Canada’s household movers can get a bad rap — and not all the complaints are deserved.
Such businesses account for six times more fake reviews submitted to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) than any other industry, says Mary O’Sullivan-Anderson, the bureau’s president and CEO serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. The organization spikes about half the related reviews submitted overall, largely because the comments can’t be traced to actual jobs.
“Often times, the fake reviews are part of the business model,” she said of a strategy embraced by less-scrupulous competitors, during a presentation to the Canadian Association of Movers. “That’s who you’re going up against.” And many online rating platforms (we’re talking to you Google and Facebook) don’t invest the time to screen out the false claims.
There are still times when haulers in this corner of the trucking industry fall short of expectations, though. More than 10% of the related BBB business profiles earn an F. “That’s pretty significant,” she said. Across every business sector, the average share of failing grades is closer to 2.3%. And while moving services no longer appear among the Better Business Bureau’s Top 10 scams list, they continue to hold a space among the Top 10 sources of complaints.
Ways movers can improve
O’Sullivan-Anderson sees this as an opportunity for the $1.4-billion industry, where the Top 4 players account for one-third of the work and 2,530 companies battle it out for the rest.
“Moving can be stressful for a lot of people, and if you company has a reputation that stands out with value and trust, that might give you a little bit of an edge in the marketplace,” she said.
Some common themes emerged after BBB analyzed 675,000 sentences in 43,000 complaints and negative reviews.
- Lateness and slowness – Three in every four moving-related BBB complaints and negative reviews mention time factors, such as arriving late, loading more slowly than expected, or delivering goods late. Communication can solve many such issues, she said. “What we really need to do is back it up a few stops and tell the customer when it will be delivered.”
- Overcharging – Four out of five complaints include narratives around classic cons, where businesses ask for more money once a job begins, often doubling or tripling estimates.
- Rudeness and harassment – About half of negative narratives about movers mention rudeness or harassment, often referencing “extortion” by teams.
- Unresponsiveness – Nine out of 10 complainants refer to poor communication, unanswered phone calls, and emails that disappear into cyberspace. “When something goes wrong, you have the opportunity to make things right,” she said. “Empower your staff to make things right.”
Customer experience tends to hinge on money, performance, time, communication and emotion, O’Sullivan-Anderson said.
In terms of money, she recommends examining how price changes, cancelations and billings are addressed. Such issues involve honoring commitments, she said. And if the scope of work is changing – because of something like a homeowner who failed to empty out a garage as promised – the situation can be discussed, a new quote drafted, and an updated document signed.
Performance, time and emotion
Business owners also have complete control over performance issues, she added, referring to factors such as the way equipment is maintained or employees are trained.
“When customers are happy, it usually means the company is reachable and provides accurate, helpful information. When communication breaks down it can cause stress,” O’Sullivan-Anderson explained, noting why communication is so important.
There’s an added advantage when staff see such care and feedback in action, she said. “That’s going to make people stay and want to work for you. That’s going to create loyalty.”
Managing a customer’s time, meanwhile, is also connected to communication. Most of the complaints that cross her desk can be traced back to a breakdown in communication when something goes wrong.
Ultimately, many of these issues are tied to business ethics. Every hidden fee, unfinished job, insult or late service will cause issues. “Make that small print really large,” she said of the contracts.
It is, after all, a difficult day for everyone who is having household contents packed and moved.
“You are working with people who are already working at a highly emotional state,” she said. Homeowners will spend a great amount of time thinking about messages from a stager, but pay little attention to those who are moving all their worldly belongings.
“There’s a number of reasons why people are moving,” she said. “It’s not always a positive experience.
“Anything you can do to actively increase the credibility of your business, I think, is a good thing.”
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