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Highland Moving & Storage Ltd. Blog

Starline Overseas Moving Blog

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  • Current Progress

    No major changes to report as of late. Mainly we have been working on getting integration into social media going, fixing a few minor glitches that have always been bugging us, and minor design changes.


    We will keep you posted,

    MovesOnline Developer Team


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  • 2010 Customers worked for us in 2010

    2010 - Completed customer generated inventories for HighStar Group of Moving Companies


    It is almost one year since we started collecting MovesOnline data on Google Analytics. We are a mid-sized moving company serving two, one million person markets. Our international company, Starline Overseas, collected 185 completed customer inventories, and this puts us over 2000 inventories for the year. That’s about two and one half surveyors. Seven thousand people in total visited the site. It’s been a good first year.

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  • The Weight Maximum Factor

    I was invited to meet with the marketing team of one of the largest United agents last week. They have an imaginative take on how MovesOnline will help one area of their business. Several of their key accounts stipulate weight maximums on their transferees. Any of you movers out there that have accounts that use max weights know that the mover can’t win in these situations.  If the actual weight is under the estimate, the shipper is upset that he left things behind that he could have taken. It the actual goes over the estimate, and over his allowance, the shipper ends up paying for some of his own move which is even more aggravating.  The poor moving consultant takes it on the chin no matter what happens.

    The fact that shippers take responsibility for their own inventory when they use MovesOnline has particular relevance here. Now the customers decide for themselves which items they will include in the shipment and what to leave behind or sell.  MovesOnline gives them the industry average weight for each item and they can adjust their inventory up or down, using the online application, to balance their shipment with their weight allowance. That takes allot of heat off the moving consultant since transferees now take responsibility for determining the size of their shipment.

    MovesOnline is a new tool that will have benefits in many different areas of house goods moving. Future marketing models, which take advantage of the migration of our customers to internet self service, will only be limited by our imagination. May the best innovators win.

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  • Why Your Customers Don't Want to Talk to You

    By Matt Dixon and Lara Ponomareff  

    Have you ever walked into an airport, seen that there is nobody in line at the check-in counter, but still made a bee-line for the self-service kiosk? Better yet, have you ever waited in line for an ATM machine even though there is nobody in line for the teller inside the bank?

    If you answered "yes" to either of these questions, you're not alone. Most customers these days demonstrate a huge — and increasing — appetite for self-service, yet most companies run their operations as if customers prefer to interact with them live.

    In our research on this topic (which we discuss in our recent HBR article "Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers"), we've found that corporate leaders dramatically overestimate the extent to which their customers actually want to talk to them. In fact, on average, companies tend to think their customers value live service more than twice as much as they value self service. But our data show that customers today are statistically indifferent about this — they value self-service just as much as using the phone. And guess what? By and large, this indifference holds regardless of their age, demographic, issue type, or urgency.

    This attitude toward self-service has been a long time coming. Two-thirds of the customers we surveyed told us that three to five years ago, they primarily used the phone for service interactions. Today, less than a third do, and the number is shrinking fast.

    What is it that makes self service so appealing? Maybe it's the efficiency of the interaction — the airport kiosk is probably faster than interacting with a check-in agent — but that wouldn't explain why we go out of our way to take care of our service needs ourselves. On a psychological level, it might have more to do with the unique element of control that self service affords. Or, maybe this self-service love affair is a product of our infatuation with gadgetry and electronic communication. All fairly benign explanations, to be sure.

    But here's a hypothesis that would be concerning if it's right: maybe customers are shifting toward self service because they don't want a relationship with companies. While this secular trend could be explained away as just a change in consumers' channel preferences, skeptics might argue that customers never wanted the kind of relationship that companies have always hoped for, and that self service now allows customers the "out" they've been looking for all along.

    For managers hell-bent on deepening relationships with their customers, that's a sobering thought.

