It was in the late 1970s that business first came across BS 5750, the forerunner of ISO 9001. Since then British and ISO Standards have provided a continuous underpinning of business life. But what is the real benefit of Standards? In particular, how can movers make more money by having recognised accreditations? Steve Jordan talked to Chris Waymouth of QSS to find out.
Today BAR (British Association of Removers) has 419 members of which 212 have become certified to one of the suite of removals Standards. That means that over half of the BAR membership has at least one certificate hanging on the wall saying what a fabulous job they do. The tally is increasing as every week goes by. But is having the certificate enough? Surely it is what you do with that accreditation that really matters.
Chris Waymouth is Chief Executive of Quality Service Standards Ltd (QSS), a wholly owned subsidiary of BAR and the organisation charged with assessing members of the moving industry against relevant BS, EN and ISO Standards. Chris said that companies choose to have their services accredited for a number of reasons, including staying ahead of the competition. “But mainly it’s because they believe that holding a Standard will make them more money in the long run,” he said.
Commercial and corporate moving
The benefits are, to some extent at least, dependent on the type of business you are in. It was in the early 2000s that the CMG (BAR’s Commercial Moving Group) spotted the writing on the wall. They worked very hard to develop the BS 8522 Standard and then made it compulsory for every CMG member to comply as a condition of membership. This gave all CMG members a unique sales proposition. Membership of the CMG soon became a requirement on many tender documents for commercial moving. “Professional purchasing managers needed to make sure that their supply chain won’t let them down,” explained Chris. “In this case customer demand was the driver.”
The CMG Standard was a great success. “It changed things because the CMG did a fantastic job of promoting it,” explained Chris. “Purchasing managers only had to select a CMG member to get all the credibility they needed.” In the same way, ISO 14001 and ISO 27001 are being increasingly specified because it is essential for large organisations in particular to demonstrate compliance throughout their supply chains. “Our industry holds a huge amount of personal data, including national insurance numbers, phone numbers and passport details, that have to be exchanged with others especially during an international relocation,” said Chris.
Chris explained that he often gets calls from companies that need a Standard in a hurry because they have realised that a contract requires it. Even contracts that have been held for many years can be updated requiring the supplier to hold a Standard. One of Chris’s customers had been working for a large bank for years, then was required to hold an appropriate Standard to verify his service. “How soon can we get it?” the customer pleaded. “The tender is due in.”
So, if you are in the commercial or corporate market, you will be at a serious disadvantage if your services do not comply with a recognised Standard. You probably won’t even get a chance to quote.
If you are in the private market, however, the argument might not seem quite so obvious. Private local and international moving is still price driven but that could be changing. Don’t forget that most private movers also go to work. If they are continually working with ISO Standards at their office they will become familiar with them and are more likely to demand them from their domestic suppliers. At the very least they will know what they mean.
The key thing
But underlying all of this is another, much more important benefit. The benefit of a Standard is not in achieving it and being able to hang a certificate on a wall, it’s the process. “It’s not just having the Standards it’s the effect they have on your company that makes the difference,” said Chris.
The process itself makes you more efficient, more professional and, as a result, will allow you to make more money. “Doing a Standard teases out all kinds of inefficient sometime conflicting practices,” said Chris. “It shows up duplication of effort, gaps in communication and unnecessary work. The work flow, the way information is passed through the system, can be adjusted to make sure the right people have the right information at the right time. It streamlines the whole process and ensures that everything is done as efficiently as possible.”
So it’s not having the Standard that matters, but what you had to do to get it and how much better your customer service is as a result. Better by far than the company up the road that has not had the same forensic inspection of, and professional input, to its operational systems.
But you need to make sure your customers understand that the Standard really means something. It means that you communicate well, there are fewer misunderstandings, your packing is better because your crews are trained better, your facilities and equipment are first class so they won’t break down, and your internal procedures are as efficient as they could possibly be. Of course you could do all that without an ISO Standard but you wouldn’t have Chris and his team helping you, benchmarking you; what’s more your customers will have nothing to judge you by.
“All the Standards bring efficiencies in what everybody does whether it’s through training, simplification or better communication,” said Chris. “That’s what can and should be sold to the customer. The logo is just the outward evidence.”
Will your company be able to increase its profits? Clearly yes, and in three ways. You will save money by being more efficient. You will have the opportunity to tender for accounts from which you might otherwise be excluded. You have a sales proposition, of which the public is becoming increasingly aware, so you should convert more jobs at better prices.
The public will pay
But everyone know that moving is price driven and the public won’t pay more! Chris believes that they will, if you sell it right. “The industry has always been bad at selling because the barriers to entry are low and everyone gets dragged to the bottom,” he said. “But people do understand the difference between value and price, you just have to explain the benefits to them properly.”
Most moving companies work on low net margins relying on volume of work to make a decent living. If the opportunities created by having a recognised Standard allow companies to make an extra 5% profit, for many their bottom line would be doubled. “Even if you just add £10 to each job it would make a significant difference at the end of the year and nobody would notice or care,” said Chris.
Chris advises everyone who has a Standard, or is thinking of getting one, to consider their motives. Why did you do it? How has it benefitted your company? How are you going to make your customers understand the benefits? He said that they are missing a trick if they just put a logo on a letterhead and do nothing more. “If you go for a Standard, make sure you have objectives,” he said. “Set targets. Measure your results. Make time to tell your customers what the Standard means to you and how it allows you to do a better job for them.”
BS, EN and ISO Standards are available to all moving companies, not just BAR members, for removals, storage, self storage, international moving and commercial moving. There are also the generic Standards such as those for information security management (ISO 27001) and environmental quality management (ISO 14001). There are others too. It is quickly becoming the norm to have a recognised Standard and those companies that do not are beginning to stand out for the wrong reasons. The professional moving industry has forever been blighted by the influence of the low cost operators. Perhaps the rise of the Standards culture is, at last, providing the opportunity for the cream to rise to the top.
For more information contact Chris Waymouth on: Chris.Waymouth@bar.co.uk
Photos: Chris Waymouth
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