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.
The Essential Right of Self-Haul
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.
Multi-Tiered Move Management
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.
Natural extensions of our core strengths
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
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.