OK Linda, I am over the line with my comments about the PR campaign. It has been effective and was a necessary reaction to what was going on in the industry at the time. I think it was good policy that is now being nudged out by new technologies available to our customers... and our competitors. Customers now carrying iPads around their home to do an inventory, and google street view is there for our staff to "see" houses at origin and destination. Things are very different today then they were when that policy was implemented.
My family has been in the moving business for 70 years and as a mover, I believe that an in-house estimate is preferable. But I also believe that it is a mistake to ignore our new connected customers. All of our customers are different and we must cater to every constituency lest we loose control of yet another big chunk of our industry business.
My objective with this blog is to convince the AMSA to take control of COD prospecting on the internet and help our members compete in this new marketing world. In my recents travels around the USA, the constant refrain was that our members find it impossible to get to page one of google listings. Not only do we all compete against each other- and every one of us is trying to get to top position.- but we also compete against rogues and brokers who skim profit from our members, and who lower the perception of the entire industry. If the AMSA helps members band together to secure a top position on search engines, we do have the ability to push brokers off their google pedestals The AMSA could help their members "be found" in the Internet jungle. What we cannot achieve individually, we can achieve as a group-or at least as an industry. We could provide good quality leads to a few (not 6 or 7) of our members.
And we can offer our customers the tools that they can use to save time and make shopping for a mover easy. So, why don't WE become the biggest online aggregator of moving leads?. AMSA has the presence and respect to "pull" visits on the web, provided we use proper Search Engine Optimization, dedicate some assets to social media and PR and if we can offer the web tools that the new connected consumer wants. The AMSA has the power to become the "go to" place for relocating consumers. On AMSA.org, customers could find movers to do in-house estimates OR, they could use their iPad to fill out ONE online inventory and then solicit bids from 3 (?) of our members. The customer could then use review sites, company websites and social media recommendations to decide which companies they would like to see in their home. Naturally we would recommend that the customer see at least one consultant to verify their moving requirements.
Our members can also benefit by avoiding the crooked customer. No one tells the press about the people who try to underestimate their moving requirements to get a better price and then cry murder when we have to justifiably increase their price because they have way more to move than they told us about. Now we have written proof of what the customer TOLD US that they wanted to move and we can be justified in charging extra.
Sales people will become more efficient not to mention greener by saving fuel. They will be more effective because instead of doing 3 estimates for every 1 move book, they may be doing only 1 or 2 visits per booking. A customer inventory is a fantastic qualifier for our sales departments. And qualified moving leads few and far between from current lead generators.
Maybe we should be training our salespeople how to use the web to increase their sales efficiency and teach them how to sell in a new environment. My sales experience with online inventories is that it is a new skill set that needs to be learned, from new qualifying techniques to new scripts for selling on the phone or in the house. We should teach it, not condemn it.
Perhaps one day we will invite customers to submit their moving reviews to the AMSA website. This is allot more appealing to me than customers submitting reviews to a Moving Scam type site where no one necessarily verifies the reviews for credibility. AMSA could ensure that exceptionally critical reviews are honest customer comments. (I still remember that poor small mover who came to our convention and stood up in the plenary session and told how his little one man business was crushed by a false review on Moving Scam). Someone needs to defend our members against malicious or bogus reviews. Someone will become the Travelocity for the moving industry. That might as well be us.
Finally Linda, thank you for joining the conversation. I apologize for my snotty remarks about the AMSA-but I did get you involved and I appreciate your input.