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Are you really making the customer experience easy?

My wife recently had a great experience on the U-Haul Web site, and she never went near renting a truck. You might be surprised to know that U-Haul sells packing boxes to all comers, whether they rent a truck or not. I know I was. But what surprised me even more was the way they sell boxes. As I think about what would concern me the most about buying boxes, they seem to have thought of just about everything.

Ford F350 U-haul truck.

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Think about the average person who is moving. First off, they probably don’t do it very often, so they don’t really ever get good at moving. They just kind of stumble through it and don’t think about it until the next time.

So, what would it take for you to be able to order your moving boxes from U-Haul? You need help to select the right stuff, and reassurance that it’s not a final decision. U-Haul excels beautifully in both areas.

Of course, if you know that you need three poster tubes, five medium boxes, four small boxes, and one box for packing dishes and glasses, you can just pick them out and you’re done, but where’s the sport in that? That’s for the professional packer, which most people are not.

No, for the rest of us, we have no idea how many friggin’ small boxes we need, much less what to use for our flat panel TV. What intrigued me is that U-Haul offers sets of boxes designed to move in specific situations. I might not know what boxes I need, but I definitely know if I am moving a dorm room vs. a two-bedroom house.

Ok, so this I can do. But wait, it gets better. You aren’t even stuck with these pre-fab packages. If the package contains five medium boxes, but you think you might need more, just change the number to seven. So, it’s the best of both worlds–it gives you a starting guess and lets you fine-tune.

But it gets better yet. If you buy too many boxes, U-Haul will “buy your boxes back.” (How come that sounds better than just saying you can return them for a full refund?) And you don’t have to pack them up and ship them back–you can return them to any local U-Haul location. So even after you decide what you need, you can still fix a bad decision.

The only thing I think they could do better would be to make it abundantly clear on that opening screen I showed earlier that you can change the amounts of boxes. Yeah, it says that it’s customizable, but I didn’t pick up on that. I think if they had a nice graphical set of instructions that said something like: “Know what you want? Tell us!” for the section that lets you buy exactly what you want, and “Want a suggestion? Tell us what you’re moving and we’ll help you!” and then in small print say (“You can modify our suggestions in the next step.”), then I think they’d have it nailed.

But who knows? Perhaps they tested it and what they do now works better. Regardless, U-Haul has put a great deal of thought into their customer experience and it shows. What about your site? Do you sell only to customers that know exactly what they want? Or do you find ways to help people who need it?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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Discussion

  1. Avatar Nancy

    That’s pretty cool, but awfully expensive. Someone told me about a website called usedcardboardboxes.com, and the difference in price is pretty amazing. As long as the boxes are clean and in good shape (they guarantee they are), why would i want to spend more?

  2. Avatar Mike Moran

    You probably wouldn’t want to spend more, Nancy. But we were more concerned about getting the right thing that saving a few bucks. If we were as smart as you, we’d probably do something different, but we’re not. 🙂

  3. Avatar Chris Book

    Fantastic. Philosophy does a great job of this with their browse by skin condition functionality.
    You make a point that the majority of sites – retail or not – fail to comprehend: It’s not how you view/access your products, it’s how your customers do. Every business claims to be customer-focused, but based on on the sites we interact with everyday, the majority are falling short.
    Seems that the best line of thinking for any site is to work backwards. Ask what questions your customers would have and need answered in order to transact, and build the site accordingly. Without answering these questions, how can anyone expect to communicate value?

  4. Avatar Florida webdesign

    yeah that’s the basic principle of web designing . We always try to make it very easy for customers .So that they can come again

  5. Avatar Delaware Drug Rehab

    Great article. We use web sites for the drug rehab and it works very well.

  6. Avatar Delaware Drug Rehab

    Great article. We use web sites for the drug rehab and it works very well.

  7. Avatar Delaware Drug Rehab

    Great article. We use web sites for the drug rehab and it works very well.

  8. Avatar mtb

    That is pretty cool service that U-Haul will buy boxes back. Usually you over buy and then are stuck with the access. That type of service builds confidence

  9. Avatar Acai Berry

    Nice ideas. I think this would really improve the way most people move.

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