Moving Overseas – Multinational or Independent Mover? We Weigh up the Pros and Cons

Pros vs cons

There’s an ongoing argument in the international moving industry – when it comes to choosing the moving company to handle your international move, how do you decide which way to jump – the multi-national or the independent? Each will tell you they’re the best! The multi-national will say “Move with us and you’re moving with us all the way. You know you’re dealing with the same company, giving you greater peace of mind”. And the independent will say “Move with us and you’ll get priority treatment and you know we have the freedom of choice of partner in the destination country, and they want our repeat business, so they’ll give better service”. Hmmm – cogent arguments, both!

We’ve seen more mergers and acquisitions in the moving industry in recent years, as companies look to consolidate their positions in the market and offer the attractions of a “one-stop-shop”.  Now this might suit the needs of the large corporations who seem to derive comfort from dealing with a single brand – but is it a good thing for the private shipper whose needs may be relegated to the back of the queue? This article tries to dig a bit deeper and expose the facts!

There are two main elements in an international move – the packing and despatch at origin, and the clearance and delivery at destination. And standards at each end can vary substantially. So let’s start with the origin.

Firstly of course there’s the question of quality of the packing, where skills and experience are of paramount importance. And it’s fair to say that top grade packers, while perhaps not on the endangered species list, are certainly not increasing in population. Let’s face it, the job is not an easy one, and requires intelligence, maturity, experience and physical strength (don’t forget, that after packing everything up they then need to carry the items to truck or container, which may be positioned some distance from your home – and also may be via long paths or steep steps). All the reputable removals companies will have a retinue of trained packing staff, but depending on work load, those staff may have to be spread a bit thinly among the jobs on the day, especially during the peak summer season. The industry at large faces another challenge – the “no-shows”. The day is planned, resources allocated – and then one or more key staff phone in sick – for some inexplicable and wholly coincidental reason, this will most often happen on a Monday, or the day after payday…. And let’s face it, no company, independent or multi-national, is immune from this malaise of malaises!

So in a situation like this, where do you stand in the pecking order if you’re dealing with a multi-national with corporate jobs to cover? Where does their priority lie? With you, the one-off customer?  Or with the transferee whose company is paying the bill, and has ongoing business? No prizes for the right answer there.

OK, so let’s now look at what happens at the other end if you’re dealing with a multi-national. In many ways, this is the most important aspect of the move – unless of course shipping has been delayed at origin – which can happen if the company is waiting to accrue additional shipments to fill a container. But, given that this hasn’t happened, and you’re there, in unfamiliar surroundings, awaiting advice of delivery date/time. Remember, you’re the one-off customer, and while no company, multi-national or independent, is going to deliberately treat you badly, it’s a given that the corporate client is going to get the preferential treatment.

Take this a stage further. Is there really any discernible benefit in dealing with a multi-national? Common brand – yes. But what lies beyond that? As we state, this is a people business, so outcomes hinge solely on the calibre of the people at a given location. You’re not dealing with a Mr or Ms Multi-national, you’re dealing with a person who may or may not give you good service. And you know what? That multi-national extolling the benefits of a one-company move is going to be obligated to send your shipment to its corresponding office regardless of the service provided by the person/people you are dealt with. No choice. No consideration of service levels, communication skills, or even just plain competence.

OK, so what about the independent? That company will have relationships with agents in different countries, likely built up over years of mutual trading. Those relationships have been solidified through efforts to always provide the highest levels of service excellence – because if you, the individual customer, don’t receive that service level, guess what – the receiving agent stands to lose future business from the generating company. It’s as simple as that. Pretty obvious when you think about it. On the one hand, no imperative to perform (multi-national) and on the other, a very compelling reason to do so (independent).

One more thing to consider – evidence. Visit any removal company’s website and you’ll see they are all the best in the business! It’s a fact that there is not necessarily any correlation between quality of website and quality of company! So how to decide? The answer is in one simple acronym – FIDI (Federation Internationale des Demenageurs Internationaux) – told you it was simple! Freely translated to International Federation of International Movers, and now known as The FIDI Global Alliance, FIDI is a world body of international movers, boasting a membership in excess of 620 companies operating in over 100 countries throughout the world. It is recognised as the leading industry organisation and has as its sole membership criterion, attainment of a premium quality standard – FAIM (FIDI Accredited International Mover – a more understandable acronym!). FAIM can best be described as an industry-specific equivalent of an ISO standard, with one key difference – whereas companies generally tend to write their own ISO quality manual, FAIM was developed independently and is therefore a true benchmark of excellence. The standard is imposed on every FIDI member and is subject to audit globally by Ernst & Young, ensuring true equivalence of standards and operating procedures in every FIDI company, regardless of country, culture, or local customs. Members who do not pass regular audits are expelled from FIDI. Pretty strong stuff, you’ll agree.

To summarise. There are good and bad companies in the international moving industry – how to choose/! There are good and bad operating branches in multi-nationals – how to choose/! But there are only good FIDI member companies – choose with confidence!