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  • General Discussion

    • Should there be a standard Diagnostic charge
      This is an article I wrote several years ago for a trade magazine.... I think it's still true today... Love to hear your comments.   Diagnostics fee or not   This has been an issue since day one. Should we charge to diagnose the car or should the estimate be free. Let’s define an estimate first.   What is an estimate? An estimate is a list of all the parts and labor involved in making a repair. With the possibilities of adding supplements to the original estimate if other work is deemed necessary after the initial work has started. Ok that’s an estimate, or is it…? Let’s try this again.   What is an estimate? It’s a guess……. With the chance that I might get it right but more than likely the final bill will be different than what was original “estimated” at. Hmm, the two definitions are different but at the same time mean the same thing… What about the diagnostic side? Ok, how about that… that diagnostic thing.   What is a diagnostic? It is the process in which a technician is able to determine the cause or failure of a piece of equipment, vehicle, or appliance. Did ya get that? … One more time …   What is a diagnostic? It is the process used to determine the root cause of a given mechanical or electrical problem that has become an issue with a vehicle, appliance or piece of equipment. Sounds the same doesn’t it…. hmm, maybe we are getting to the real issue… MONEY   The diagnostics may take some time, may even require a few sophisticated scanners, wiring diagrams, and tools. Time is money as we all know, of course, knowledge, expertise and experience is a commodity that should always be respected no matter what field you are in. A service charge for such “diagnostics” is essential in the continuing financial stability of a shop or for that matter… any service oriented business. Once the diagnostics has been completed an “estimate” can then be given to the customer for their approval. This should also be noted that if a “diagnostics” is preformed and the problem turns out to be “intermittent” or none exciting a fee still applies. The time has already been spent to figure out that there was nothing wrong. That brings up another touchy issue. For some reason the customer feels cheated if you charge for nothing found… now wait a minute, how was it determined that nothing was wrong… ah…the diagnostics lead to that result. Then the problem isn’t the problem anymore, it’s the time spent looking for the problem that is the problem. To ease the customer’s woes you could always give them a time table for future re-evaluations. (30 days is a good round number) Note; It wouldn’t be the first time I have diagnosed a car for a customer only to find out that their complaint is from lack of understanding of their vehicle or dare I say… their just another fruit basket behind the wheel.   Now I’m not in favor of a free diagnostics (if you couldn’t tell already) and I’m not too fond of the free estimate. If there is any “man hours” that are part of any job a “man” wants paid. If that “man” is working on a commission basis, I can assure you that he is going to rush through the “estimate” in order to get to the real money end of the job. However a diagnostic is a totally different thing, I don’t think I could have made a living without charging for the time it takes to figure out some of the strange pr oblems I’ve encountered over the years. Some things were easy to diagnose, some took hours. But I believe it’s the standardization of a diagnostic charge that would make things a lot easier for the customers to understand the complexities of today’s problem evaluations. If a tech couldn’t figure out a problem in a reasonable length of time … say an hour… then it’s quite possible the shop is going to be losing money if they kept him on that job. The next best thing would be to move him off that job. Put another tech on who might be able to figure out the problem in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, the shop is already behind the 8 ball, since the first tech didn’t get the job done, but in the long run… it will get done, there will be an estimate for the customer explaining the repairs needed.   I don’t know which is more of a problem, the shops out there not willing to charge for estimating… Oops I mean diagnostic time… or the customer who doesn’t feel that it’s a necessary part of the process. Then again, these are not yesterday’s cars. It’s about time there were some standards that everyone in the industry had to go by, be it from the independent side or the dealer side. Regulation or self imposed limits as to how much can be charged across the board for various levels of diagnostics. Not to say diagnosing a bad ball joint is easier than a battery drain, no, not at all. Each field in the industry would have to come up with a balanced set of standards that those involved could agree was a fair price for that type of service. If all the independent shops charge the same fees in a demographic area it would lead to a more even playing field for the customer. Maybe, we should think about using a different term rather than “independent”… we can be independent in ownership, style, quality, etc… but put the customer’s concerns up front. If I wasn’t in the business and didn’t know where to take my car I would really would like to know that I’m getting quality work done at a fair price at any shop I went to. If there was a way to put an end to the “I can get it done cheaper down the street” escapades… my drive home would be a whole lot more pleasant than in the past. .   