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  1. Yesterday
  2. We're at $130 and on our invoices, I don't print the rate or hours (not required to). We simply quote a labor charge for the job. I have a shop near me with a labor rate of $99, but job for job, his labor charges are same or higher than mine - using additional labor hours. We pad for our persistent negotiators to have room for them "to win". If asked, we share the labor rate. We start with a base diagnostic of $99.95 for the 1st hour. While working on this, we fail to always charge for longer diags. Sometimes it's lost and sometimes we factor it into the rest of the job when building the quote. Even when we're asked the labor rate, we haven't received any negative feedback on it. We build value / trust which helps on approvals. If we don't close a deal, it is usually related to cost-of-job vs value-of-the-car OR cost-of-job vs down-payment on a new car. I get more vitriol for having the audacity to charge for diag. If I get a pure price shopper, I quickly dismiss them saying we won't be the cheapest.
  3. We're far from that, I took 0 offense to what you said and just look to provide a medium for discussion. We all do what we need to do to survive, but I think more often than not we all do the same things at different times in our career and how it was executed... depends on the outcome. To your point, we're really upfront with new customers that we do not work for free and there will be a charge to look at their vehicle. We literally give them the keys and state "This is how long it takes us to do X, we need to do X first and then move onto Y, which requires Z time. It is impossible to predict if we will need more time at this stage, but we can only promise to be fair and forthcoming in everything we do. We understand this might not suit your needs, but we're always here should you need it." When you say that because you mean it and not because it's a sell line, people will open their minds to the idea of trusting you. Once you give them a reason to solidify that trust by doing exactly as you said... you change the conversion from 2 in 10 customers to 4 in 10 customer becoming life long customers. I really just want to reiterate to everyone that the basis for my success started when I treated every single customer as I would expect to be treated in that scenario. It doesn't mean I didn't lose my cool or make a mistake or I didn't perform a service for free to make it up to someone... It means I set my goal and I did everything in my power every single day to achieve it. Ultimately, years of free training provided by a local vendor.... made me open my eyes. But I still had to do the leg work. Just remember everyone: A thorough vehicle inspection takes no less than 45 minutes. Full code scan: 10 minutes on a $4000+ piece of equipment, with monthly updating costs. Test drive?:15 mins min, depending on customer concern Lift and wheels off: 15-20 mins Document findings: text, photo 10 mins Build estimate: 5 minutes to 3 hours. The fastest at their craft and process can do that in 45 minutes. It;s likely closer to an hour from start to finish depending on exact needs. Would you call your plumber and electrician, that pays you for your service at your shop, and expect them to do the equivalent for free? Why should you?
  4. I like a lot of what you wrote. From the way you structured your scenario that I replied to, it sounded like you did all that work and then handed them the bill. I couldn't figure out at what points you contacted the customer for additional approval. For my misunderstanding I apologize, but I NEVER intended any disrespect. I agree that documentation and explanation are key. My best customer is the educated customer. Not college or higher learning, but the one who is aware of what I have done, what needs to be done and why it needs to be done to achieve their objective of a safe and reliable car. I feel it is my job to educate them on these topics so they can make an educated decision that hopefully is the best decision for them and their family. So documentation is key. You really caught my eye with your line, "When you treat someone like a friend and respect their hard earned money..." because that is exactly how I treat my customers. I work hard for my money and demand value for what I spend. I expect to provide the same to my customers. And above all, I fully realize that I am spending my customer's money when I recommend a repair. I understand Genuine's position and I fought the same fight, people claimed they didn't have any money. And during the recession or the beginning months of the year, that is true, many people are barely getting by. But building a relationship, if you can, is the key. Out of 100 customers through the door, you might only retain 20 and only 10 become long-term customers. But building relationships and adamantly demanding honesty, knowing when to turn down a job because it's not "right" is the best way to conduct business I believe. We all hear, "But I'm going to be selling the car soon," as a ploy to get us to 'band-aid' a repair. What happens when we do? A year later the customer comes back with, "But you just FIXED it." But did you really fix it or did you just band-aid it so they could sell the car like they swore they were going to do? Or you put the cheapest part on because anything was better than the bad on that was on the car. One year warranty you tell them but that won't matter because they are going to sell the car. Two years later they come back, "But you just put that on, now it's bad again. I shouldn't have to pay for it again because YOU put a cheap part on." It took me about 3 years to finally figure out how to call the "But I'm selling it" customer a liar without being offensive and to REFUSE to do anything but, "The right job, the right way, at a fair and honest price." Now when I hear that line, unless there is literally a For Sale sign in the window, I do NOT believe it and I NEVER compromise my quality and integrity in order to meet their expected low price point. I have built a reputation and most of my customers simply say, "Fix it, I trust you." But that is of course after I explain, what went wrong, why it needs THIS specific repair and how much it will cost. But the bottom line is, I hope you did not feel that I was disrespecting you, or if you did that you understand now that I was not. I just didn't know where in your scenario you made your calls for additional time and repairs.
