Minority Spotlight

E.E. Ward Builds a Strong Company on the Customer Experience

Moving company cites success on the three "Cs": Concern for the customer, the community and the company.
By Andrew Hale

E. E. Ward Moving & Storage is the longest continuously operating African-American-owned company in the U.S., with roots in services started to assist the Underground Railroad and the hauling of U.S. Army supplies before the Civil War. Now 135 years old, the company that began with two horses and a wagon offers an impeccable customer experience delivered by well-trained drivers, who utilize state-of-the-art technology and equipment.

Though people tend to think of moving companies as simply transferring goods from Point A to Point B, the E.E. Ward business model for moving nationally or globally is much more complex. Maintaining a competitive edge requires a full commitment of resources, a wide network of agent partners and the ability to match packing equipment and supplies to evolving products. E.E. Ward has the experience necessary to overcome industry disruptors.

Customer Experience is 3-C Mindset
The Ward Transfer Line Company was founded in 1881 by John T. Ward and his son William S. Ward. The company, eventually renamed E.E. Ward Moving & Storage, remained family owned until 2001 when Eldon Ward decided to retire and sold the company to now President and Owner Brian Brooks.

Today the company offers household, office and corporate relocations. It also provides “last mile” delivery services to customers purchasing goods online that desire white glove delivery to their doorstep.

A full-service moving company, E.E. Ward, is an agent of northAmerican Van Lines. A subsidiary of SIRVA relocation. The partnership with northAmerican Van Lines enables E.E. Ward to service anyone’s national or international needs through its’ network of agents in every major or secondary city in the U.S. and across the globe.

The long-term success of the company is based on what Brian Brooks calls the “3-C mindset.”

“Our first concern is the customer, the second concern is community, and the third concern is company. If we take care of the customer and the community, the company will be strong,” Brooks explained.

E.E. Ward prides itself in offering an unmatched customer service experience to minimize the stress of one of life’s most stressful events – moving. The customer experience includes assessing specific customer needs and mapping out the entire moving process, so the driver and delivery crew can perform each task efficiently – padding, packing, unpacking, removing padding and furniture setup. Each customer is assigned a relocation coordinator who serves as the point of contact, communicates regularly, gets pertinent paperwork completed, manages the payment process, and schedules service dates.

This attention to detail in the customer service experience is a contributor to positive customer feedback. “E.E. Ward has been very professional in dealing with all of the changes we have thrown their way. They have made the delivery and installation on all of the furniture so much easier,” says Stacy Zimmerman with Zimmerman School Equipment.

Suzy Smith with Suzy’s Helping Hands, a specialized relocation company for seniors, commented, “We have occasionally worked with other moving companies, if the client has requested it. In most of those moves, we have never found the code of conduct or performance that E.E. Ward produces for his clients, nor the complete customer service that E.E. Ward exemplifies. Client satisfaction is what E.E. Ward is all about.”

These are the kind of customer comments all companies wish they could claim, and earning them requires the ability to stay on top of the industry.

Managing Disruptions
“There are always disruptors coming into the industry,” explains Brooks. “Several years ago it was self-storage and self-moving via Pods. They drop a container at your house, you load it, and the company moves it to the new location.” However, E. E. Ward targets people who want a full-service move and the assurance the company is compliant with all federal, state and city requirements.

Compliance with regulations is both a value proposition and a focus of the company. Moving and storage companies must comply with a growing set of laws and regulations, including the Federal Motor Carrier regulations. The regulations cover the driver’s hours of service, physicals, logs, and drug testing. Unlicensed movers, commonly referred to as “rogue movers” may offer less expensive services, but they may not adhere to regulations. Customers take a big risk by using these types of operations.

How does E.E. Ward maintain a competitive edge and develop solid customer relationships? Brooks explains that customer service is an expectation. The customer expects someone to answer the phone and show up on time.

“For us, the customer experience is what makes customers want to use E.E. Ward repeatedly, and they do not hesitate to refer us to a friend or colleague,” Brooks said.

Making Technology a Differentiator
The customer experience is E.E. Ward’s differentiator, requiring a regular and significant investment of resources in driver and crew training, technology, and in staying on top of product changes that impact moving and storage. For example, E.E. Ward invested in new equipment that provides an innovative way to move pictures, glassware or sheets of table glass, without having to put them in individual boxes or containers.

“We also invest in things like wooden TV crates that are reusable and environmentally friendly. We can reuse these crates over and over again,” Brooks explains.

Something most are probably not aware of is the fact a moving company must stay on top of product design changes that impact moving and storage. The electronics industry is one of the most evolving markets, for example, the newer curved TV requires special box design for packing and moving. TV designs change every six months, so it is challenging to stay abreast of the market. Customers with $5,000 TVs have an expectation that their device will arrive at their new location undamaged.

Fleetmatics is another way technology plays an important role in the customer experience, E.E. Ward uses their GPS tracking on their trucks. At any time, a truck can be pinpointed as to location, speed, gas utilization and estimated time of arrival. This enables the company to give a customer detailed updates, which is a common expectation in this era of advanced technology.

Being well-equipped with the right technology and equipment, having a well-trained workforce, and enforcing regulations are the core principles of the customer experience. Staff training is regularly updated as the company is always trying to get better for the next move.

Commitment to Community
One of the remarkable features of E. E. Ward is the uninterrupted commitment to community that began with the original founders in 1881. The company regularly assists a variety of local nonprofits, including The Childhood League and the Eldon and Elsie Ward YMCA After School Camp for Children. The company’s dedication to community service was recognized in 2016 with E.E. Ward being awarded the Columbus Business First Corporate Caring Human Services Award.

“We leverage our resources – trucks and customer relationships – to make an impact,” Brooks says. E.E. Ward developed the Laps for Lunches fundraiser in partnership with its’ customer Richard Petty Motorsports. The annual event raises money to buy lunches for the YWCA Family Center, Eldon & Elsie Ward YMCA Center and the St. Phillips Episcopal Church Food Pantry.

Keith L. Eakins, president and CEO of the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council, has this to say about the company’s community efforts: “E.E. Ward has been an excellent partner with the Ohio Council. As an organization, they have been a model for other MBEs to follow in maximizing their potential through certification.”

For E.E. Ward, the customer experience is more than just delivering goods on time. It is about going above and beyond to deliver 5-star service from the first phone call to the unpacking of the last box. It is about serving our customers, helping our community and reinforcing our core values in everything we do.

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