    Consider this: Running your company as if customers want to talk to you isn't just expensive, it's potentially undermining your efforts to build longer-term loyalty. Our research shows that customers who attempt to self serve, fail, and are forced to pick up the phone are 10% more likely to be disloyal than those customers who were able to fully resolve their issues in their channel of choice. As one CFO remarked to us recently, "When you think about the relative cost of live service and the disloyalty effect of channel's like paying your customers to be disloyal to you."

    How often does channel switching happen? All the time.

    We found that a staggering 57% of inbound calls come from customers who first attempted to resolve their issue on the company's website. And over 30% of callers are on the company's website at the same time that they are talking to a rep on the phone. That's a lot of frustrated customers.

    What do you think? Are we simply seeing a change in customer preferences — or a relationship on the rocks?

    Matthew Dixon is the managing director of the Corporate Executive Board's Sales and Service Practice. Lara Ponomareff is a research consultant with the Customer Contact Council, a division of the Corporate Executive Board's Sales and Service Practice.

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  • Accuracy of Customer Generated Inventories:

    We now have enough data to make some meaningful observations about the accuracy of customer inventories.

    As you can see from the graph below, there is virtually no difference between the accuracy of customer inventories and those done by professional in-house estimators.

    The only significant difference is at the top end where MovesOnline inventories are slightly less accurate however, since the customer created their own estimate, there is no grounds for dispute.

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  • Internet estimates-yesterday’s menace - today’s opportunity

    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.

    1. 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!
    2. 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.
    3. 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

    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.

    Don Kachur

    November 2010

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  • What’s the real story on online moving estimates?

    Many in the moving industry, even some Associations, continue to pump the old party line about the “dangers” of internet estimates. Yes, the internet is a real threat – not to consumers - but to old school moving companies, and their negative reaction is part fear, part inexperience and part protection of their established marketing paradigm. Unlike the established industry, consumers are embracing new technology. And, contrary to our dire warnings, they like it.

    What’s the real story on online estimates? JD Power and Associates is an independant company that studies customer satisfaction. They are especially well known in the auto industry but also do an annual consumer survey of relocating customers.

    Their 2009 study of relocating consumers found:

                   “that satisfaction with shipping estimates is nearly equal among customers whose estimates are completed in-person and online”

    Those who had telephone estimates were the least satisfied.

    So, if internet estimates are used by rogue movers and in-house surveys are done by the established industry, wouldn’t you expect that consumers would be up in arms about those nasty internet estimates?  They are not. And regardless of how many times we warn customers about internet estimates, the facts are that, when the move is complete, consumers end up equally satisfied with their internet experience as they are with and in-house survey.

    It’s about time the industry put the fairy tale of internet estimates to rest.

    It isn’t the customers that dissatisfied with internet estimates- it’s the movers.


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  • Integration with VoxMe

    Over the last few days we have been making additions to the MovesOnline web application to integrate with VoxMe software.

    When completed we will be able to setup the MovesOnline web application for any customer using VoxMe, and when the inventory is submitted to the client, it will include an attached XML file to import into the VoxMe software.

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  • MovesOnline Color Customization (Skinning)

    In an effort to help customers match their MovesOnline website closer to their own company website, we have incorporated 512 colors into the skinning section of the administration side of the website.

    Hopefully this will give customers all the color options they need. If by chance there is not a match we can always add more.

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  • Total Customer Experience

    A recent article in the Financial Post stressed the importance of the total “customer experience” or CE. He particularly mentioned the importance of “CE” in competitive industries, including transportation.



    “The CE is an amalgam of on and offline customer interactions, from awareness building and communicating product knowledge to selling and post purchase support.  When designing their CE, the typical firm looks first to accommodating internal needs (e.g., structure, people, rules, process) before considering what customers want or how they think.  As a result, too little attention is paid to how customers really want to be treated or how their behaviors and impressions towards the company are influenced and driven by psychological considerations. “


    Many movers design their CE to accommodate internal needs instead of customer desires. The insistence by movers of an in-house estimate, for example, ignores the needs of most of their customers. Their time is important to them and an online estimate, provided it is user friendly and comprehensive, is now appreciated by consumers and will soon be demanded by them, just as they demand online travel and banking.


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