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Joe Marconi
Joe Marconi

Why Can’t You Give Me a Price?

* Part of a series of real life stories you can relate with!


I got a call a few weeks ago from a customer (we’ll call him Dave). Dave asked me to give him a price on a 60k service for his daughter’s Honda Civic. She was coming home from college and he wanted to get her car up to date with needed maintenance. I asked Dave how many miles were on the car, and after looking up the vehicle’s records, I realized that she had put over 12,000 miles on the Honda, since we saw it last.


I explained to Dave that it would be in his daughter’s best interest if I give the car a general inspection first, from bumper to bumper; just to make sure everything was ok. After the inspection I would be happy to give him a price on the 60k service and any other items identified during the inspection. Dave responded back, “You really can’t give me a price on the 60,000 mile service?” I explained again that many miles have past since we serviced the car and I just want to be sure that we look at the car in its entirety and not just focus on the 60k. After a pause he agreed and booked the appointment.


The Honda arrived a week later and was dispatched to one of our techs for a complete general inspection. The inspection revealed only a few additional service items along with the scheduled 60,000 maintenance service. I was a little concerned about Dave’s insistence about the price when I first spoke to him and told my service advisor that I would be calling Dave about his daughter’s car.


I reached Dave at his office and informed him that we had completed the inspection on his daughter’s Honda and that the car was in great shape. In addition to the 60,000 mile service the Honda would need a rear brake adjustment, a brake light bulb and a set of wiper blades. I gave Dave the total price, for the complete job. Dave responded back, “How much is the 60,000 mile service?” A felt a little confused at this point and itemized all the prices for him. He proceeded to tell me that a local dealer sent him a coupon and their 60k service was $80.00 cheaper! He asked me, “Why should I spend the extra money with you for the same service?”


I could have explained to Dave that the coupon from the dealer was a special promotional price only. I could have also explained that dealers sometimes use these specials as lost leaders. I could have gone on to say that we employ only ASE certified technicians and that they receive on-going training and that we invest in the latest equipment and information systems. I also could have argued that this is how we justify our prices. But I didn’t say any of that. What I did say was this, “Dave, do you remember when you were leaving for vacation a few years ago, on a late Friday afternoon, and you noticed you had a flat tire on your camper? Do you remember I stayed open until you arrived to repair the flat tire? And do you remember the day your daughter was leaving for college in her sophomore year, and the check engine light came on an hour into her trip? Do you remember you called me and asked for my help? Do you remember how I arranged for a tow company to stand by in case your daughter broke down? And do you remember that I stayed opened until your daughter returned back so I can check the car out? Dave, is the service we have given you throughout the years worth a least $80.00?”


There was a long pause and I knew from the sound in his voice that he felt a little embarrassed. He apologized and said that that he was trying to save a little money with the high price of gas and food these days. He also admitted that, with his daughter in her last year in college, he is feeling a little lighter in the wallet. We completed the 60k and the other service items later that day.


What’s important is that I never tried to discredit the dealership. That would have gone nowhere. I also tried to direct the attention away from price and focus on the value of the relationship we have created throughout the years. In retrospect, I don’t know if I should have thrown it in his face, about what I did for him the past. I have mixed feelings about that.


I think in these shaky economic times we need to concentrate on service. We need to address the concerns of the customers and give them options. Your customers will be looking to you for help and guidance, that’s part of your job. The shop that continues to deliver outstanding service and charges a fair price will thrive. I have lived though many economic roller coasters in my 30 years in business and have no doubt that this ride will pass too.


If you’re wondering if I gave Dave a discount on the job, you can ask me that and any other questions, in the topic I have started for this story, in our forums. Let me know how you feel I handled the situation.

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