Avail Resource Management: Behind the Scenes

Nov 02, 2010

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Since its inception in 2004, Avail Resource Management has grown by answering clients with the "power of information and strength of service." The success of the business model has made Avail the fastest-growing Atlas subsidiary, serving clients with varying expectations.

Atlas created Avail Resource Management in 2004 as an independent subsidiary to compete in the move management arena. With Atlas world-class quality and technology infused in its corporate DNA, Avail positioned itself to bring clients the "power of information and strength of service." Customers welcomed this new service entity, and Avail has fared well in its first six years. It has grown tenfold, now numbering some 40 full-time employees.

"Avail's technology and processes are proven," says Atlas President and COO Jack Griffin. "But it is the people within Avail who deliver on our service promise, consistently."

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Darlene Duff
 is all about building relationships. Not the "here-today, gone-tomorrow" kind, but the long-lasting sort that grow stronger over time. And, she says, that only happens one thoughtful step at a time.

"Our team brings years of industry knowledge and behind-the-scenes experience," says Darlene. "Combine that with our measurement and reporting systems, and we have the best chance of meeting, and hopefully exceeding, customer expectations."

In some corporate cultures, the notion of personalized service is little more than a buzzword. Not so at Avail. Darlene says customized solutions are common, and they extend even to the choice of business partners.

"We work with select resources in our customers' markets to negotiate rates and commit to a standard of service," says Darlene. "We continuously monitor costs and audit invoices. If we find a significant variance, we first try to resolve it with the business partner. If necessary, we pursue other alternatives to maintain the expected level of cost and service."

While such efforts provide a valuable degree of control, long-term relationships offer customers the biggest dividends. "Over time, we gain a deeper understanding of the client's business objectives. With that understanding, we can suggest process improvements and efficiencies to help them save money and reach their business goals."

"With every successful customer experience, we increase our chance for securing a repeat customer." — Manager of National Accounts Darlene Duff


Laurie Fellwock
 is one of the hardest working people you are likely to meet. She has to be. As the "buck-stops-here" gal for all things military, her plate is full.

"Basically, the military expects a price and on-time delivery," says Laurie. "However, the member expects the details: packing and handling, assembly, disassembly. And timing is extremely important — there is very little wiggle room. Especially when a family is deploying to certain areas, they need to settle in quickly."

On top of everything else, a sudden and unanticipated expansion in military moves during 2010 called for "all hands on deck" to handle a surge in volume. Laurie says the experience revealed opportunities to close a gap between customer expectations and service. She believes educating clients on how the service chain operates is essential to their satisfaction.

"I think our biggest opportunity to improve service for military customers is in our communication with them," says Laurie. "So, we're working to help them understand our processes — for example, why we put multiple shipments on trucks.

We think we're good at keeping clients informed, but we're not satisfied. We have to become even better, and we're working on it."

How do you win and keep customers when their expectations are at all-time highs?

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"Customers want value," says Mark Haller. "We bring it to them, with a service-first attitude of flexibility. We are constantly juggling things to accommodate our customers. Changing dates is all part of the gig."

Avail's business model was designed for just such flexibility. "We're forever refining processes to produce predictable, repeatable outcomes... and to make moving as efficient and cost-effective as possible for customers."

Mark says work is now underway to document processes for registration according to ISO 9001 standards in 2011. It's yet another move toward greater efficiency, the goal for "all things Avail."

"We're a conduit between the account and the van line," says Mark. "If debris removal is requested, for example, we'll look for ways to complete that without a separate trip. We look for ways our clients can save, whenever and wherever we can."

"Expectations are so diverse, from account to account, we bend all the time," says Stephanie Shelton.

"It comes down to this: customers want quality service, flexibility to meet their requests, and a fair price."

"Flexibility is the ability to answer a special request quickly, accurately, proficiently." — Stephanie Shelton, Senior Move Management Coordinator

Flexibility is Stephanie's specialty, especially when it comes to reporting. "I received an e-mail this afternoon from a client who needs a special report for a meeting tomorrow morning. So, I ran it and sent it off. Back came a reply requesting more information. So, I made the adjustment and sent it back. Problem solved...for now."

Avail's reporting is popular with decision-makers, says Stephanie, because it provides live numbers. The information is always fresh, and it's easy for accounts to compare carriers and see which are currently most cost-effective in particular lanes.

Stephanie also wears a teacher's cap, educating carriers on what accounts expect. For starters, they need competence with the Avail Order Management (AOM) system.

"I lead them through AOM, step by step," says Stephanie. "And I follow up with them by e-mail after training. I make sure they understand the tools that are essential to their performance."

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