Customers like web-generated estimates! Why don’t movers?By Don Kachur • Oct 19th, 2010 • Category: Web Generated Estimates
by Don Kachur
While the use of consumer web-generated inventories have significant advantages for the moving industry and the consumer, their adoption requires a monumental shift in thinking for the traditional mover. Surprisingly, no such shift is required by the consumer. Our customers are already deeply involved in web services and self service models, and these expectations are already a large part of their everyday life.
Self-service is the mantra of industries that are embracing the web to streamline their business processes. 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 Standing in bank lines to transact business and pay bills has been replaced by mouse clicks at your desk.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 we always have to send surveyors to the customer’s home to do something as simple as creating 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”. Surely, if consumers can book their own flights around the world without the help of a professional, they can make a list of furniture in their own home!
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, I believe lies with certain fundamental difficulties with web self-service estimating. These are:
1. User friendliness of the web interface
2. Motivating consumer accuracy
3. Dispute resolution
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 a customer generated inventory 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 web generated inventory programs 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 customer generated 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, etc.)
MovesOnline is a web inventory generator designed exclusively for movers. It combines familiar household 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.
“Your pages for describing the house contents is the best and simplest that I have seen. Very good.”
"Your website is great.”
“…I LOVE IT !…”
“Looks awesome! Very Helpful"
“Great website, easy to use”
“Very easy to navigate. Good job”
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 and the government entities that regulate them. 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 moving quote will be based on moving only the furniture they submit.
To leave no room for inaccuracy, the consumer is informed well in advance of the problems and additional costs that can arise from an incomplete inventory, including:
- Items which are not on the inventory are not insured for loss or damage. (This item alone sends consumers scrambling back to review and update their online estimate)
- Underestimating may result in the mover arriving with not enough room on his truck for your goods.
- And of course, extra charges will apply if there is more to move than indicated.
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 Avoidance
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 and adjust 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.
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.
Don Kachur is President of the HighStar Group based in Edmonton, Alberta. He is active both within his companies and the industry, having served on the Board of Directors for United Van Lines Canada and the Canadian Association of Movers.