How To Provide Accurate Moving Estimates

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In this video, Louis Massaro shares his formula for giving accurate moving estimates.

  • “Gather the Customer’s Inventory” Go room-by-room with your customer and guide them through the process asking them specific questions about the contents of each room.

  • “Determine the Boxes” To determine the number of boxes you need for the move take the weight of the customer’s items and divide it by 100.

  • “Add Any Additional Charges” Assess the additional fees and things you charge extra for like bulky items, pianos, safes, hot tubs, extra stops, long carries, packing, fuel, etc.

  • “Calculate and Present the Price” Determine how long the move will take, how many trucks and movers you need, any variances that need to be considered, and book the move!

  • “Review the Actual vs Estimate Report” Look at your track record to help optimize and fine-tune your estimate process over time.
  • Watch the video to get full training.


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Hey, my friend, it’s Louis Massaro, CEO of Moving Mastery, where we help moving company owners set up proven systems and processes to increase profits, reduce stress, and live a better quality of life. I hear from clients of all sizes and experience in the business, the trouble they have when it comes to estimating moves. So whether they’re starting off, or whether they’ve got multiple locations, part of this business, the moving business, is giving estimates of how long the move’s going to take or how much it’s going to cost, or the wait or from long distance to time from pickup to delivery and all of that. And as we hire more people and train more people, sometimes it becomes a big, big area of frustration, concern. Some bad estimates could really cause some major customer service issues, which could result in loss of revenue, which could result in poor reputation. So there’s a lot of frustration that goes into estimating moves, and if they’re not done correctly.

So how you resolve this is, you just have to have a system that’s based on a formula to estimate moves. And when I first started, it was… I had no idea how to estimate moves. Every single person that called, I was like, “Three men and a truck. Three men and a truck.” We were just doing hourly rate. Right? So I’d tell them three men and a truck no matter if it was a studio apartment or a 12,000 square foot home.

And as you know, that could create some issues and create some problems. So I learned pretty quick that I couldn’t just offer everybody three men and a truck, regardless of the size. And it really took me several years, almost seven years, until I started doing long-distance and also opened up in markets that required actual estimates and not just giving hourly rates, that I actually had to really learn how to give estimates so that my team could give accurate estimates to my customers.

And here’s what I could tell you: It’s one of those things that… You know, it’s super frustrating when you know how to give an estimate, but maybe somebody on your team doesn’t follow all the correct steps. Or, like me when I first started, first several years, almost seven years in business, I didn’t know how to give an actual estimate.

So whether you’re doing it over the phone, whether you’re doing it in person as an onsite estimate; either way, there’s a formula that you need to follow in order to get accurate estimates. So let’s talk about how you go about doing that.

The first thing that you need to do in order to get an accurate moving estimate for your customers is you need to gather the customer’s inventory. What does that mean? You need to… And this can be done over the phone, and this could be done through an onsite. At our height, we were booking 12,000 moves a year. Most of them were done over the phone, and we were going through the same process.

So as you… You know, you need to get the customer’s inventory, and you need to enter it into your CRM. You need to make sure… I mean, if you want to be old school about it, you could have a cube sheet and you can just kind of write down all the cubes and go through that whole process. But in this modern day of the moving business, you need to have a CRM. By the way, I’m co-founder in SmartMoving Software. Check that out if you don’t have something. But otherwise, any CRM that allows you to enter your customer’s inventory should do. You want to enter that it. You want to go room by room with your customer. What does that mean?

So you want to make it easy on them. Because especially… Let’s talk about doing this over the phone. Because that’s more complex than it is doing it onsite. An onsite, it’s typically the same thing, just a little bit easier to do since you’re there and you can actually see the stuff. So let’s say you’re talking to the customer. First thing you wanna do is let them know where to start.

So at this point in your sales script, as you’re talking to them, you’ll let them know, “Let’s go ahead and get an inventory of everything that you’ll be moving. We usually like to start in the master bedroom. Does that work for you?” Lead them where you want them to start, otherwise, they have no idea what to do.

Remember, if you’ve seen my other videos, you know a customer wants a professional to take them by the hand and lead them where they need to go. And that’s what you wanna do here. So you start them off in a particular room. Also, when you’re entering it into your CRM you want to make sure that you’re putting it in per room, and that your CRM allows you to then have that printed out per room. And what does that mean?

So there’s two ways to do it. When you’re looking at an inventory, you could either have an inventory that’s in alphabetical order. Armoire, boxes, credenza. Like that: A, B, C. Or, you have one that’s separated by room. So you’ve got master bedroom, second room, living room, family room, garage. Separated out by room. It’s so important that when you’re gathering the inventory, that you separate it out by room. And let me tell you why.

Number one, you’re going to need to send this to your customer if you’re going to actually give them an estimate based off the inventory. And you might say, “Hey, look, I’m just doing hourly rates. I don’t want to give an estimate,” cool. If you’re allowed to do that in your market and you don’t need to and your business is good and you don’t have any upset customers, keep doing what you’re doing. But, if you want to give your customers an accurate estimate, you need to get the inventory. And in order to make it a two-way street, they have to agree upon the estimate that you’re giving them.

