Reader Question: I am a member of the management team of a mid-size relocation company. Our meetings cover the same topics every week; cutting costs, client retention, internal HR issues, and problem properties. I feel like we spend too much time talking with each other, and that we are stagnating as a result. My question is this; What can we do as an organization to break out of the pack and improve our outcomes?
Monty’s Answer: Relocation companies exist to efficiently manage the process of relocating employees from one location to another. Ensuring the satisfaction of the employee and his or her family during what can be an emotionally charged experience is an equally high priority. Here is food for thought from a past work experience.
A true story
One of the most gratifying accolades our company ever received came over a year after we had taken on a new client. We had worked many years to attract this client. The vendor they used was a much larger competitor, but finally, David conquered Goliath. In our first annual review the human resource manager shared that “Relocation issues never come up in our staff meetings now,” and, “You have saved us in the low seven figures in our relocation costs. We are truly amazed.”
Our success in outperforming the industry on customer service and total relocation cost management as demonstrated in the story above was based primarily on our core competency and our partnership operating philosophy. Our team developed the following “Best Practice” features for the company that included:
Emphasis on quality policy design. Many relocation issues can be avoided or minimized with a properly designed relocation policy.
Emphasis on quality staff. Experienced staff and innovative thinking allowed the company to generate service and cost advantages for our clients every day. Our track record of low turnover resulted from an open and trusting work environment that promoted continuous learning.
Emphasis on staffing ratios. The company practiced preventative thinking and benefited from it by using lower than industry norm staffing ratios. Fewer files allow relocation counselors the time necessary for quality analysis and therefore judgments on critical issues such as contract negotiations, marketing strategies, pricing strategies, and more.
Emphasis on appraisal management. Determining the value of each home is a key cost driver in the relocation industry. The company utilized unique insights and appraisal review processes to manage this process efficiently.
Emphasis on inspection management. Condition issues are another key cost driver in the relocation industry. We recognized this importance by focusing quality staff time and resources to effectively manage this issue in a cost prevention manner.
Emphasis on issue anticipation. The intangible nature of relocation service requires outstanding judgment and decision-making. The company focused on anticipating issues at the earliest stages possible which allowed for the most cost-effective solutions.
Emphasis on a partnership philosophy. The company viewed our role as an element of our client’s relocation department which caused us to advise clients based on their best interests instead of our company’s best interest. The consequence was outstanding relocation cost management results.
Willingness to challenge industry norms. Innovation and industry-leading performance require the readiness to challenge industry norms. Our organization was a leader in benefiting from home inspections, continued use of deed-in-blank, fully disclosed fees, and other client friendly practices.
Our company philosophy is simpler to read than to implement. Regular training sessions, often one-on-one, and reinforcing our philosophies on-the-job takes time and patience. Here is a story to demonstrate:
Our new client brought a home into inventory that had been on the market for over a year. The circumstances evolved into an excellent teaching opportunity. When the house initially went on the market a leaking Exterior Finish Insulation System (EFIS) issue had been disclosed, an estimate obtained, and a credit established to cover the repair after closing.
Our analysis of this house concluded the front of the home contained two additional types of siding which created an undesirable appearing property. We consulted with a designer and accepted estimates from contractors to replace the EFIS and the two other siding types. An “as complete” market analysis that demonstrated to the client that by completing these repairs the likely sale price would more than recoup the repair investment, sell the home quickly, and reduce inventory.The home sold for the projected price within a week of completion.
Your task here requires insight, guidance, and helpful leaders, but your meetings will no longer be stagnant.
— Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money - An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He is a real estate industry veteran who advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Ask him questions at DearMonty.com.