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Making the right impression

Oct 14, 2015
Shelley Slater, Web & Marketing Manager, John Bradshaw & Son in Manchester takes a trip on the road to find out how the crew puts customers at ease to help them through a stressful day.

Removal men around the world encounter the same core issue – how to build a relationship with the customer and smooth the process of moving house for everyone involved. I’ve discovered it takes a mixture of skill, diplomacy and the right kind of personality to master the art of client confidence.

I wanted to learn more about the relationship between removal men and customers, so I took the opportunity to shadow some of the removal men at Britannia Bradshaw International Removals & Storage in Manchester on a few jobs.

From the moment the removal lorry pulls up outside the customer’s home, the relationship with the customer begins. A knock at the customer’s door, a big smile and an introduction is the normal way a removal man’s day begins.

As we approached the customer’s house during one of the jobs I attended, Pete Ainsworth, a porter with Britannia Bradshaw told me: “The most important thing is to put the customer at ease.” As soon as the truck was parked, he was at the customer’s door, his characteristic smile shining for the customer – who was visibly nervous. He asked her about her move, engaged in a bit of chit chat and immediately found out one of her big concerns for the day was her nervous dog. Pete’s attention became focussed on ensuring the dog was comfortable with each of us, and distracted from what was going on all around. You could see the customer visibly relax as we interacted with the dog and Pete asked her questions about her move and where she was going.

The customer offered a cup of tea, which was a perfect opportunity to get to know her and how she was feeling about the move and what her needs were for the day. She was then much more comfortable when she showed Pete and the driver that day, Martin Niedziela, around the house to explain what was to be packed for her overseas move and what was not being packed. I observed how Pete and Martin’s welcoming, approachable and calming attitudes helped her to visibly relax as they spoke – she knew from their friendly yet professional demeanour that her belongings were in good hands.

As the day progressed, I noticed both Pete and Martin would check with the customer and make sure she was doing well – along with taking a few moments to play with the dog, helping to ease everyone’s anxiety about the day. Pete was based mainly in the same room the customer and her dog were based in, and spoke with her a lot about her new home, why she was moving there, and generally helping to bring out her excitement about her overseas move and the new life waiting for her.

A few weeks later, I then accompanied Martin and another porter, Mark Pennington, to a relatively straightforward local move. This time, the customers were most anxious about moving their fish – something that initially eclipsed everything else for them. As with Pete on the overseas packing job I observed, Mark was out of the truck the moment we pulled up outside the house and was talking to the customer with his typical smile and humour. He quickly discovered the fish were the customers’ biggest concern, and immediately addressed how they’d be moved and reassured the customers that he’d moved others with similar concerns before and they would do everything to ensure it all went smoothly.

The customers were stressing about their fish as the logistics of carrying out the move were being planned, and Mark engaged them several times, joking with them (including calling the over 6’5” tall Martin “Tiny”, just to elicit a laugh), breaking the ice and relaxing them further. You could see they understood the removal men were professional, yet personable, and their concerns about the fish were a top priority for the men, too. This seemed to be the key to ensuring the customers’ satisfaction with their move.

I noted how Mark’s friendly banter with customers as well as with his co-workers helped the client  be much more relaxed,  at ease and trusting in the removal process for their home and fish, and asked him what the secret to his success was. He simply said “It’s nice to be nice”, smiled and moved some more boxes into the customers’ new home, with a small comment to the homeowner as he passed, which again brought out smiles and laughter from the client.

On the drive back to the yard, I asked Mark about his rapport with customers, as he truly made it look effortless to gain their trust and confidence and establish a bond with them. He told me he’s been a removal man most of his life, and he’s learned that the first five minutes with the customer are crucial to gaining their trust. He was also very humble about his ability to win the client’s confidence and smooth the way for a good removal. Combine that with his natural friendly attitude, good sense of humour, and his experience in performing removals, and I think I’ve found the winning combination to ensuring a good rapport and trust with the customer for moving day. 

Photos:  Top right: Simon Beck (left) and Pete Ainsworth, Bradshaw's removal men of the month; middle left:  Mark Pennington and Martin Niedziela; bottom right: Pete Ainsworth and Martin Niedziela (carrying sofa).

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