Episode 23: Chatting with Reuven Gorscht from 'Movesnap'
Reuven: Hey, Glenn! Great to be here! Thank you for having me.
Glenn: Yeah, well I’m excited. We’re going to talk about a lot of cool stuff, and we’re going to learn. I love your story about the niche that you’ve really created in the marketplace. But before we get there, let me just give you a quick background of Reuven, and then you can fill in the blanks if I miss anything. So here’s what I know about Reuven. He created MoveSnap, which is really just a great company that helps anyone who is moving to organize and get all the moving tasks done seamlessly. Prior to founding MoveSnap, Reuven spent over 15 years helping Fortune 500 companies really help solve the selfish problems that their customers have by consulting and really building more back-end systems to make that client experience world class. I really think that finding your niche is about trying to solve the selfish problem that your perfect or ideal customer has. And I think it’s all about answering that question: “What’s keeping your customer awake at night? What’s their biggest problem? What’s their biggest fear? And how can you provide a unique solution to solve that selfish need?” And when you provide that solution, it’s really adding value to all parts of your business – but more importantly – the perceived value of your customer. So I know with MoveSnap, Reuven, (you can fill in after this) it was really created to solve that selfish problem of people who have decided to move by creating that concierge service that helps them anywhere from getting their utilities (their phone, Internet, cable) to a whole bunch of things. So welcome, Reuven. I’ll let you talk now. Let me just ask you, how did you discover this niche? And how did you grow your business so rapidly by solving those problems?
Reuven: Sure, Glenn. Again, thank you for the kind introduction. I found the niche essentially through my own personal experience, much like a lot of people do. A couple of years ago, my wife and I actually bought our dream home, and we were super stoked and excited. I remember signing the deal. We were in a multiple-offer situation and so on, so it was a little bit of a gruelling process, but then you get that sense of relief. I remember celebrating – “Hey! We’re finally getting out of the old house and into something that we really wanted and admired!” Now, as soon as we woke up the next day, we sort of looked at each other and said, “Oh my God. We have so many things we’ve got to get done.” And our closing was fairly short. I think it was about 45 days as part of their conditions. The next few weeks that ensued were extremely chaotic in arranging movers and getting stuff done with the lawyers, and so on. And of course, we were both working, we’ve got young kids, and life still needs to go on. But I remember going through this chaotic period of just stress. I’d literally wake up at 3a.m. thinking of all the things I need to get done that day, in addition to all the other obligations. A few weeks after we moved, I remember being in a meeting at work, and my phone rang, and it was my wife. I put it on hold, initially, and it rang again, and I’m thinking there’s some sort of emergency going on. I walked out of the room, and she’s on the other line. She’s literally distressed. She’s been pulled over by the police and given a ticket for failing to update her vehicle registration. Or, I should say, me failing to update her vehicle registration (because she still won’t let me live it down). And it was absurd – a $300 fine and so on. And I realized how many things we really forgot. We’ve moved before, and we thought, “We’ve got this.” We knew what we were doing. It’s stressful, so we followed a checklist. So again, speaking of that selfish need, Glenn, we really didn’t find anything out there outside of dozens and dozens of generic checklists. And the one moment that really struck me is that nobody was really around to help. There was nobody that we could call even to find out what we missed and what we should be doing. We just ended up in this chaotic situation. The light bulb goes off and says, “Well how come there’s nothing out there?” There’s literally 17 million households across North America that relocate each and every year, so once the pieces come together, there’s a huge opportunity here to really solve a real problem that people are having.
Glenn: It’s so true. In my 28 years of selling real estate, I’ve really noticed that it starts at the 30 days before closing. There’s some stress. And then you get to 20, and it’s increasing, 15, increasing, and the last 10 days before closing are just the most stressful time for our clients, or for you, as the buyer, about to move into this big home. And I often find it’s really interesting that agents will hand the client a checklist or email them a checklist, and say, “Oh, by the way, here’s your moving checklist. Just go through it.” I think maybe that was okay 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, but everyone is so busy, so preoccupied. As you said, you’ve got young kids. You and your wife are working. It’s just the most stressful time. And I really believe that how an agent shows up with that customer over the last 10 days of closing is the difference between that customer having an “okay” experience, and that customer becoming a raving fan of your business. I know what we used to do would be to call our clients every day for the last 10 days with just one simple question: “How can I help you?” And sometimes, it was like, “Oh my God. Can you do this?” And other times, it was, “No, I think we’re okay,” but I think the whole idea is just to keep that whole level of fear down so they’re not in panic. Keep it down and calm it, almost. Or as my daughter says, “Dad, calm your farm.” I still don’t know what that means, but it means something. And that’s what I love with what you’ve done – how you’ve just found that one big problem in the marketplace and decided to solve it in such a great way. I’m sure you’ll tell me more about it, but for agents who are listening right now: don’t forget these pieces. The whole part about creating a niche market is, first of all, go and find a problem that someone has that no one else recognizes. Go and see how deep that market is, which is exactly what you did. Then create a technology or some unique process to get those people into your web – but more importantly, create the unique experience so that they just start sending all of their friends and family members to your amazing experience.
