s
not fun then it’s probably not helping your cause.
With a little experience under my
belt, I look forward to continuing this blog and expanding the topics in the
future. If you have any topics you feel would be interesting or that you would
like to see, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 1, 2011 by Frank Peditto
While it seems as though our business in the
relocation and moving industry is certainly coming back in 2011, there are
still many questions regarding the economy, housing market and unemployment,
leaving many small business owners, such as myself, with a lingering reticence
on spending. Of course, everyone knows that you have to spend money to make
money, but, as a small business, the ongoing challenge is where to make those
investments. There are so many marketing options available today: online/web,
social, print, and trade events to name just a few, and each have sub-elements
While online, web and social have measurable
returns or at least quantifiable ones, I have always questioned the value of
trade shows, especially over the past five years. My past experience with trade
shows has been that you ‘have to be there’ because if you’re not, your industry
often thinks you are out of business, and that most are filled with competitors
and not real business opportunities. With that said, being a non-asset based
management company, I also understand the value of our partnerships, so this
past month we packed up and headed for the American Moving and Storage (AMSA)
in Jacksonville, FL. With a new booth, some great giveaways and an open mind,
we set up shop and began to network with the 680 other industry professionals
in attendance. The sessions were informative and we did so much networking. I
was amazed at how many people came over to visit, say ‘Hi’, gather information
and see what ReloTrans is all about. I was even more surprised at
how many peers had seen our social media efforts on Twitter and Facebook, and
our blogs re-packaged on industry LinkedIn groups. I left that show with a
fresh perspective and a clearer understanding that, with marketing, you can’t
do just one thing or even a few, that everything needs to work together.
May 5, 2011 by Frank Peditto
It is estimated that an average of
44 million Americans move in the U.S. each year. According to the U.S. Census
one in six Americans move each year and the average American will move
just over 11 times in their lifetime. While many of these moves occur within
the same county or local area, a substantial portion are longer distance moves,
requiring the services of moving professionals, including vehicle
One of the biggest challenges we
face in the moving industry is the seasonality, with between 60 and 70 percent
of the annual activity occurring each year between April and September. In
fact, the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) named May ‘National
Moving Month’ to signify the beginning of the season. Anyone who has been in
the moving industry understands the seasonality and works diligently to prepare
for the increase in activity while not sacrificing service or capability.
Reflecting back on my nearly 20 years in the business, I share the following
recommendations for preparation and survival.
- Survey your clients: Meet with
clients during annual reviews and work to develop individual plans based on their
specific business objectives and predictions for the forthcoming year. Incorporate
these forecasts into your overall business modeling.
- Leverage temporary help: Design and
implement an operational model that allows for the engagement of temporary help
during the spring and summer seasons. A perfect opportunity for college
students and interns, your model must be built to allow for the separation of
administrative and back-office tasks (non-customer facing) providing your
experienced service professionals with the support required to effectively
manage an increased caseload without comprising service in any way.
- Prepare and train your team: Don’t
wait until the initiations begin coming in, but rather work with your team in
advance to prepare them for the process and train them on efficiencies and best
practices to allow them to effectively do their jobs and provide unparalleled
- Continuously invest in technology:
Work on your business as well as in it, remaining focused on improvement and
leveraging technology to reduce redundancies in workflow and automate any
non-critical manual tasks.
- Reward your team: Ensure that you
recognize the increased workload through internal kudos, pizza lunches,
complimentary half-days, etc.
Working in a seasonally impacted
industry is not easy and it requires a lot of knowledge, preparation and
flawless execution, but, if you know your business and engage and reward your
team, you will mitigate the volume with ease and position yourself for
continued growth in the future.
March 3, 2011 by Frank Peditto
Oftentimes companies are so focused on acquiring new business that
they lose sight of the true value of their existing customers. According to The
White House Office of Consumer Affairs
, the cost of acquiring a new customer
costs an average of five times more than retaining an existing customer. Add to
that the statistic from the book; “Leading on the Edge of Chaos” that a two
percent increase in customer retention has the same impact on profits as
cutting costs by 10 percent and the value of existing customers certainly
becomes a lot clearer.
According to a report issued by the Harvard Business Review, the
average company loses 50 percent of their customers every five years. A
standard business objective each year for most companies focuses on customer
retention, but what are the true keys to achieving that goal. As a smaller,
non-asset based company, customer retention sits at the forefront of our goals
each year, alongside the mindset that we are only as good as our last ‘move’.
Following are the top 10 ‘keys’ we employ in our organization to support our
clients and relocating employees and exceed our customer retention objectives
your employees well. Happy team members equate to happy customers.
your customers, both the clients and the transactional customers, and remember
that they are people first.
- Keep in
mind that you are a service company and your people and the service you provide
is your greatest asset. According to The White House Office of Consumer Affairs
each customer has a circle of influence of 250 people or potential customers,
which is likely even more in today’s environment with the continued evolution
of social media, who will hear negatives about your company if your service
does not meet your customer’s expectations.
yourself as a service professional from your work. Think of an issue in terms
of solving a problem rather than receiving a personal attack. Remember that the
customer is mad at and frustrated with the situation; it’s not personal.
to your customers. While we’re all faced with the need to multi-task, remember
that these are your customers and to truly listen to them and demonstrate your
respect for them you need to be 100 percent focused.
your customers feel special. Nordstrom started this in retail by walking your
purchases around from behind the counter. While much of the customer service
provided today is by phone, remaining focused and smiling, even while on the
phone, will translate and make your customer feel valued.
- Be a
step ahead. By listening and respecting the customer, you will be able to
identify opportunities to anticipate questions, needs or even issues and
present answers and solutions in advance.
beyond. Work in partnership with your customers and do one small extra thing.
Whether it’s an extra call, a gift card, or even one additional email
follow-up, it demonstrates your commitment to excellence.
humility. While this is reflected in many of the keys already mentioned, it is
still critical. A simple apology goes a long way and it can be as easy as
recognizing their issue or concern and just saying that you are sorry that they
are having that experience.
feedback. Survey your customers throughout the service delivery and post-completion
and make sure to share that information, positive or negative, with your team;
working to do more of the positive and using the negative to build internal
objectives or identify process improvements for the future.
February 2, 2011 by Frank Peditto
The last few months, I have focused this blog on
customer service, which is always critical in our industry, but this month, as
we prepare for the busy seasons of Spring and Summer, I am focusing on they key
items, or ‘Top 10’, that transferees need to know when they ship their vehicle.
So here they are, in no particular order.
- Make sure your transportation company has an active
phone number for you where they can reach you both at origin and destination.
- If your vehicle is not running, be sure and let your
transportation company’s counselor know as soon as possible.
- Do not cancel your insurance policy.
- Ensure that you have two complete sets of keys for
- Make sure that your vehicle is completely emptied of any
personal items prior to shipment.
- Replenish coolants etc. prior to shipment, especially
during inclement weather conditions.
- Disconnect all alarms.
- Remove any non-permanent items such as ski racks etc.
- Remove or retract any antennae.
- Have less than one-half of a tank of gas in the vehicle,
but ensure that it’s not completely empty (i.e. the gas light should not be
Share these ‘tips’ with your transferees and please
post a comment to this blog with any additional ones you might also recommend.