  5. I've learned a few things on my own, but this: Not because I think I can't but because I do not have the means, opportunities or privileges to do so. This is probably the most accurate phrase I've read in a while. But you know what I did have when I didn't have means, opportunities or privileges? I had time to pick a discipline and learn it. Then I enacted it. While I let that run it's course, I found the next thing I knew nothing about and couldn't afford an expert, I learned that to the best of my ability and enacted it. I've run this gauntlet for almost 12 years now over 3 locations and on the brink of watching it all vanish at least twice in those 12 years. Through those trials were and sometimes still are a sh*tload of tears, but tomorrow is always a new day and as long as I conducted myself with integrity today... I'll sleep just fine. Not to discount Genuine, location surely is a strong variable in success, but that doesn't mean you can't find a form of success in a sh*tty location. I've done it, with the most laughable budget known to man and in a miserable part of town all by making a plan and enacting it one day at a time. Plan has a fault? Something doesn't work? Adjust. Repeat. Some of the best advice I ever got was exactly this: Your shop is no different than a factory, a factory has to have X level of output to be sustainable. Your shop has to reach X level of output just like the factory does. I'm not going to tell you how to do it, but if you want to survive you have to have to figure out how to do it. I had never thought about shop output as related to factory output. That seed is what lead me to charging for diagnostic and thorough inspections. But I didn't wake up the next day and go full rate. I worked my way there. Finding my footing along the way and over delivering to my customers in every way possible.
  6. Anyone have any first hand experience with this company? Rocket Level Marketing. Pushing hard on IG, looks legit but most do. Thanks in advance.
  7. Wow, so well said on every level ThetrustedMechanic. Thanks for such a well written reply! It doesn't help pay the bills but knowing I'm not completely crazy or alone in my circumstance does ease that "turnip stew" a little. And I have spoken with JTB - and have his book. Nice guy, well intentioned, and many of his methods may work in many places...I just can't explain it, nor does anyone believe it unless they've walked a mile in my shoes....I operate in that corner of the twilight zone where things just do not react like the rest of the world. I'd pay dearly if someone could come in and change it and prove me wrong! I'd like to retire on an up note! Best success to you as well.
  8. Last week
  9. We have a fair amount of customers that are very budget conscious. We just treat them like people and help them make the best decisions based on whatever they can afford. Even if they can't afford anything. The ones who understand what you do for them, become your biggest advocates without you ever knowing. The ones who don't, never return and likely aren't a good customer base for you anyway. To make you feel better... I started here "So sometimes it's easier to play their game, agree to "include it in the cost of repair" and not have to deal with the jack legs getting in there first. "... and worked my way up slowly to where I am. We all have to start somewhere. One you built up the trust, where customers aren't wondering if you're taking advantage of them all the time... the pricing part gradually becomes easier. It's just never "easy".