Reuven: Yeah. I would fully agree with that statement, Glenn. I come from a background of working with some of the largest brands in the world. We’re talking companies like Under Armour, Apple and Starbucks, and so on. Obviously those are household names, right? When you think about coffee, for example, people automatically associate with Starbucks. And you’ve got to think to yourself, “There are so many brands. Coffee is a commodity. Why is Starbucks this giant that’s really dominating and winning the game?” And not only are they winning the game, but if you think about Starbucks, it has something close to a million people Instagramming their latte every day, and sharing it with millions of others, which is, again, that word of mouth influence. And that influence only comes through serving a really great experience. When we say a really great experience, it’s not only, “Hey, we got the job done. We sold the home,” or “We served a cup of coffee” (whatever you may do in your niche) – it’s really that experience that goes over the top. And when you go over the top, if you’ve ever had a great experience with a brand or a person that you’ve told other friends and family about, you told them completely without incentives, right? “Hey, guess what? I went to this restaurant, and it was just absolutely phenomenal. You’ll never guess what they did.” It’s always those little things, Glenn, as you mentioned – that little check-in with the client on how things are going, showing up on their move day with some sort of food and drink. That creates that memorable experience and gets people talking, because we can’t help but reciprocate when somebody does something, especially at a time when we’re in need.
Glenn: Well I think people don’t always just respect what you do. I think they respect more how much you cared, and how much you actually thought about them during this process and tried to remove as many obstacles as you can so it’s just easy, quick, and takes all that stress away. It’s a lot of stress from when you firm up your transaction and you’re happy and you’re telling all your friends and family, to getting to the finish line of actually moving in.
Reuven: Yeah, exactly. And it correlates to asking yourself, “What business are you in? Are you in the sales business or are you in the service business?” I think a lot of that involves what you do and the actions that you deliver, because it’s always easy, (and maybe sometimes intuitive) to go for where the money is and where the opportunity is. Go for the transaction, move on to the next one, and so on. But obviously, folks that are working well and are investing in their niche and something that they do and something that they’re passionate about, go over and above. And when they do go over and above, it turns that one deal today into three deals tomorrow, and just multiplies. It’s that multiplier effect.
Glenn: For sure. I think there was an article I read last week, and it said something like, most of the great real estate agents, you’ve probably never, ever heard of. And if you look at our industry, there are two camps. You have the short-term money agent, and then you have the long-term agent who’s committed to building a long-term business with their clients. It’s almost like the difference between a cab and a limo, right? A cab is built for you to have a short-term experience, and it’s not going to be nice. It’s all the same. No one ever refers a cab driver, right? But Uber has filled in that gap pretty well. A limo driver has a business card. And it’s the same drive to the airport. It’s just maybe a slightly different experience, and you can charge a whole lot more for it, just by the little things that you talked about earlier – just by adding those little things that you thought ahead to make the experience perfect for the customer.
Reuven: Right. Absolutely. Think about the multitude of success of Disney. Anybody that’s ever been to a Disney theme park or engaged with Disney in any of their multiple businesses, vacation properties, and so on, knows that Disney stands for a very particular, curated type of experience. And when they’re at a Disney park, people don’t mind paying $15 or $20 for a meal. They know that it’s higher priced, but the level of service and the attention to the detail is what brings people in time and time again, and sharing that experience with others. “You wouldn’t believe what a great experience we had at Disney!” or on a Disney cruise, and so on. So there’s a lot of proof in the pudding in terms of real return on investment when you start thinking about your business long-term, and thinking about, “What is the value that I’m providing to my clients?” And in fact, there’s lots of research that even says – and I know personally I fall into this bucket – people will pay more for great service.
Glenn: Yeah. Well I think you win this game when not only do you have a great product, but you have great service. I think we’ve all been through the experience of being at a restaurant where the meal was great, but the service was terrible. And you’re like, “Oh my God. I can’t believe it,” because it’s just ruined your night. Now you’re worried. You’re stressed. Or the service is great, but the meal was terrible. And it’s always what they do when that problem occurs, that’s really how you feel. During university, I was a waiter at The Keg restaurants, and they really taught me that whole idea of: over-fix every possible problem with the customer. And they still do it today. I go to The Keg and eat a lot, because I just know that the food’s going to be fine and the service will be really great. And I know that as soon as we had any type of glitch, we would go right to the manager. The customer might have just complained quietly about it, and then the manager would come over and over-fix it. “You know what? Let me buy your bottle of wine. Here’s some dessert. We’re really, really sorry.” And that’s why they just continue to be successful. And they’re not the cheapest restaurant out there.
