Do “rating & review” sites influence moving industry customers?By Eric Anders • Sep 18th, 2011 • Category: Social Media Marketing, THE CHANGING FACE OF RELOCATION
“The truth is there aren't any.”, I replied.
“There aren't any good movers?”, he asked.
“No, there's plenty of very good, very capable movers. Just not a lot of worthwhile resources for sorting and selecting dependable candidates online”, I responded.
Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
Apparently my visitor was trying to help his daughter and her family plan their move back to Virginia from their home in Southern California.
She started her search at several of find-a-mover business lead aggregators found online – then quickly abandoned her effort after she was inundated with scores of pesky phone calls from overly aggressive sales people.
Dad, meanwhile, took a different tack. He decided to visit several of the popular online “word-of-mouth” venues that depend on user generated rating and reviews to collect customer feedback. It didn't take him long to figure out he'd waded into deep doodoo.
While most of the popular user generated “rating and review” sites like Yelp.com, Epinions.com, Kudzu.com and Citysearch.com are great for picking a neighborhood restaurant, nightclub, or dry cleaner, they're really not very dependable for picking a mover – especially if relocating interstate or internationally.
How Do Consumers Measure Mover Quality??
Many of the highly rated moving companies my new guest initially selected, for instance, only performed local moves. Their “Five Star” ratings, it appears, were influenced by their highly transient (and very prolific) younger local customer base. According to their advertising or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration household goods motor carrier profile, some only use two-axle straight trucks – way too small to move a fully furnished 3200 sq. ft home.
For most of the reviewers, it seems, vendor quality is determined by price. Service was subjectively defined by arrival and finish times. Overall value was invariably measured by relationship of final cost to the original estimate amount. Once again, in an inexperienced consumer's mind, price usually trumps quality performance.
Some of the most highly rated man-and-a van companies no longer existed, apparently driven out of business by either the lack of customers, state regulatory authorities, their poor quality service, or unbelievably low cost business model.
Unfortunately, most folks move so infrequently, they don't know that. And with more and more companies abandoning their traditional corporate relocation or move management programs in lieu of lump sum distributions, increasingly inexperienced, uninformed consumers are left on their own when selecting a mover.
Due to their extreme popularity in today's online marketplace, these types of 'rating and review' sites are frequently where many shoppers begin their search for local products and services – especially among younger, less experienced users. As use of these WOM sites increases among older, more seasoned customers, however, some local vendors have begun catering to the online rating and review business model.
“Word of Mouth” Drives Demand
In a recent article entitled Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com, Michael Luca, a researcher with Boston University's Department of Economics, demonstrated that:
- A one-star increase in a Yelp rating leads to a 9% increase in revenue
- This effect is driven by independent restaurants; ratings do not affect restaurants with chain affiliation, and
- Chain restaurants have declined in market share as Yelp has penetrated the market.
- Consumers do not use all available information and are more responsive to quality changes that are more visible, and;
- Consumers respond more strongly when a rating contains more information.
Although his research focused primarily on eateries, the impressive financial results generally suggest that online consumer reviews have become a more prominent substitute for more traditional forms of business reputation in the virtual marketplace.
If true, that would mean that those small, independent local movers, brokers or other relocation service providers who aggressively cultivate their online performance rating and reviews as part of their internal CRM or Web 2.0 social media programs are effectively undermining the traditional sales and marketing efforts of much larger national van lines and their established affiliated agents – especially in the local moving niche.
Finding a Reputable Mover
“What is the best way to find a dependable mover then?” asked the now worried father.
“Search through this list of national van lines, find their local agents, and ask at least three of the most reputable companies to provide in-home estimates to your daughter”
“Then forward your daughter a copy of the Moving Cost Estimate Comparison Tool. Have her collect and record the information from each company she is considering or salesperson who visits her home. Finally, have her read How to Find a Reputable Mover: A Professional Guide."
Yesterday, the daughter presented me with a list of three established moving and storage companies.
- Each are affiliated with a large national household good carrier.
- The estimates were close … and competitive! Two were binding; one was based on actual weight.
- All three have been in business at the same location for five years.
- Two have received their van lines highest customer service awards in the last three years; one for two years in a row.
- NONE ARE LISTED AT YELP or EPINIONS
- One is indexed at Citysearch. Unfortunately, the well-respected company only has a two star rating from one very disappointed customer who rated them as being 'too expensive'.
- I had to look hard to find one at Kudzu. Someone spelled the company name wrong. It had a three star rating for Quality, Service and Value based on the subjective input from five customers. This vendor was also not easily indexed at Google.
Rating and review sites seem to be gaining in popularity in today's marketplace – especially as more and more consumers begin their search for a relocation product or service supplier online. The growing popularity of social media marketing widgets such as “Like”, “Thumbs Up”, Thumbs Down”; "Plus 1" or “Fav” buttons suggests that the method may be working.
While these types of user generated content venues may not be the best option to vet a local or long distance mover, the public seems to be enamored with the option of digging through the comments of other users instead of simply relying on the often expensive (and increasingly ineffective) advertising many relocation service providers invest in to attract their attention.
Maybe it's time the moving industry developed their own relocation rating and review site.
Moving Cost Estimate Comparison Tool – RELO Roundtable
How to Find a Reputable Mover: A Professional Guide – RELO Roundtable
I’m so confused! How do I find a mover NOW? – RELO Roundtable
Movers lined up at the hanging tree – RELO Roundtable
Are you shopping for a cheap rate…or a reliable mover? – RELO Roundtable
Have questions or need professional assistance with an upcoming moving and storage issue, or help choosing a domestic or international relocation product or service supplier?
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