The Challenge of Valuation and a Positive Customer Experience at Wheaton | Bekins

At Wheaton World Wide Moving | Bekins Van Lines, there is both a critical opportunity around the challenge of valuation countered by a mission to educate its customers−all focused on one goal: A memorable customer experience.

Stephanie Linville, director, market intelligence, quality & training at Wheaton World Wide Moving | Bekins Van Lines, talked to Loyalty360 about this topic.

“Customers count on us to do everything we can to ensure the safety and protection of their belongings, and caring for these items during a move is one of Wheaton | Bekins’ highest priorities,” Linville explained. “However, in the event that something unexpected happens during a move, we want to ensure that our customers’ belongings are adequately protected.”

Valuation is the amount of liability a moving company will accept for the value of a customers’ goods if damaged or lost while in the moving company’s possession. Valuation is NOT insurance, and this is what is confusing to customers, Linville noted.

Federal law allows interstate moving companies to limit liability for loss and damage by offering what is known as “released rates.” This means that in exchange for paying a lower rate, the customer releases the moving company from full liability and instead allows the moving company to limit its liability. The limited liability level is regulated by the Surface Transportation Board (STB), and this rate is currently set at $0.60 per pound for each item. Based on this liability structure, moving companies typically offer two different rate levels: Higher rates for full-value protection and lower rates for limited liability protection.

The language related to these federal laws, which is also typically used by interstate van lines in communicating with customers about valuation, is written in legal jargon solely from the van line perspective and is focused specifically on limiting the company’s liability and, therefore, is not very customer-centric, Linville added.

“A pain point in the overall moving experience is that customers need to be aware that choosing the released rate (i.e., the lower cost) option significantly reduces the replacement value of the customers’ belongings should there be any loss or damage during transit,” Linville said. “A better way of discussing this topic with customers and the current approach used by Wheaton | Bekins is to frame the levels of valuation protection in terms of actual dollars relative to the weight of customers’ belongings during transit.”

For example, Linville said, the $0.60 per pound liability level typically would not cover the actual value of expensive electronics, such as a flat-screen television weighing twenty pounds (20lbs. x $0.60 per pound = $12.00) or valuable artwork, such as a marble statue weighing ten pounds (10lbs. x $0.60 per pound = $6.00).
“This method of conveying information about valuation is in direct response to customer feedback we received when researching this topic,” Linville added.
Unfortunately, Linville noted, many customers do not anticipate and/or include the cost of moving expenses when budgeting for their relocation. After paying for closing costs and mortgage/realtor fees, customers, who see very little differentiation among moving companies, are often basing their moving decisions on price and not overall value.

“Our challenge is trying to educate these price-sensitive customers that it is in their best interest to not only choose a high-quality moving company like Wheaton | Bekins but to also purchase additional protection in the event the unexpected happens,” Linville said. “From a sales and customer service perspective, these conversations are delicate ones to have with customers, especially when trying to establish trust and discussing the handling and transit of their cherished belongings.”

To improve the overall customer experience, differentiate its brands, and increase customer loyalty/brand advocacy, Wheaton | Bekins has recently or is currently in the process of:

Revising its websites and sales collateral to better educate customers on the topic of valuation and to better set their expectations.

Using customer personas (based on our customer research) to train salespeople on how to effectively communicate to our various customer segments about the many benefits of full-value protection.
Encouraging agents to sell full-value protection with every estimate for moving services as opposed to allowing the customer to opt for the minimum coverage mandated by law.

Training agents on packing best practices that safely protect customers’ belongings during transit and ensure a positive moving experience.

“A few of those activities are particularly challenging, due to the fact we are working with nearly 600 salespeople who are not Wheaton | Bekins employees, but who are employed by a large network of 350 agents across the country with their own business strategies and processes,” Linville added. “Providing a consistent customer experience is a priority for Wheaton | Bekins, and we are investing in additional resources to ensure all of our agents and salespeople are thoroughly trained in educating our customers on this important topic.”

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