Reuven: Right. Absolutely. And in fact, I just experienced that very Keg experience this past weekend. One of the folks that I was with actually asked the waitress about their specific training program, so it is really interesting to hear just how many weeks and months go into making sure that that experience is flawless. And stuff’s going to happen. If you’re in the restaurant business, if you’re in real estate – something’s bound to happen. There are a lot of complexities in what we do. But you’re absolutely right, Glenn. When things go sideways, how do you react? Are you there to rectify it and make it right?
Glenn: Right. So what are some of the stress points that you’ve noticed? What have you done to go, “Oh, there’s a stress point, and here’s your solution?” I think for the people listening right now, it’s really about anticipating that there’s going to be a whole bunch of little mini problems – and they’re not going to kill the deal, but they’re totally going to change the experience. I love MoveSnap, so just tell me a little bit about how you’ve solved each touch point from, say 45 days out, right up until closing. And then I know you guys even do it afterwards, and what I love about it is the agent doesn’t have to think about this. It’s not the agent’s Unique Ability. Their Unique Ability was finding a house, selling a house, negotiating the offer, removing the conditions, and shepherding it through closing. But they’re not always the best people at dropping by and dropping off the pizza, or just calling everyone the last 10 days before closing.
Reuven: Right. It’s a really great question, Glenn. What we did, in the first and foremost process, before we ever even wrote a single line of code, was literally go out and interview about 150 individuals that had recently gone through a move. And these weren’t five-minute conversations. Some of them were an hour and a half long of just getting those individuals to talk about those stress points that they had. What we learned from that is there are all sorts of different situations, and when you’re buying or selling a home, it usually goes with something else: you’re getting a new job, you’re getting married, you’re downsizing, you’re a first-time buyer and you’re excited to move into your first property. And with that, every move is actually pretty unique, because you’ve got different people at different levels of experience. Some have done it 15 times over the last decade, and some have never left their parents’ home. So through all those interviews, we actually learn about all the various scenarios. Where did people encounter those friction points? And then we started putting it together in terms of a flow to fix those very problems. Now, we’re still learning. We’re a little bit over a year in, and we’re still learning from and encountering different situations every day. And the nice thing about talking to the clients (the homebuyers and sellers), and of course, talking to agents all the time, is learning what would benefit their business. We get tons of feedback through this ongoing dialogue, and then we very quickly rationalize, “Okay, here’s a recurring theme,” and we build it right into the software. I think that’s what’s made us successful in terms of the real estate community, because a lot of the agents that we partnered up with early on knew, “These guys are new to the market. Do I really take a chance and put my reputation on the line?” And those who did, realized that as soon as there was any piece of feedback or glitch and they phoned us or emailed us or texted us, they knew that within a couple hours, it’d be fixed, it’d be rectified, and that we learned from it so that next time, the experience is even better. I think that’s been the key, or the “secret sauce” to really iterating (much like we do with business): to learn and also react and respond.
Glenn: Yeah, and I love that, because so many agents plan their marketing from their point of view, instead of from the customer’s point of view, or from the person who’s actually writing the cheque. And I love how you actually went out to the people who would write the cheque. To the agents, it’s almost like if we went back to all of our 150 past clients and said, “Okay, just tell me every step of the transaction, where did we exceed? Where was a glitch?” And then I love how you planned your whole operating directly from reverse engineering it back, so that you could just get rid of most of the glitches and make it so easy for all of those people that you serve.
Reuven: Right. And that’s key, because a lot of people are almost afraid to ask for feedback. There’s a certain, almost, survey-phobia, to say, “Yeah, you know what? Maybe if this one didn’t go wrong.” And sometimes, the truth is hard to hear, especially if you feel that you didn’t do well. But I find, if you’re committed to continuous improvement, how else would you improve, other than getting candid feedback from somebody that voted for you with their wallets, and entrusted you to help them go through the largest transaction (the largest purchase or sale, in terms of the assets they own?). There’s nothing wrong with having a candid discussion to say, “Look, what did I do well? Where did I fall short? And what should I be doing next time?” And I think most people hesitate. But from a client perspective, I haven’t seen a lot of people that really mind providing that type of feedback, and saying, “Look, Glenn, I think you did really well on A, B, and C, but D could have been a little bit better.” And once you hear that, and you’re willing to incorporate that into your business, I think you’re definitely on the right path of iterating and finding what works, and what works for you, specifically.
