The Recency Effect: The power of last impressionsBy Eric Anders • Sep 27th, 2010 • Category: Defense Personal Property Procurement Program (DP3), Department of Defense/Military, Military Moves, MOVE MANAGEMENT
In Psych 101, students learn that people tend to retain the most complete knowledge about the most recent events. It's called the recency effect. It's one of the natural tendencies that Hermann Ebbinghaus postulated in 1885 when he published Über das Gedächtnis (“On Memory” ) about the serial position effect on the human experience of learning and forgetting.
Today, that little bit of behavioral psychology manifests itself whenever I approach a traffic signal or four-way stop in my family's Camry or Tundra. Even though I've been a well-satisfied Toyota customer ever since I purchased my first car in 1970, I'm amazed at the polite (although somewhat illogical) courtesy other drivers occasionally now allow me as they wave me through the intersection ahead of them.
Despite four decades of the highest quality production and most reliable performance in the auto industry, the recency effect displays it's persuasive powers whenever cautious motorists recall the frequent and frenetic media reports about Toyota's 'history' for producing 'unsafe' vehicles that accelerate unexpectedly and then can't be stopped because of faulty brakes. (Note: Results from DOT, NHTSA, and NASA studies released in February, 2011, "found no electronic flaws in Toyota vehicles".)
The serial position effect also carries a lot of weight in student study habits, jury deliberations, musical and sports competitions; and, popular “rating and review” and customer service evaluations.
To some extent, it's the power of last impressions that are at work each time a consumer completes a brief questionnaire about how successfully a product or service supplier met their personal expectations after the purchase.
According to behavioral researchers and marketing gurus, it's best to poll customers about their latest experience immediately after completion of the transaction to get the most honest, most pertinent feedback.
But, in the moving business, when is a transaction completed? After the furniture is delivered and the paperwork signed? Or is it when the homeowner has had a chance to regain their composure, settle into their new residence, take inventory of the actual contents and condition of the goods received and then file a claim for damage or delay, if any occurred?
Perhaps the final survey results would be far different once the customer and household goods carrier has negotiated a fair and equitable settlement after all repairs, replacements and inconvenience claims have been satisfied based on the level of transit valuation and risk responsibility the shipment moved under?
According to behavioral psychologists, this would be especially true under recency rules because of the period between the final delivery of a customer's goods and the time until their claim settlement check is received could take weeks (or even months depending on the severity of the damage), and each transferees initial demands, personal responsibilities, valuation amount, and job circumstances.
Most folks are far most satisfied with results of an unplanned or unexpected surgery 30-60 days after being released from the hospital and they've had a chance to recuperate and enjoy the benefits of the medical procedure. The results would probably be much different if you asked them as they were rolled to the exit in their wheelchair. The medical community recognizes the practicality of not putting a time restriction on their “How'd we do?” questionnaire inserted in each patient's take-home paperwork.
The routines involved in moving can trigger intense physiologic and psychological reactions in some people – particularly in those with a personal aversion to the process. In the early '90s, the healthcare industry coined the term 'relocation stress syndrome' to diagnose a cluster of bio-psycho-social symptoms that medical professionals recognize as acute clinical challenges to some relocating individuals and their families involved in any type of voluntary or involuntary displacement.
Those involved in government, the military and global mobility management know the effects of post traumatic stress when civil servants, soldiers, civilians, and expat employees are forced to relocate against their will. There are mountains of research that have documented the results in each of these populations since WW II.
Corporate members of the Worldwide ERC, in particular, recognize the importance of personally and professionally managing and monitoring the expectations of employees and their families throughout their relocation. Within some organizations, followup counseling by the employer sometimes continues months after a domestic or international transfer has been completed just to make sure that the move was a success for all parties involved.
For the last few years, the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's (SDDC) has been re-engineering the Defense Personal Property System (DPS) to “automate and simplify” the relocation process for all military service members who've received orders to move worldwide.
The redesign of the recently expanded Defense Personal Property Program (DP3) requires that all reassigned transferees and their families undergoing a domestic or international permanent change of station (PCS) move complete the DOD's internal Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSS).
This fairly simple, 12-question feedback tool is supposed to be submitted by each military service member within seven (7) days of receiving the delivery of their household goods from their selected or designated transportation service provider (TSP).
The SDDC uses the feedback to gauge how well the moving company and each military transportation office treated each of their customers throughout their PCS move process. Under the current business rules, CSS scores make up 50% of each participating TSP's 'best value' score.
Analyzing the latest raw numbers included under the DPS Monthly Metrics status updates now posted at http://www.move.mil/tsp.htm#resources_tspMetrics, it appears that the persuasive power of the recency effect is not only going to have a bearing the participating TSP's CSS scores, but also each companies profitability in the military's 'best value' business environment.
Reviewing the Shipment Numbers (as of Aug 31, 2010), shows that 66% of the 338,664 orders processed moved under the new DPS program provisions. Of those, 176,575 shipments have been delivered. Despite the fact that every service member moving under DP3 is urged to complete a CSS after their household goods are delivered, only 28,787 (16.3%) surveys have been received. Of the surveys received, 22,230 or 12.6% of the delivered military transferees have submitted claims under DPS's new full replacement value coverage provisions.
What's interesting in these numbers is that such a relative low number of survey's have been returned this far into the DPS program this year despite all the hype and hoopla that the CSS is being given in the media by military spin doctors.
What especially disturbing is that 77.2% of the members completing their 'required' survey have filed a claim. Typically, the full service moving industry might see a claim incidence rate of, about, oh …. 25%, on the high side.
Glance through the stats for the DPS vs TOPS HHG Volume http://www.move.mil/documents/metrics/DPS_TOPS_HHG_Volume.pdf handled this year and you get the feeling that the moving industry may be only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to claim payouts.
This is particularly true of delay and inconvenience claims. SDDC's unexpected decision to pull the trigger on expanded use of DPS just before start of the traditional peak season created so many capacity problems system-wide that the DOD brought the household goods moving industry to it's knees. And now it appears it's time for industry to pay the piper for the military's folly of charting the course change of DPS so close to the start of the annual summer rush.
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Whadda ya think? Was the decision by SDDC to pull the trigger on the problem ridden DPS system a smart one for the military members whose lives it was designed to improve … right at the start of the moving industy's peak season?
Share your thoughts in the informal poll below. You DON'T have to be registered to vote.