So what you’re going to do after you get their inventory, is you’re going to send it to them for them to review. And by the way, when we talk about inventory, if you’re just possibly getting into this business, it’s going through the home and saying, “Okay, tell me what’s in the master bedroom.” And they’ll be like, “Well, there’s a bed.” “Well, what size is the bed?” Okay. “Is there a headboard? is there a footboard?” You’ve got to be able to dig a little bit. “How about under the bed? Is there anything under the bed?” They’re talking about everything else in the room. “There’s a dresser, there’s two nightstands, there’s a TV, and that’s about it.” “Oh, okay. Well, is there a closet in there?” “Oh, yeah. There’s a closet.” “Okay, what’s in the closet? What about a rug? Is there a rug? How about on the nightstands, are there lamps on the nightstands? Do you have any pictures on the wall?” You have to dig.

A lot of people will start and say, “I got an inventory,” but they’re not digging. You have to make sure you get everything. Because remember, there’s a big difference between doing it over the phone and doing it in person, and you can successfully do it over the phone if you dig and if you have your team trained to know the questions to ask to make sure that everything is on there. And you also want to make sure that anything that’s not being moved is on that list, also. They might say, “Well, there’s a sofa in here, too, but we’re giving that away,” mark that down at the time that’s not going.

So now, let’s get back to reviewing the inventory with the customer. We’re still on step one, which is gather the customer’s inventory. So once you get it all entered into your CRM, you’re going to want to email them out the inventory so that they could agree upon it. Say, “Listen, we need you to take a look at this and make sure this is everything that you’re moving, because your price is based on this inventory. So if there’s more items that aren’t on here, your price could go up on the day of the move.” So you want them to review that.

Now, let’s come back to why that needs to be by room and not alphabetical order. If you send the customer an inventory list and it’s in alphabetical order, and they look at it and they’re like, “Three armoires,” and they need to go through the house and check them off and make sure that’s accurate… Well, one might be in the living room. Another one might be upstairs. Another might be in the garage. It’s not possible to actually go through and verify a list that’s in alphabetical order. So if your CRM has those two options, switch it so that it’s by room. If you’re in Smart Moving, you’re good. You don’t need to worry about it. But make sure it’s by room so that they can verify it.

So another reason why you need it by room is when the movers go out, if you’re giving… And this might be for a flat rate move. This might be for a binding or non-binding long-distance move. This might be for an hourly not to exceed move. Depending on how you give the estimate is not really important right now when we’re gathering inventory. You’re trying to figure out how long this is going to take so that you can build the pricing.

But when your movers go out there, let’s say it is a flat rate or let’s say it is a binding move, they also need to now take that inventory list and verify everything that’s on it. And if it’s in alphabetical order, imagine them trying to go and look for three armoires in the house that they have no idea where they are. No. Master bedroom, living room, kitchen. They go in the master bedroom, and they’ve got a list of everything that’s in there. They check all that stuff off. They make sure it’s accurate, and they can move on.

So I want to stress this, just because it’s so important for the whole cycle of being able to give an estimate, make sure it’s accurate, and go from there.

So when you’re entering an inventory into your CRM, basically what it’s doing is it’s calculating cubes and weights. And a lot of people can do their estimates based off cube, and some will do it based off weight. Even if you are charging by the hour for a local move, those two numbers are what’s going to determine how many hours you need to send. For me, we did it by weight. We would take the cube, whatever the cube was, multiply that by seven, which would give you the weight. Software CRMs, they’ll do this automatically for you. But this kind of goes back, if you’ve been in this business long enough, to a cube sheet, which is pretty much a legal-size sheet that had mostly every item that would be in somebody’s home, and it would list the cubes, how many cubic feet the item was. And then you would take that, and you would calculate it by six, six and a half, seven. For me, I like to go by seven. So you want to make sure that you gather everything that the customer has. It’s there, you want to make sure that they look at it, that they agree on it, and that you’re on the same page.

Second step in giving an accurate estimate is you need to determine the boxes that they’re going to have. And this is something that’s really challenging. It’s hard to get this perfect, because typically, when you go out to the home, or do it over the phone, either way, the customer’s going to be getting rid of stuff. Those closets that are packed, that garage that is packed, they’re going to throw a lot of stuff out. Moving naturally creates some spring cleaning, right? You start going through, “We don’t need this. We don’t need that.” So the best way to determine how many boxes you’re going to need for the move, whether you’re going to be doing the packing or they’re gonna be doing the packing, you still have to take the boxes into account. Because as part of the inventory, you have all the furniture. But now you’ve got a bunch of little loose items. All these little figurines and the plates. You’re not going to go put 20 plates on the inventory. That’s part of determining the boxes.

So a really, really simple, simple formula for determining the boxes is to take the weight and divide that by 100. And that’ll give you a rough idea of how many boxes. And how do you get the weight? You get the weight when you gather the inventory, step one. So take the weight, let’s say its 6,000. Divide that by 100, so you’ll have 60 boxes. And that’s give or take. But that’s really a solid formula for being able to figure it out, and you could break it down even further, of what percentage will be … 1.5 book boxes. What will be 3.0s? What will be 4.5s? What are going to be dish packs and wardrobes? You could break it down even further, but for simplicity sake and time sake today, take the total weight, divide it by 100. That’ll give you your box count.

