Atlas Amplifier — Summer 2003
A lot is changing within the Atlas organization, as the company undergoes a repositioning of a name steeped in tradition. And as Senior Vice President Dennie Lynn explains, the commitment to household goods transportation is changing as well. It's getting stronger.
Dennie Lynn, Senior Vice President
Relocation Services Group
Amid the fanfare of the new Atlas brand and the values of integrity, quality, and solutions, a casual observer might be tempted to ask, "What about household relocation? How does the new identity affect the company's long-held commitment to moving and storage?"
The physical movement of personal belongings has always been the core strength of our organization. As Atlas develops the new brand, the company is especially mindful of the special role this strength plays, for it is vital to the satisfaction and well being of customers. In this light, the new Atlas brand is not only compatible with our dedication to household goods transportation, it provides a worthy frame of reference for furthering the company's core strength in ways that will add new value for customers.
When people undergo relocation, they naturally experience anxiety. For some, the stress can be extremely acute. As a primary service provider, Atlas plays a vital role in the relocation process. It is a big responsibility to make each move as stress-free as possible, and one important method used to accomplish that is the "right of self-haul." Every booking agent has considerable prerogatives for providing a total transportation solution from origin to destination.
Agent self-haul plays an essential role in helping customers cope during a naturally stressful time. It allows the customer to be served by the same people throughout the move. Key to the customer's reassurance is the Atlas family of dedicated van operators who serve as the primary repository of the customer's trust. Atlas drivers are among the most knowledgeable and experienced in the industry. They, more than anyone else, define Atlas for customers.
Yes, Atlas has broadened its brand identity to give agents greater freedom to enter the relocation marketplace at points other than van line services. But van line services are still at the heart of the Atlas organization. And Atlas is still solidly committed to the self-haul concept and providing customers the best possible service.
As everyone in this industry knows, things can get a little crazy between May and September. Although the recent cooling of the economy has taken some of the heat off these months, there are still times during the summer season when demand challenges capacity. When that happens, it's "all hands on deck" to handle the volume and meet critical deadlines. That is a certainty in the relocation business.
During periods of peak activity, smaller shipments, typically two tons or less, present a logistical challenge. In the past, when direct service was not available, the only solution has been to remove the customer's belongings from their residence and temporarily warehouse them at an Atlas agent's location awaiting over-the-road service. Then, if traditional van service does not become available within a reasonable time frame, the goods are containerized for safe transportation via common carrier to the Atlas destination agent, who removes the goods from the container and delivers them to the customer.
Agents and customers have said there is a yearround need for improved service and more expeditious routing of small shipments, and we agree. To accomplish that, and to offer an additional service option for our customers, we have assessed the processes utilized during peak season and determined that improvements can be made that will yield two significant benefits for everyone involved. Initially, if we eliminate double handling of the goods by containerizing them at the origin residence, we dramatically reduce the risk of damage. Then, by pro-actively planning the containerized movements of these small shipments in advance, as opposed to delaying that decision until some point later in the process, the delivery schedule for those shipments can be shortened considerably. In the end, everyone wins.
The solution Atlas is developing, "Containerized Express Shipping," will utilize a network of designated agents in selected major market areas during an initial test period, until the process is refined. The agent at origin will load the customer's goods into an internationaltype container at the origin residence and return it to the warehouse. Then, Atlas will provide the operational support to ensure the shipment is loaded and delivered in a timely manner to the Atlas agent at destination, who in turn will have been pre-arranged to perform expeditious delivery to the customer.
Atlas is in the process of finishing the fine points of this model, and will begin testing the program in April. We are confident it will improve our claims experience on smaller shipments and result in more expeditious transit schedules as well. The advanced planning and containerized transportation of small shipments significantly improves service to the customer, and it makes good business sense.
To meet the expressed needs of agents and customers, Atlas is also formulating another product offering. Essentially, because move management needs vary from one customer to the next, we want to give customers the flexibility of selecting those solutions that best meet their individual requirements. With that in mind, Atlas has defined three tiers of services from which customers can choose any or all.
Tier one involves fundamental move management and customer service communication links, beginning with the initial pre-move customer contacts to assess needs and continuing on through the packing, loading, and delivery processes. This function will include considerable communication with all participating agents, operations staff, and the hauling driver to ensure that the customer is provided timely and accurate information, as well as immediate assistance when needed, throughout the move. These are critical in maintaining customer confidence.
The second tier encompasses a broad range of services including,but not limited to,vendor management, transportation policy or RFP development assistance, and the auditing of invoices. Atlas has a wealth of administrative expertise that can save customers both time and money. We want to make it easy for them to take advantage of Atlas resources in any number of ways.
Tier three includes the real-estate transactions and services, similar to those provided by our affiliate company, Cornerstone Relocation. Among those are home sale assistance, home search at the new destination, and career, community, and family assistance programs designed to help relocating families quickly resume their lifestyles.
The addition of services such as containerized express shipping and tiered move management adds value for our customers. Put another way, these services represent an ongoing commitment to building the Atlas brand at its very heart.
Atlas will always have a dedicated infrastructure of people, equipment, and systems to handle the critical transportation components of relocation. The newly articulated commitment to integrity, quality, and solutions does not diminish Atlas' strength as a transportation provider. Rather, it only makes us stronger.