Glenn: So what were some of the other challenges you noticed, or what are some of the flare-up touch points? Just walk me through your process almost from 30 days to closing onwards or 45 days, so people can really understand how well you guys have done this and figured out every single step. What are some of the major headaches you found out?
Reuven: Sure. The headaches kind of depend on different situations, but there are commonalities that we find. Again, because relocation or the closing process in general is so fragmented, there are so many different parties that you have to deal with. The number one thing that we find is one of the most popular friction points is really the whole aspect of connecting/disconnecting utilities. That’s when you don’t know necessarily, “Who is my current utility?” A lot of people actually are not aware. They’ve been paying the bills, but they’re not sure. And even if you’re moving down the street, sometimes you’ll get a new provider. And then what’s the process? A lot of it is fairly vague. So, for example, we’ve automated that. We identified, based on the buyer’s or seller’s address, “Here’s your current utility. There’s your next utility.” And literally within a couple clicks and about 10 minutes of effort, that entire process becomes seamless. It’s literally: A, B, C. You’re done. Move on to the next one. No need to call. No need to spend a couple hours on hold only to realize you’ve been transferred to the wrong department. I think we’ve all been there with some organizations we deal with. So utilities is one. The other thing, Glenn, is the average household, we find, has to notify about 15-20 different businesses that they deal with of their address change. There’s a big misconception out there that people go and pay a forwarding fee, and mail forwarding is kind of this magic pill, and all the mail will automatically get redirected. Well, mail forwarding eventually expires, and then what happens is, that credit card that you never really remember that you had, or that driver’s license renewal form ends up in some stranger’s mailbox. And then you end up in these very unpleasant situations where the collection agency starts calling. We’ve seen folks, for example, that failed to notify immigration, and there are some very serious legal implications there. And it’s not for ignorance – it’s just that people don’t know what they don’t know. There’s a lot going on, as you mentioned, in those last 30 days, and if there’s one thing that falls through the cracks, it can end up costing a lot of stress and a lot of frustration. It triggers that whole thing that I’m sure many folks in the industry have heard from clients. They’ll say, “You know what, Glenn? I’m never moving again.” And if you’re in the business of helping people essentially make a move, that’s never a great thing to hear.
Glenn: That’s right. We’re like, “No, no. That must be a mistake.”
Glenn: Okay, and what are some of the other stresses as we get closer to the closing date – the last couple of days, or the other processes you’ve got?
Reuven: Yeah. So the last couple days are probably the pinnacle, right? That’s when you really start thinking, “Well, what did I miss?” Hopefully you’ve got your movers booked, you’ve got everything packed and prepared for the move. We make sure that we send a lot of tips in advance, like pack your moving day bag – something as simple as that. Stick in your cell phone chargers, a couple Nutri-Grain bars, a bottle of water, a pair of scissors for when you get to your new home. Those are some very common sense tips, but a lot of people just forget. You’ve got your entire life in boxes, and as you go through the day (typically it takes hours to pack and load everything up), you’re famished, your cell phone ran out of batteries, the movers don’t show. So we find we’re always advising people to really prepare themselves, and just really take the time and plan out the day itself. Then it goes a lot smoother for them, and they can settle into their home faster.
Glenn: Right. Well Reuven, I’ve got to thank you so much for joining me on this, because I think you’ve just shone the light for a lot of realtors right now on how it’s the small things that matter. And if you’re really going to build a great niche market, typically in a niche market, they’re paying you a lot more. They’re like your perfect clients. Perfect fit. They’re willing to pay you for the perceived value of your services. And I think for all of the agents who can create this type of concierge service, it just makes the last part of The McQueenie Method, which is creating that unique experience, which I think is the most important factor. People love to tell stories about great things that happen, but they tell way more people when bad things happen. I think the more that we can just get rid of all the bad stuff and create these winning-formula experiences for people, the better. And I love how you went right into that niche, saw where the problem was, surveyed the clients, and then created this amazing solution through your technology at MoveSnap, that it solved that problem. And I think you really role-modelled the behaviour for people who want to get into those niche markets on, “What are my steps?” And it’s like, “Well, go find the gap in the market, and then go and create a unique solution for your tribe to follow.”
Reuven: Yeah, exactly. And a lot of people listening may be thinking, “Well where do I get started?” And I think, Glenn, the only thing to leave your listeners with is: you’re going to get nuggets once you talk to people in your niche. I think you’ve mentioned that in previous episodes of the podcast. Get out there and chat with people, and those problems will very quickly surface. And once the juices start running in terms of what that creative solution can be, you will solve that problem and you’ll be the very best at your niche, in terms of delivering a solution to that specific tribe.
Glenn: Yeah. Oh, that’s amazing. Well thank you, Reuven. Thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate your time on this call.
Reuven: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.