Why it Works
Relocating customers are ready for web-generated estimates in the moving industry.
While the use of consumer web-generated inventories have significant advantages for the moving industry and the consumer, its adoption requires a monumental shift in thinking for the traditional mover. No such shift in thinking is required by the consumer. They are already deeply involved in web services and self service models, and these expectations are already part of their consumer life.
Self-service is the mantra of industries that are embracing the web to streamline their business processes and reduce both costs and manpower. By cutting their costs, they become more competitive in their marketplace, and garner more business.
Airlines now have self check-in kiosks and travel agents are suddenly a thing of the past for booking flights, hotels and rental cars. Standing in bank lines to transact business and pay bills has been replaced by mouse clicks at your desk. There is a host of other examples, some of which are incredibly useful and some of which are downright frustrating. But there is no doubt that in today’s web 2.0 world, anything that a consumer can do for themselves, they will do, provided they are given the necessary tools to do it easily, accurately and without frustration.
Why has this new self-service revolution taken so long to reach the moving industry? Where are the web tools that shippers can use to make our job easier and more efficient? Do customers always have to meet 3 or 4 surveyors in their home to create an inventory of household furniture? Or, if we are estimating over the phone, why is it necessary to bore the consumer to distraction with a monotonous repetition of every salesperson’s telephone “walk-through”.
Of course most customers can create their own inventories. Not only that – they prefer it – as long as they are given the proper tools to work with. And moving companies, who generally allocate 5% of hauling revenue to estimating costs, could realize significant savings if they could find a way to allow customers to do it themselves. Why then, has the moving industry taken so long to capitalize on the self-service phenomenon? The reason, we believe lies with certain fundamental difficulties with web self-service estimating. These are:
- User friendliness of the web interface
- Motivating consumer accuracy
- Dispute resolution
- Estimating packing requirements
- Difficult access
- Legal hurdles
- Consulting customers on preparing items for the move
In this whitepaper I will address these difficulties and explain how a customer generated inventory overcomes each of these problems, finally making it possible for the moving industry to reap the benefits of the web 2.0 world.
How MovesOnline solves the fundamental problems of web inventory programs:
1. User Friendly Web Interface
Nothing is more fundamental to the success of any consumer website than the user interface. If the user finds the web process confusing or time-consuming, the system has failed before it is out of the starting gate. This is especially problematic for a detailed household inventory. The limited success of all existing systems is the result of the sacrifice of accuracy for ease of use, making the process futile, or an attempt to achieve functional accuracy, which has resulted in a process that completely frustrates the consumer.
There is no shortage of compromises currently on the web. To achieve user friendliness, several have used quick calculations using the number of rooms etc. as a factor. These methods are far too general to be used to produce even a ballpark price and manage only to generate a lead for a moving company, who must then do a traditional estimate anyway. The customer has only wasted his time by completing these inventory forms.
More detailed, excel type, or “hunt and peck” cube sheets have also been tried, but are far too cumbersome and awkward for the average customer. Most require both mouse and keyboard entry and are far too tedious. They are often started but rarely completed.
Because of these hurdles, most of the largest and newest relocation portals have given up entirely on the idea of an online inventory generator-at least until a practical method is invented.
The MovesOnline Icon-Inventory system finally solves the problem of user friendliness. Navigating the icons room by room is easy, quick and almost fun. The colorful front end is visually appealing to the consumer and retains their interest. Existing alpha systems use some furniture item descriptions which may be unfamiliar to the consumer. (Drop-front, hutch, étagère.) MovesOnline combines icons with item names removing this confusion and improving accuracy. All in all, the user interface of MovesOnline has increased the accuracy and completion rate of web inventories exponentially. It’s easy, fast, accurate and almost everything happens with the click of a mouse. And, customers love it! Just have a look at the site feedback we get from MovesOnline customers.
As you can see, MovesOnline goes beyond friendly, it’s almost lovable. Problem one, solved.
2. Motivating Consumer Accuracy
We are often asked, “what about the customer that leaves out items in hopes of getting a lower price or just plain does not take enough care to ensure everything is included on the inventory”. Good question. Surprisingly, this has not been a problem. But after considering the following, it may not be surprising at all.
Firstly, because the customer creates their own inventory and submits this in writing to the mover, there is no room for a “he said-she said” about what was to be included in the price. No arguments about what was to be given to Auntie Jane or what was going to be left behind. No “but I showed her everything” comments about extra items being moved.
This reversal of responsibility from the surveyor to the customer requires a flip flop in thinking for traditional movers. Contrary to everything we know about traditional estimates, the onus is now on the customer for accuracy. In effect, the mover is now contracting to move only the items on the list-not contracting to move a “household” as described over the phone or to a surveyor.
This is quite apparent to the customer, even more apparent than it is to the mover, who has been imbued with this responsibility his entire career. To the consumer, this is a given. It is clear to them that the accurate moving quote will be based on moving only the furniture they submit.
Finally-real world results show that our customer estimates are generally within the 10% accuracy allowance given to in-house estimators and consistently more accurate than telephone estimates. (ref. 2009 survey J.D. Power and Associates)
3. Dispute Avoidances
Because the consumer completes their own inventory, there is no room for misunderstandings in communication between the consumer and the salesperson. Items included in the quote are clear and in writing. The consumer has the opportunity to review their inventory online anytime before the move date to add missed items or items that were meant to be sold but are now going on the van. This places the responsibility for an accurate inventory and price squarely with the consumer and removes the most common cause of consumer disputes. In the event a dispute cannot be avoided, it can be dealt using facts instead of accusations.
4. Estimating packing requirements
If a customer requires a full professional pack, an in-house estimator should visit the residence in order to price the packing service. But almost all local moves and many long distance moves are packed by owner. The mover is not bidding on packing service and only needs to consider the number, or weight of the boxes in his price. An increase of 20% or even 50% in the number of cartons makes little difference to the cost of doing a move. Twenty percent more sofas would make a big difference. 20% more cartons would only be a couple of dolly loads and take only minutes to load. Estimating packing is a non-issue when the move is owner packed.
Most movers use simple rules of thumb to estimate the weight of cartons when doing phone or web estimates. 1.4 times the furniture weight is common. . This is rarely out of sync with actual packing carton counts, but if it is, the customer can return to his online inventory once his packing is complete to update the carton count.
5. Difficult access
We have found that the customer wants his move to go smoothly just as much as we do; in our experience we have found that they are totally forthcoming in providing access information. We see this every day. Most moved into the origin residence at some point and are usually quite aware of any difficulties. In real life, they do provide as much information as possible.
Movers seldom see the origin when giving a phone estimate. And we never see the destination address, which is just as likely to have access problems. Add to this the wonder of Google Street View where we can see both the origin AND destination residences, and we are actually better off than we were 2 years ago when it comes to anticipating difficult access. Once again, technology changes the game.
6. Legal requirements
In the U.S.A. there are legal requirements for an in-house inventory on inter-state moves. This only applies to a small percentage of moves that are interstate and even then, the customer can always opt out of this requirement, and almost always do when given the choice of an easy to complete online inventory. Over 90% of moves are local or within the state, where this law does not apply and where movers can realize significant savings on their sales costs.
7. Consulting customers on preparing items for the move
The MovesOnline website has detailed instructions on preparing items for moving. The specific instructions for preparation are also emailed to the customer and are tailored to their exact inventory of items.
While the use of a consumer web generated inventories have significant advantages for both the moving industry and the consumer, its adoption requires a monumental shift in thinking for the traditional mover. No such shift in thinking is required by the consumer. They are already deeply involved in web services and self service models, and these expectations are already part of their consumer life.