Game-changers don’t get that way by accepting the status quo or going with “good enough.” They change the game by finding problems in their industries, devising plans to fix those problems, and then taking the necessary steps — no matter how hard those steps may be — to turn their plans into realities. In 2004, Mike Rupers, President of Direct Express Auto Transport, became such a game-changer, forever changing the auto transport industry for the better. How did he do this? He invented and implemented the first-ever Instant Auto Transport Quote Calculator for our team here at Direct Express Auto Transport. This year, we’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of our calculator by sharing a quick history.
Creating the Quote Calculator: A History
Like we said above, most game-changing innovation comes from a problem. For customer service-based industries (like auto shipment), this problem usually involves some kind of technical or bureaucratic issue that makes things easier for the seller but more difficult for the customer. Case in point: the auto transportation field. For the entire period leading up to Mike Rupers’ game-changing invention, the industry standard for providing auto transport quotes was as follows:
- You would contact an auto transport broker (typically by phone, sometimes in person) for a quote on shipping your car.
- Then, said broker would require you to give them personal information, such as your name, address, phone number, and email address — sometimes even more than that. If you think telemarketing is bad today, then imagine what sort of spamming happened back in the day when people were giving out their personal information to brokers!
- Next, the broker would send you a quote. At best, these quotes were faxed or emailed. At worst, the broker would mail the quote back to you or require you to drive to their firm to physically pick up the quote.
- Next, stapled to the front of that quote would be an industry-standard fourteen-page contract which stated that if the customer cancelled the contract within 14 days, then the customer would lose their entire deposit. That’s a lot of risk for someone who just wants to know how much it would cost to ship a car from Boston, Massachusetts to Minnetonka, Minnesota.
- This lengthy bureaucratic process would be conducted with one or two brokerage firms — at the very least — and customers got to the point where they would give up in frustration, electing to just drive their car across the country instead of dealing with all of the red tape involved in securing a quote from auto transport brokerage firms.
This was the sorry state of the auto transportation industry that Mike Rupers found himself entering into when he founded Direct Express Auto Transport in 2003. He immediately knew that things had to change, and so he began to develop a much simpler method of quoting by using technology that was quickly defining the 21st century: the personal computer and the internet.
The Auto Transport Quote Calculator
In 2004, Rupers and our fast-growing, passionate team at Direct Express Auto Transport unveiled The Original Auto Transport Quote Calculator. The Original Auto Transport Quote Calculator was everything that the old method was not.
- It was fast. The Auto Transport Quote Calculator offered a nearly-instantaneous quote to customers directly on the front page of our website. No longer was there a need to directly communicate with a broker.
- It didn’t require customers to plug in any of their personal information. This helped to drastically reduce the amount of hungry circling and spamming by auto transport companies that were all vying for your business. The Original Auto Transport Quote Calculator asked 7 simple questions of customers: the zip code you are shipping your car from, the zip code you are shipping your car to, whether the car is running or not, whether you want open transportation or enclosed, and the year, make, and model of the car.
- It didn’t have the old industry-standard, fourteen-page contract attached to the front of the quote! The Original Auto Transport Quote Calculator only gave you the quote — no extraneous other documents trying to intimidate you into accepting the quote. Mike knew that his rates were some of the best around, so he had no need to try to trick or intimidate customers into signing on the dotted line without researching other options.
Mike’s invention changed the face of the auto transportation industry for good — and for the good of the customer. Though, despite the Quote Calculator’s success, it took competitors years to catch onto his great idea. In fact, it was more than three years before another quote calculator surfaced, and it wasn’t nearly as sophisticated. While Direct Express was making things far easier and far more transparent for customers, every single other car shipping company was still going through brokers and fourteen-page attached documents.
Where the Auto Transport Industry Is Today
Eventually, the other companies saw that their methods were outdated and needed to change. Today, all other major shipping companies have shredded the contracts and got with the program. This all started with Mike Rupers and our team at Direct Express Auto Transport. Our team also started allowing customers to cancel their shipments anytime leading up to the actual pick-up appointment. Other companies didn’t offer this flexible policy and quickly started to fall behind the times. Once again, they slowly came around.
One by one, other companies changed their policy to mirror the Direct Express Auto Transport policy, which allowed customers to cancel their shipments AND receive their full deposits back. It’s a much more customer-friendly industry these days — a change for the better. That change started because Mike Rupers believed that customer satisfaction was more important than profit margins when it comes to shipping vehicles. That belief has earned our team an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and a 94% 5-star rating on Trustpilot. We showed that caring about our customers leads to success. In doing so, we got the rest of the industry to care too.
If you look at the industry today, hardly any shipping companies still use the fourteen-page contract. Go on any reputable car shipping website and you’ll see for yourself that they have all copied Mike Rupers’ original idea of a car shipping quote calculator. However, almost all of the other brokers still ask for personal information such as name, phone number or email address before providing a quote. You might also notice that many of our competitors’ quote calculators are cheap knock-offs of The Original Auto Transport Quote Calculator, made using cut-rate third party software. Usually they don’t perform nearly as well.
Copycats are all alike. Game changers are all unique. Today marks the 15-year anniversary of our original Auto Transport Quote Calculator. We owe it all to Mike Rupers’ innovative-yet-intuitive idea that auto shipping should be easy for the customer, even if it’s challenging for the shipping company at first.
Just like JFK’s 1962 inspirational speech about going to the moon, Mike says: “We do these and the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Rupers is still president of Direct Express Auto Transport, fighting every day to make shipping a car simple and easy for his customers. That’s something to celebrate.