If that didn’t happen it then only comes down to a question of where to have the vehicle repaired at. Everyone has their favorite doctor, dentist, or restaurant. Which is probably based on location, atmosphere, or “ya just like that particular place”. Price is always an issue, and probably always will be. If you’re not getting the job done right at the shop of your choice… choose another one. How many times a day does your phone ring because you have some “price shopper” who is never coming to your shop because your price is higher than the last shop they called… even though they were referred by a friend to call you. Maybe we should focus on better instructional classes, more information, and true manufacturer level scanners available to the independent side of the business. Sometimes too much effort is put on the “Be nice to the customer”, or the preverbal “Customer is always right” routine. The old saying; “If the customer knew what was wrong they would have fixed it themselves” still holds true today. But I’m talking about telling them what’s wrong with the vehicle, not how to fix it. With the advent of the computer age upon us the car has become a rolling updateable, flash reprogramming software jungle of information. The cost of these specialized scanners puts them out of the range of most consumers, and a lot of small shops, which, in some ways, also places the shade tree mechanic on the endangered species list.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same line from a customer’s after I have diagnosed a problem. “Well, I could have done that myself, I would have looked there for the problem if I had the time, and I don’t know why you’re charging me for something so simple. You should give a break on the price because it was so simple. “Hey, I’m a regular customer I should be getting a discount.” My usual answer is… “So if you knew what was wrong, why did you bring it to me to figure it out?” And, I’m not sure that other professional people you deal with such as a doctor, dentist, or the grocer…etc… is going to give you a discount just because you shop with them on a regular basis. Common sense, the largest lacking component in all of these situations… In my opinion, once common sense is removed from the conversation “stupid” takes its place. I wonder if I could estimate how many times this has happened… maybe so… but I better think about diagnosing it first…
    • Thoughts and Prayers For Gonzo
      I just read this below on Facebook. Please send your thoughts and prayers to our friend. He posted this yesterday.     Yesterday at 8:30pm · Tulsa, OK ·    Ok, FB friends. This has not been a great week. Severe chest pains led to a trip to the ER. Two different hospitals later it has been determined the blood flow is blocked. Monday they'll be performing a complete bypass on the old ticker. So, old Gonzo will be out of commission for a while. This is a big life changing event. But I'm up for it. More news later.
    • The $19.95 Oil Change Offer
      Yesterday, went for a drive through North Jersey, was very concerned to see that independent shops are putting permanent signs with the $19.95 oil change offers, the $59 A/C recharge, and the $5 dollar flat fix. This reeks of desperation, clearly the industry is coming due for a strong correction. At my shops this month we are starting to see price resistance from the lower income segment, we are having to exert price flexibility for price discovery which we are finding to be 10% to 20% from list pricing. The mid to upper segments are still going strong.
  • Regional Automotive Shop Management Discussions

    • Nys inspection to test window tint
      Just over the wire today is all nys inspection stations will be required to test window tint as part of the inspection starting Jan 1. Anything blocking more than 30% light fails. More equipment to buy, more time, not to mention how does the average shop deal with removing window tint? I'm not opposed to keeping police safe from thugs with limo tint on the drivers window but I feel that's the police's job not the "safety/emissions" inspector.
    • Some People Are Cut Out For This
      Wow, some people are really cut out for this. I've been doing it in my 2 bay shop since 09, and I think it's time to close the doors.
    • Anyone in the Triangle? NC
      Anyone here in the Triangle area in NC? I'd love to meet up and get coffee
  • Automotive Repair Shop Management

    • The One Thing You Must Retrieve From Customers
      I want to talk about collecting the right information from every one of your customers while they’re in your shop. What do I mean by that? When we’re talking about marketing, it’s important that we collect all the current information that we have on our customers so that we can continue to market to them. Marketing to your current customers, it’s like picking the low-hanging fruit. It’s the easiest group of people to get back into your shop, so we want to make sure that we collect all the data that we can from our customers while they’re sitting right there in our shop. Obviously, what you want to do it get their correct name. Make sure their name is spelled correctly. Have that in you database. Then, also, we want their mailing address. Everybody’s got a place they’re living. They’re not living in their car, chances are. So we want to make sure that we get their home address so that we can mail something to them. The next thing on the list is we want to make sure we get their e-mail address. We want to make sure that we’re getting the right e-mail address. Not the e-mail address the junk e-mail that a lot of people, including me, I have a junk e-mail address that I give to everybody because I don’t want them to contact me. We want to make sure that we get their actual e-mail address. The one that they actually do check. It’s very important you do that. You May Also Like:  Putting An Auto Repair Ad In The Yellow Pages Then, the next thing that I want to make sure that you get is the two phone numbers that they have. One is their home phone number. Some people don’t have home phones anymore. I happen to still have a home phone number. If they don’t have their home phone number, certainly, they have a cell phone. You want to make sure that you’re collecting that data as well. What you’re going to be able to do with all this, if you have a home address, you can send them a piece of mail. If you have an e-mail address, the good