Next thing you wanna do is you want to establish your additional charges and accessorial fees. So these are things like anything that you’re going to charge extra for. Bulky items, pianos, safes, hot tubs, extra stops, long carries, packing, fuel, additional valuation, storage; all your additional services, all your additional charges. And they’re called, traditionally, accessorial fees. Then you’ll add that on. So what we’re doing right now is we’re building out an estimate. We’re starting by gathering their inventory, then we’re figuring out the boxes, then we’re going to add on all the additional charges, and whatever it is you charge for that.

And depending on if you’re doing local or long-distance, if you’re doing long-distance, all these charges need to be part of your tariff. A lot of states, for local moves, you also have to have a tariff where you basically say, “This is what we charge for these items.” So you just want to make sure that whatever you’re doing as you’re estimating, that it is in compliance with your local county, city, state governing regulation entity, whoever that is, and with the federal motor carrier and DOT, if you’re doing long distance.

So fourth thing you want to do is calculate the price. Now, you have all the information you need. Now, you have all the data. Remember, we need a formula. So this is the formula. We’re gathering information, we’re determining the boxes, we’re adding any additional charges, and part of those additional charges, it’s asking the customer for other … what they have. How far is it from where the truck’s going to be able to be parked to the entrance? Are there stairs? Are there elevators? Things like that. You have to … It’s more of a discovery call. You have to ask questions to find out all this information. Now, of course, if you do an onsite estimate, you’ll be able to find out by seeing it yourself. But you can do more over the phone, and this could be done over the phone very easily. You just need to make sure your team is trained to do all this. Share this video with them. Let them watch this, okay?

So calculating the price. So for local moves, you take the weight and you’re going to want to determine… If it’s 6,000 pounds, to use the same example, how long is it going to take? How many movers are you going to send out there to do it? How many trucks do you need? And how long is it going to take? And then, you want to add variances for, if there are stairs, if there are elevators, anything like that, if there is a long carry. In my Moving Sales Academy program, we give you the entire chart on how to price this out. But take a look at, historically, what you have, how long it’s taken you to do certain moves.

And the easiest way to start doing this is to do the estimate, even if you maybe don’t want to give it to the customer right away. Maybe you don’t want to do a flat rate price, or maybe you don’t want to give a binding price right away. But at least track it all so that you can determine for yourself how fast your team moves. How fast are your movers moving? A lot of cities… There’s definitely cities that are different, right? A move in suburban Phoenix area is going to be much different than New York City.
So you wanna determine how long it’s going to take, based on certain weights, for certain movers, to get the job done, and build yourself out a little pricing chart. This way, you’ll be able to take that number, the weight, look at the chart, see what it is. In moving CRMs like SmartMoving, once the weight’s in there, it could calculate that for you based off your numbers.

Then, the fifth and final thing that you wanna do is you want to… Because now you’re done. So now it’s like you’ve gathered the customer’s inventory, you’ve determined the boxes, you’ve added the additional charges, you’ve calculated the price, you’ve presented it to them, and hopefully you’ve booked the move. Because the number one purpose of every call is to book the move. Remember that.

So now, after the fact, you want to make sure … This is very, very important … that you start running an estimate versus actual report. In order to tweak this process, in order to avoid the frustrations of a customer being upset because the estimate wasn’t… It turned out to be longer than it should have been, or it cost more than they were told. You’ve got to be able to look at your track record. So what is an estimate versus actual report? That’s basically numbers showing this is what the estimate was. And then if the price goes up, whether you charge them or not, kind of depends on your contract, kind of depends on your business process, if you’re going to honor the original price or not, you still know what it should have been. So you have an estimate versus actual. How far off are you? This is how you can identify and start adjusting so that you can get it to where those numbers start to really match up.

So you wanna do this on a company-wide level, and you also want to do this on an individual moving consultant level. Because you’ll find, especially as you grow, that you’ll have… This person over here, they’re super diligent. They get the customer on the phone and they’re like, “Okay, what about the lamps? What’s under the bed? Is there an attic? What about a shed out back? Is there a garage? What about the closets? What about pictures on the wall? Rugs?” They dig. And then you may have other reps who are just like, “Okay, there’s a bed. Okay. Couple nightstands? Okay. What else? That’s it? Okay, let’s move to the next room.” And what you’ll find is the estimate versus the actual is going to be way off.

So for training purposes and constantly improving your business and being able to identify exactly where the problems are coming from, you run this report and you can clearly see who’s not giving the accurate estimates. And you know where there’s additional training needed.

So I hope this was helpful, my friend. If so, do me a favor: Share this with somebody out there on social media or in one of the groups or a friend who might find this valuable. And make sure you like this for me, I’d really appreciate it. Until I see you next time, go out there every single day, profit in your business, thrive in your life. I’ll see you later.

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