  10. Hi all! Lots of interesting scenarios unfolding here, and most all are very valid. BUT, all work great in a perfect world. As someone above stated, "until techs all get on board like plumbers, electricians etc"...THAT is the key! In a community where ALL the shops abide by this policy - charging fairly for their diag time - it works great. But unfortunately, especially in low income areas, it just doesn't work that way. AUTOZONE becomes the diagnostic place and any guy on the street will attempt to replace any part they say is needed. When all that fails (and we all know it will) THEN they end up on my door, broke, angry, and expecting me to gladly pick up the pieces! Now, in addition to the original problem, I have to address all of the other stuff that someone has done. It's the nature of the beast trying to operate a legit business in poorer neighborhoods. So sometimes it's easier to play their game, agree to "include it in the cost of repair" and not have to deal with the jack legs getting in there first. Truly it is a lose lose. A reminder to the wise when thinking about getting in this business.....LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION has never been truer!
  11. I don't "run the clock". Every circumstance is different. To help customers understand, I document everything I do from start to finish, just like we track our time. That means every test we perform, I attach its result and label what I did to test any given part and why. Since each circumstance is different, we try to make the most of our time. We request up to 2 hours and will work up to 3, assuming the third hour is on us. If we need more than that... we send the customer the information and then call them to review it. Ask them if they want us to keep going or if they will figure things out differently. Strange thing happens. When you treat someone like a friend and respect their hard earned money, they have no problems paying for the service they are receiving. So, we work insanely hard at being accurate, fair, and professional at everything we do. Our customers notice and don't mind paying... because they feel what we provide, is worth paying for. It didn't happen overnight and it was a really long road here, but I'll never run any other service business in this lifetime with any other mindset.
  12. @CAR_AutoReports With all due respect can I ask how you can run the clock and then hand them the bill? I am not saying you are doing anything wrong or shouldn't do as you do, I like how you do it. But do you just have the customer sign a blank check or do you have them approve a couple hours and then have them approve more time as needed? Here in Michigan we have to have a signed work order authorizing a certain amount and if we exceed that amount we must have verified approval of an additional amount. Unlike a plumber or carpenter or doctor we can't just do the work, hand the bill and expect to get paid regardless of what the amount is. If we want to charge for 6 hours we must either write the estimate/work order at the outset or get approval along the way. I'm just wondering how you handle the approval process if there is one.
  13. We charge full labor for diagnostics as we have seen full vehicle diagnosis with test drives and other in bay testing surpass the 4 hour mark for accurate assessments. We occasionally get a complaint or a "Can't you remove the charge", we hold the line. "We are sorry but the amount of tools and time it takes to properly inspect vehicles, does not allow us to perform this service free of charge." Our most recent full system diagnosis had 3 hours on the lift, followed by one minor repair to get the vehicle driving, followed by 1.25 hours of driving for all monitors to run. Then a reevaluation of codes that returned, what they are indicating, and another 1+ hour(s) of lift time diagnosing them. Throughout the diagnosis we used the scanner for 2 hours at minimum. We will use the volt meter at minimum and possibly the scope. All tools that cost us a lot of money and some of which require subscriptions to stay up to date. We'll be all into this particular example for 6 hours. If they get all the work done, we can and usually provide a fairer rate for diagnosis considering their support. If they get nothing, They pay full rate and have our entire process documented, and available to them digitally to take anywhere else and bargain on their time. I've had one person really cause a problem over the last 3 years over this practice. He was warned prior that we do not assess vehicles for free and there is no "standard" charge to do so. So I don't lose an ounce of sleep over it. I used to be the guy that allowed diagnostics to leave uncharged, not since I learned how much time we spend diagnosing and inspecting.
