Relocation November 2012

UniGroup Worldwide UTS

Aki Nitta, general manager of UniGroup Worldwide UTS

Providing superior relocation services

Ongoing political issues between China and Japan are having a major influence on the relocation industry in Japan, according to Aki Nitta, general manager of UniGroup Worldwide UTS.

Also affecting the industry here, Nitta added, is the growing recognition and importance of other financial centres—such as Hong Kong and Singapore—that are attracting growing numbers of expatriates.

Founded in 1987, the US-based UniGroup is a global transport firm specialising in the services associated with moving household goods and personal effects. One of the world’s largest, most recognised and trusted movers, it has regional headquarters in the Netherlands, the US, Canada and Hong Kong. Currently, it is in the process of opening an office in the Philippines.

Due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, following which numerous expats left the country, the industry suffered a substantial decrease in shipments to Japan and was faced with concerns about whether expats would return to the country.

However, during the 18 months since the triple disaster, the market has been improving, and is expected to stabilise towards December. Expectations are that it will be back to its pre-quake size early in 2013.

“The only thing we can do [in the current situation] is improve the standard of our customer services and utilise our experience so that our customers receive better service”, Nitta said.

Always on the lookout for ways in which to improve their services, the firm puts to good use the results of their post-move satisfaction surveys that are given to every customer after a move. Focus is placed on any negative comments, with the firm studying exactly how a particular customer was made to feel less than fully satisfied, and what can be done to ensure this never again occurs.

UniGroup, which has been operating in Asia since 2007, opened its Tokyo office in March this year to improve their level of service and better maintain the flow of business among its regional operations.

With a staff of 15, the office covers the entire country, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, and is well able to deal with all enquiries.

Nitta has been in the relocation industry for 15 years, and has worked for many relocation firms. “I have seen their strong and weak points, and can fully utilise my experience and reflect that feedback in the services we offer”, he said.

The firm caters to expatriates who have a different working culture to that of the Japanese.

Westerners generally bring their families and all their belongings to their assigned work destination. By contrast, when Japanese employees are posted overseas, they take a minimum of personal effects and often move to their destination alone, saving money and time, while avoiding family disruptions, according to Nitta.

The cultural differences are reflected in the firm’s available services. UniGroup offers a full-package service: pre-move planning; move management; packing and unpacking of goods; door-to-door transport and maid services if required. Moreover, clients’ goods are packed in a container of their own to be freighted.

Japanese relocation firms usually offer a more economical service, whereby boxes are delivered to the customers’ houses and are packed by customers themselves. Boxes received from between 15 and 20 customers going to the same destination are then packed in one container.

UniGroup works hard to make the relocation process easier for their clients. The firm’s additional services help expats overcome the cultural differences when moving to a new country, and help them find an environment that is similar to that from which they hail.

Available on request from UniGroup are pre-assignment tours, visa applications, as well as housing and school searches.

Through its global network, the firm is dedicated to providing its customers with superior move management and destination services, from the start to finish.