e-mail address, you can send them an e-mail. If you have their home phone number, not only can you pick up the phone to call them, I call it dialing for dollars when you’re on your slow days to see if you can get some of them to your shop, but you can also do something. It’s a technology called the voice broadcast where you record a message, and it blasts it out to everybody’s home phone number and leaves a message just like you would’ve left a message on their voicemail by calling their home if you called them one by one. This is different, where you just record it one time and it blasts it out to everybody. Then, if you get their cell phone number, you can send them a text message, and 99% of text messages get read, and 95% of them get read within the first five minutes. So it’s a very valuable way to be able to market to them. You May Also Like:  What's New In The Automotive Repair Industry? But none of this is going to work for you if you don’t have the accurate data in your database. So here’s a suggestion that you start right now, today, with the very next customer that walks through the door and you start collecting that data. Think of it like when you went to the doctor’s office the last time. What they did is they handed you that clipboard and said, “We’re updating our records. Please fill all this out.” You can protest all you want, but they’re going to make you fill those forms out every single time you go in. Why? They have insurance forms that they need to fill out, and they got to make sure everything’s accurate. You, you need to market to them. You got to run your business off of this data. So require that they fill out each and every one of those lines. Their name, their e-mail address, their phone number, their cell phone number. You want to make sure that you collect all that data so that you can market to them. Just assume that they’re going to give you that data and no questions asked. If you just ask for an e-mail address, now there’s a dialogue that kind of goes back and forth. If you simply hand them a form that says “We need all this information for our database, for our records,” they will go ahead and fill that out. Make sure that you get that done. You also, at the bottom of that form, you want to have like a little disclaimer that by singing below, and you want to make sure they sign it, by signing below, you are allowing Ron’s Auto Repair to contact them by mail, by phone, or any other electronic means necessary. You want to have that little catch-all, cover-your-butt legalese on there so that when they sign it, they literally have given you permission to market to them using all of those means.It all starts with good information if you want to be able to market to your current customers. Your current customers are your best source of income, and we’ll cover that on other videos like this. You got to make sure that you have the data first so that you can market to them in the future.   note: Be sure to join me on my Live Webinar Tonight at 8pm EST! Click HERE or the link below to register (spots are limited)
    • What The Marketing Budget Should Be For Every Auto…
      Somebody recently sent an email to me asking the same question that I get dozens of times every single month. Basically, it says, "Ron, how much should I budget for my marketing?" I have a very simple answer to that. One that actually a lot of people are gonna totally disagree with me... My answer is, throw out the marketing budget. You do not need a marketing budget, and here's the reason why: A lot of times, I've heard five, six, or even three percent of your growth sales should be used towards advertising. Now, that might be a good number for some months, but it's a horrible number for other months. But if you're budgeting and you're only gonna have a certain amount of money for marketing every single month, your business is gonna be going to be heading on a downward slope. For a lot of our clients, the summer months tend to be their busiest month. They don't need to be spending a lot of money on marketing at all during those months because they're just naturally busy. But then when the kids go back to school in August and September, everything screeches to a halt. So I'm gonna say throw out the marketing budget and spend it where and if you need it. You don't need to spend a lot of money on marketing if you're naturally busy. You do need to spend a lot of money on marketing if you're gonna be slow. Now, this goes to ... I guess I should mention, it's not a matter of just throwing a bunch of money out there on marketing. You have to do good quality marketing. You have to have the right message sent to the right market at the right time using the right media. In other words, a way that they're actually gonna see your marketing. You have to get all of those things straight. So I'm going to probably guess that if you follow me and participate in my Car Count Daily campaign by watching my videos, you're getting a good idea, a good sense of what good quality marketing is. I'll assume that you're doing good quality marketing. Now, if you're spending money on good quality marketing, you're gonna get good results. If you don't need it during the summer months, slow it down. If you're gonna need it in the fall, you need to raise it up. I don't like marketing budgets for that reason, because everybody gets used to spending the same amount of money every single month, whether they need to or not. Pay attention to your numbers. Pay attention to what your shop is telling you. Pay attention to what your car count's telling you and spend the money when needed. Also, if you're running short of your numbers, you may need to spend a lot more money and put in a lot more effort on your marketing for those specific months. Don't look at marketing as an expense. Look at it as an investment. A marketing budget is something to be spent. Marketing investment, your marketing dollars if it's done right, is actually an investment. It's not taking money, it's actually attracting more money to your shop.
