Moving forward Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2008

Packing up and moving is stressful for anyone, but Tom Marshall aims to make it less so by training his 220 employees in the art of customer service.

To improve customer satisfaction, the chairman and CEO of Andrews Moving and Storage measures both the quantity and the quality of his employees’ work, which develops a healthy competition among the staff.

“Everybody likes to be recognized for doing a job well,” Marshall says. “This gives us a great platform to do just that. [And] everybody gets a chance to be recognized or retrained — the flip side to that.”

Marshall’s commitment to service helped the 100-year-old moving company reach 2007 revenue of $30 million.

Smart Business spoke with Marshall about how evaluating employee performance is like rebalancing your investments and why you shouldn’t just give up on an underperformer.

Q. How do you measure employee performance?

We try to find two or three measurements that will affect almost every function that somebody could be employed with here. They’re reviewed either monthly or quarterly, depending on the measurement matrix.

For example, you may be measuring someone’s volume of service. They may be handling a lot of account contacts in our office. We try to balance that so that each of our counselors has a fair workload. That’s a measurement that is pretty easy to come by.

We also do extensive surveying of our customers, both in written form and by phone follow-up by a third party, to determine their level of satisfaction with our service. So we can measure that quantifiably.

There is always the danger of if you’re measuring just speed, that you’re sacrificing service. We try to balance those measurements so that somebody who’s handling high volume also has to recognize the quality service matrix we’re measuring to balance their performance.

Q. How do you measure quality of service?

We want our customers to get us information back. We work hard and spend a lot of money to get that feedback.

You might say it’s like rebalancing an investment account. You want to make sure you’re not focused only on one segment of that performance.

We’re such a service-oriented, hands-on kind of a business. I don’t want to say that if we were in manufacturing, it would be easier, but we’ve got crews all over the country responsible for shipments all over the world.

There are a lot of deviations in what the service norm might be based on the circumstances our customer has found themselves in.

In our household division, there is a form that we mail to customers. It involves over 50 questions based on service they received. We always feel gratified just that they return it. Even at that, our return ratio is a little south of 30 percent.

We don’t think that’s enough of a sampling, so we use a phone follow-up, with a goal of trying to reach 70 percent response. That’s a more stable platform to measure from.

That’s one benchmark. There is a lot of detail involved. You measure so many different aspects. The trick is — and anybody who is in customer service knows this — is when there is a service issue, it’s generally not the first cause that you’re identifying as the real cause.

You’ve got to drill down to find the real cause — to find out what really needs to rectified or adjusted. It’s not just, ‘The truck was late,’ but why did it happen? You have to back down until you get to the real reason. It might be a software issue.

Q. How do you handle it when employees don’t hit their benchmarks?

In most cases, they may not be aware or may not have clearly identified the root cause of the problem.

When scores come in or when we see a trend or a lack of productivity, we’ll review that with the employee. If it gets to a point where it’s becoming a problem, we’ve got a formal program that we’ll put in place that will allow the manager to give the employee more focused retraining with 30-, 60- and 90-day timelines for that employee to improve performance. The program is targeted to areas in which the employee needs to improve.

We’ve got a lot of people, and we haven’t had to implement [the retraining program] very often, but when we have, it allows the employee to know we’re giving them the opportunity to improve and not just cutting bait.

There is a formal review process twice a year. The key is constant communication throughout the year. Those two formal periods, once in June and once in December, serve as a platform to talk in deeper detail about your issues and review your goals. Everybody has goals set up at the beginning of the year. Those are reviewed monthly, quarterly and formally during the review process.

HOW TO REACH: Andrews Moving and Storage, (330) 656-8700 or www.andrewsmoving.com