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Customer Input Drives Moving Company Selection

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2009 – The Defense Department is shifting the way it selects the civilian companies that move servicemembers and defense civilians to new duty stations by focusing on customer service rather than on cost.

Officials now rank companies’ performance based in part on input from people they’ve moved. Servicemembers and defense civilians are asked to fill out a 12-question survey after the move is made.

The customer input gives military transportation offices a new measure for determining which movers are used and how often, said Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Bradley, deputy chief of staff for personal property for the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

“The survey was determined to be a way to get servicemember feedback on improving the quality of service they get from the mover,” he said. “It came from a quality-of-life issue where people said they didn't like moving or the moving process, and [that] it was difficult and should be better.”

The survey is completed online. Customers receive an e-mail message with a link to the survey after their household goods are delivered at their new duty station. This input gives them a direct voice and an opportunity to improve their quality of service, Bradley said.

“Basing part of the transportation acquisition services on customer feedback forces moving companies who want to stay active in the program to focus on servicemembers,” Bradley said.

The survey is one of three factors used to choose and rank moving companies. It’s the cornerstone of the “best-value acquisition” program the Defense Department is shifting toward to better accommodate servicemembers, he said. Moving company rates and how well the company handles servicemember claims for lost or damaged items also determine which companies are used and how frequently.

Each survey is used for a year to determine the overall quality of the mover. Although the Defense Department has been collecting the data since November, Bradley said, participation in the survey hasn't been as high as he and personal property representatives would like. Only about 20 percent of military members who used military-contracted transportation companies have participated in the survey.

“It's absolutely key that the servicemembers take their time and fill out that [survey], which is quick -- it's only 12 questions,” he said. “We just want to get a sense of [whether] it's a good mover or bad mover and go from there.

“As you can imagine, the moving industry wants to be evaluated on 100 percent of the surveys, not 20 percent,” he continued. “They beat us up pretty well to get the survey-return rate up higher to establish a good basis of who’s good and who's not.”

Moving companies also review the surveys. Movers will be issued warning letters if they receive too many low ratings and survey scores. The more warning letters a moving company receives, the further down the list they move among preferred moving companies. Poorly ranked companies will be used less frequently, and eventually will be removed from the list all together, Bradley said.

“Servicemembers and [Defense Department] civilians now have a specific way to influence how many shipments a mover can get,” he said. “If you're in the lowest [ranking] for long, you're eventually going out of business. But if movers are great, we want to reward them with more shipments, so other servicemembers can get a quality move as well.”

Bradley acknowledged that most people dislike participating in surveys, but stressed the positive effect this particular survey can have on military members and civilian moving companies.

"Surveys are frustrating, but this one has an impact on your quality of life," he said.

The survey scores have been used to calculate mover rankings since November, but the survey itself has been available and collected since spring 2004. Defense employees who don't receive the e-mail prompting them to fill out the form can go to http://www.move.mil/ to complete the survey.

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Related Sites:
U.S. Transportation Command
Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command
Defense Department Household Goods Portal


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