Wheaton Van Lines, Inc.

Commitment to Customer Satisfaction Yields Measurable Results


  In 1945, Earnest S. Wheaton founded a company with two fundamental values in mind—service and responsibility. Wheaton World Wide Moving has grown and changed over the years, but the organization still prides itself in its historical foundation. 

From the start, Mr. Wheaton wanted to create a customer-focused company. He always said, "If you take care of the customers and provide consistent quality and dependable service, then growth and success fill follow." Customer satisfaction was very important to him and it is still ingrained in the company's DNA.

Wheaton also prides itself in being the only employee-owned van line in the United States. As partial owners, associates are very conscious of their responsibilities. And, they know that every communication, whether it's with customers, agents or vendors, affects the company's reputation. This customer-first philosophy is the cornerstone of Wheaton's success. Every employee takes great pride in ensuring that each customer has a positive relocation experience.


Brands Rooted in Quality, Attention to Detail, and Service

While Wheaton Van Lines, Inc. maintains their focus on the customer, they are also growing so they can serve even more customers. In February 2012, they announced the acquisition of Bekins Van Lines, Inc. Established in 1891, Bekins is one of the best known and valued brands in the moving and storage industry.

Together, Wheaton World Wide Moving and Bekins Van Lines offer private and corporate domestic and international household goods relocation services as well as special commodities and logistic services. Headquartered in Indianapolis, it is now the fourth largest household goods carrier in the United States.

While each brand brings a unique approach to the sales and execution of private and corporate relocation, both are rooted in quality, attention to detail, and customer service. The synergy between the brands, as well as easy access to quality drivers and equipment from both fleets, provides unique operational efficiencies.


Fulfilling the Promise

In a competitive industry, companies need to differentiate themselves—being one of the largest isn't enough. Wheaton realized they may not always be the least expensive option, so they made a commitment to quality and service. They also recognized that they must fulfill their brand promise, "We Move Your Life," each and every time—and that all it takes is one contact for a customer to make a decision about the company and the brand. Every move counts.

Coincidentally a few years earlier, David Allen, Manager of the Customer Service Department, researched customer service training programs for his department. His focus was on raising the bar, even though satisfaction scores were adequate at the time. But, he knew they could be better.

Previous training programs they tried had little impact—they turned out to be just a temporary "flavor of the month."  According to David, "I wanted the department to have a direction, philosophy and a goal.  I wanted to find something with a service mindset that I believed in and that I could champion." He knew they needed a long-term program with staying power, if they truly wanted to excel.

Fortunately, while David was reviewing customer service programs, one of their sales reps was visiting Cartus—a third party relocation company and an industry leader in global mobility, which has also embraced MAGIC throughout their entire organization. During that visit, Cartus invited the sales rep to attend a MAGIC seminar delivered by one of Cartus' certified MAGIC facilitators. And… he was impressed. 


MAGIC® Fits the Bill for All Associates

With ringing endorsements from Cartus and this salesperson, Wheaton contacted Communico and scheduled a pilot two-day workshop. The audience for this first session was their Customer Service department along with key decision-makers in the organization. The entire group was engaged and excited about the potential of this practical and measurable training. The new tools in their MAGIC toolbox could be applied immediately. "They could not only make an impact on how we serve customers, but also on how we communicate with our drivers and agents, or anybody for that matter," noted David Allen.

The decision was clear—invest in MAGIC and integrate it throughout the entire company. Wheaton decided to have two associates certified, so they could conduct the workshops internally. David Allen and Karen Carson, Manager of Customer Service, volunteered immediately. They also agreed that the first session needed to involve managers and supervisors. It was critical to get their buy-in and support up front to really shift the culture. Since that time, two other associates have been certified to help train the new staff since the acquisition.

They also realized that their agents and drivers are the faces of Wheaton World Wide Moving and Bekins Van Lines—and they have the most contact with customers. Given the thousands of drivers and hundreds of agents, a different training approach was needed. Partnering with Communico, they designed an online program that could be accessed via their internal corporate website. The feedback on this required workshop has been very positive, and customers are noticing the difference.


Measurable Results and a Contagious Atmosphere

By the end of 2009, all corporate employees had been through MAGIC training, and every manager and supervisor was trained in MAGIC Coach. This experiential workshop not only provides a proven coaching model, it also prepares participants to develop the skills, abilities and potential of others.

And, the impact was clear. In 2010 and 2011, there was a significant increase in their customer satisfaction rates. This was remarkable given that many of their agents and drivers had not even completed their customized online MAGIC training.

Equally important, there were some noticeable changes. Associates felt more confident and empowered to handle customer complaints and resolve issues.  MAGIC also amplified the positivity and desire to assist others; core values of Wheaton's culture. Wheaton has a new atmosphere…and it's contagious.

Determined to keep the MAGIC alive, creative options were designed to reinforce behaviors as well as the culture shift.
 

Refresher Training

The e-workshop developed for agents and drivers is also used as a refresher course for corporate employees. All associates are required to complete this training annually, to keep their MAGIC tools sharp. 

A one-day in-person refresher course is also being developed. Once complete, all employees will attend this session to enhance their skills, particularly with their toughest customers.

 


Sharing Customer Compliments

Whenever the organization receives complimentary feedback on any employee, agent or driver, they always pass it on. These accolades are called, "MAGIC Moments"—and the entire organization looks forward to passing them along (and to receiving them as well!). It's a simple, no-cost, yet powerful way to recognize someone who made a difference; and it helps reinforce the myriad of ways to make a great impression.


Integrate MAGIC in Performance Reviews

To ensure consistency in behaviors and alignment across the company, MAGIC is part of the performance review process. Each associate is rated on his/her demonstration of MAGIC behaviors with not just customers, but with coworkers too.


Coaching Reinforces Behaviors and Attitudes

Developmental coaching conversations are common throughout the company. Wheaton feels this is a vital practice to sustain the MAGIC philosophy and environment. Supervisors and managers schedule these conversations and really listen in a way that allows their associates to grow and flourish.
 

It's The Wheaton Way

In the early years, Mr. Wheaton would sit down at his desk and read all the customer surveys out loud. Today, Wheaton Van Lines, Inc. still cares about each and every customer. According to President, David Witzerman: "It's the Wheaton Way. We think beyond the boxes and do more than move your belongings…we move your life."
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