Outdated objections to online estimates simply no longer apply:
The internet world changes fast-very fast. What was threatening last year becomes commonplace this year. And industries must react fast to stay in sync with the new marketing paradigms that the internet makes possible. Some industries have already adjusted to their consumer’s sudden infatuation with self service marketing models including, airlines, travel, banking, books, music – and the list continues to grow. The common thread in all of these industries is they have recognized that the romance between their customer and the internet will be a lifelong affair. Efforts to stop the transition to the web have proven fruitless. It is folly to think that we can force customers to do it our way by legislation (FMSCA) or by scare tactics in the media. In our industry, self service on the web means Customer Generated Inventories and the ability of the consumer to shop these inventories to several movers just as they shop their travel itinerary to several airlines. An “Expedia” for the moving industry will be online by peak season 2011. The AMSA m embers should control it.
The first step in embracing the web is rethinking the traditional objections to internet estimates that were valid concerns 2 years ago, but which new web tools have made obsolete.
These objections were:
Accuracy-an online inventory will not be accurate or complete.
Let’s start with common sense. This is not rocket science. We are counting chairs here. Sure, some moves are very big, need professional packing or are for customers who are not comfortable with the web. They need a consultant to help them. Online inventories will never replace every phone or in-house estimate. But they will replace the vast majority. We (currently) do not want this to happen, but the customer does!
New web tools like MovesOnline
make it fast and easy for our customer to create an accurate and complete inventory. This was not possible 18 months ago. It is now.
Quoting an accurate and honest price based on Customer Generated Inventory was not practical 18 months ago. It is now.
In real life, customers are creating accurate inventories. After a year long experiment with MovesOnline, we compared the accuracy of online inventories with in house estimates by moving consultants. There was virtually no difference in the accuracy (plus or minus 10%) of Customer Generated Inventories and in-house inventories.
It’s illegal (in the USA)
Only for the small percentage of moves that are interstate and then the customer can always opt out, and almost always do.
Internet estimates are only used by rogues
Some of the largest and most respected moving companies (and AMSA members) now use online inventory generators to quote moves.
Rogues hate MovesOnline because the customer knows exactly what they asked to be quoted on and can prove it. Rogues definitely do not want an audit trail on their bid.
Price disputes were common with the previous methods of online estimating. Creating an inventory was slow, tedious and almost always incomplete. Now that there are web apps that allow consumers to easily and accurately create comprehensive household inventories, these complaints have all but disappeared. When you detail exactly what you want moved and have that list in writing, it is very difficult for a mover to bluff the customer about what was included in the price. Rogues will not use this service because it becomes very difficult to cheat the customer. The new Customer Generated Inventories will significantly reduce price disputes.
Additionally, when the customer creates their own inventory they naturally take responsibility for its accuracy. To the consumer this is common sense. They do this in every other shopping event, both on and off the web, and innately understand that if they want more service than originally ordered, they will pay more than the original quoted price.
We must protect the customer
We were protecting the customer a few years ago. Now these “rules” only obstruct the customer. And rather than protect the industry from competition, we are only allowing our competitors to feast on the new internet empowered consumer.
Customers tell us they love online inventories. And the independent JD Power study of customers who have completed their moves showed clearly that both online and in-house inventories are virtually equal in customer satisfaction and both methods are preferred to phone estimates.
So, how are we protecting consumers when they love using online inventories and end up just as satisfied as those who had in-house estimates?
Online estimates cannot anticipate difficult access, long carries, stairs etc
Amazingly, 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.
The customer won’t be honest
They have to be. Their request for service and the scope of their job is in writing. They can’t say “well, I showed your sales man everything”, or “I told them about everything over the phone”.
The consumer can’t estimate packing
Short answer. We don’t need to!
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 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.
The bottom line
Until very recently, customers did not have an easy way to prepare a complete and accurate inventory of their house hold goods. This made online estimates vague and subject to price manipulation. New internet tools, like MovesOnline have changed the game. It is now very easy to obtain an accurate Customer Generated Inventory that is bid ready. Customers want this service from their movers. We can try to change the customer, or we can change our attitude about online inventories and provide the customer with the tools they want to make it easy for them to do business with us.
It’s a new world out there with new tools that make shopping on the internet safe, easy and convenient. The old objections to online estimates simply no longer apply. I believe that our national association should take this opportunity to lead the industry in adapting to the new customer reality instead of fighting yesterday’s battle against the customer. It’s a battle that cannot be won.