    • How To Create The Best Offer For Your Auto Repair …
      Maybe this has happened to a number of you auto repair shop owners out there… you put together an offer to send to your prospects and clients. Not just any offer, I mean a really, really killer, can’t-miss deal like "$50 off any service that you perform." Now you know that there will be skeptics out there looking for the hidden strings, so you announce that there is no minimum purchase required and no restrictions on what they can buy. And to prove that you won’t jack up the price first and then take the $50 off the total later, you tell them not to produce the coupon until after they’ve been presented with the bill. Oh, and for the icing on the cake, you offer a 100% refund if they aren’t totally thrilled with their experience with your auto repair shop. The timing is right. Folks are always looking for the good deal. They need what you are offering. You send your no-fail offer to the right list of folks, and then you get ready for the bundles of people beating a path to your door… but they never come. What the heck happened? Did you miss something? Was the offer too good to be true? Wouldn’t you just love to ask every one of them why they didn’t take you up on your offer? Even the most experienced of marketers aren’t immune to this phenomenon to a certain degree. A couple years ago, I offered to give away copies of a brand-new marketing course to the first 200 shop owners that wanted them. The offer was (I thought?) brain-dead simple. Invest $197 to get the course. Take 60 days to go through the course then call my office and get all of your money back. (WOW!) I also added a 30-day, no-excuses needed, 100% money back guarantee too. And to cover what I thought was the final hurdle, I assured everyone that there were no more payments and nothing else to buy. While I still ended up doing very well with this campaign, even though I was a bit short of my goal of 200. What went wrong? Was the offer too good to be true? Was it too complicated? Did I miss something? The point of today’s message isn’t to commiserate about the lack of response to our advertising efforts. Nope, it’s to tell you about a free online site called Survey Monkey that we can use to help us find out where we went wrong with our offers. With Survey Monkey we can set up a quick 2-minute survey and ask our prospects why they didn’t respond. And then, based on their answers, hopefully we’ll be able to craft or edit existing offers that will get a much better response the next time. Because I was able to survey clients who the deal was offered to, I was able to improve upon my course offer and fill the last few spots to hit my 200 goal. Hopefully if your shop can start surveying clients and prospects more often, you'll have a better handle on what they want and what offers will get them more excited. - Ron Ipach (a.k.a. Captain Car Count) President/Founder of Repair Shop Coach More articles and content like this and originated through Ron Ipach's Car Count Daily campaign Auto Repair Shop Owners, Managers, and Automotive Industry Professionals are invited to join 'Car Count Daily Boosters' LinkedIn group to provide resources and gain insight on boosting car count DAILY and filling up the bays in their shops.
  • Automotive Repair & Technical Discussions

    • BATT TESTING EQUIPMENT
      What is everyone using for battery testing. We have an old SnapOn carbon pile tester and a Midtronix MDX700HD. We are wanting an upgrade, but still want the carbon pile capability.
    • Autologic user input / feedback
      I would like to know if any other shops out there using Autologic have run into programming issues. I was informed last week that they have stopped doing any coding as of January 2017. This was the first I have heard of it. Any other users out there being told the same thing? If so what did you do to solve your problem? (New equipment or buy the pass thru equipment through them?)
    • Dedicated alignment lift or 2 post with stands?
      Anyone using alignment stands on a 2 post lift? How are they for daily use?   I have a smaller shop with 2 techs and 3 bays, We have 2 lifts and 1 small "flat" bay. We are Japanese specialty shop that is growing and we were planning to add a new lift to the flat bay. The bay is not deep enough for a true 4 post alignment lift, so I was planning to purchase a new 2 post lift and add stands with an alignment machine in the near future. In searching for the right lift to be used with stands, I was just offered a used 2 post Hunter alignment rack that would fit in the bay for the same price as the 2 post with stands... and that really got me thinking...   We do an average of 25 cars a week on 2 makes and we are adding 3 more early this year (thus the need for another lift). We just started doing tires this past year and only sublet alignments when they are absolutely necessary. Our situation is pushing us towards needing an alignment machine in house, but we could use another lift for "over flow" just a much.     Knowing that we will be doing alignments out of necessity in the near future, I am leaning towards having a dedicated alignment lift. My questions are:   1. Does anyone regret purchasing their stands over an actual alignment lift? 2. Does anyone do "other" work on their alignment lift? 3. And how many alignments should I really expect?     If space were a major issue, what would you do? (Drive-on alignment lift -OR- 2 post lift with alignment stands?)