  14. We charge up front 60-260 for a check engine light. If you believe in your techs and they know how to diag this will come across to customers. Lots of times we can diag for less, but you don't want to keep calling your customer and asking for more diag time. Our Service writer explains this is how our techs get paid and that is the hardest part of any job is the diag. If asked if that goes in our the repair, our answer is no. Customers can tell when you are sure of what you are doing or if you are really scared to ask for the diag. We do between 7 and 10 per week. Based on your labor hour, it would work out 1/2 hour to 2 hours for diag or so. We rarely ever have somebody say that is too much or I'll check around. Also, a lot of times they will call and say I know the code what will it cost. You then explain that the code is a system and you don't want to just replace parts and still not fix the problem.
  15. I have always wanted to ask this customer, "And did they fix the problem? If so why are you here?" Because you know that the shop either did NOT waive the fee or they didn't fix the problem or they don't want to deal with this customer any longer. I have also wanted to ask the customer who asks me if I do "Free Inspections" if they are willing to work at their job and not get paid for it. If you think about it, the customer is really our boss, on an average day we will have 2 or 3 or 5 "bosses". What they are telling us here is that they want us to do work for them for free. But let their boss ask them to come in and work for an hour or two and not get paid for it and what do you think their answer will be?
  16. We hear all too often that the "other shop they went to, does not charge for diagnostic testing" or "waives the diag if the customer agrees to do the work" This may have happened years ago, but I really can't see this has common any more. Shop owners know the costs of complicated diagnostic testing. And shop owners know that 2 hours of testing has no part profit, so in order to maintain your hourly gross profit, you need to charge. And depending on your labor structure, many shops use a multi-tier labor rate to offset those jobs that have little to no parts for a particular job.
  17. I'm at $99.00 in Southeastern Wisconsin. The average independent shop is at around $105.00, Places like Firestone are at $130.00 and the dealers are up to around $150.00. I have been considering raising my rate for a while.
  18. Joe, more and more shop owners feel the same as you do and are going through the same things. What we need is unity to find common ground on this.
  19. When customers balk at a diagnostic fee, I just tell them the diagnosis is usually the most time consuming part of the job. I use the analogy that if the car was brought in for an evap leak and I spend the time to smoke test it and find a leaking gas cap, I still need to be paid for the diagnostic time not just the time it takes to replace the gas cap. I charge an hour for driveability and electrical diagnosis($99.00) and a half hour for other stuff. If someone doesn't want to pay the fee, they're probably going to be a pain in the butt about the repair cost as well.
  20. We have 3 loaners and offer local rides to work, anything within 2-3 mile radius would generally qualify for a ride. We were a part of the RedCap Valet trial program and quite honestly, didn't find much use for it when we tried it. If a customer needs a ride and we can't provide one... we just call an Uber from the shop account. But we found that with extended repair times, customers don't want a ride to work or a ride home... they want alternate transportation while their mode of transport is down. Our loaner car insurance is really inexpensive considering what we are actually getting and able to offer. We have casually offered to pick up and drop off, but haven't had many people take us up on it or want it. Especially with the loaners available.
  21. $85.00 base diagnostic charge, $124.00 mechanical, $54.00 collision in Buffalo, NY
  22. I personally think you made a few mistakes here. a) You're trying to substitute parts for another line item, and that just looks shady when it comes to taxes. b) You're now trying to lump your parts margin into a new category and have that on the invoice c) Under no circumstances is a customer who provides a part to get a better deal than a customer where you are the one supplying the part. What we did here: a) Raised our labor rate to reflect the quality of service provided b) Maintain accurate records on the amount of time actually spent on vehicles. Many jobs go over at least an hour because of rust/corrosion and the after service check list. Like going over the service, cleaning up the mess made from the service, test driving the vehicle. From these accurate counts, we bill with a 90%+ accuracy now. c) Lowered prices on parts to a justifiable degree. Most of our real margin is on items $100 or less. Most stuff over $100 still has a margin, just nothing like you'd expect in most circumstances. Also, customers who buy their own parts aren't generally welcome here. Liability has become so large, that the instances where customer acquired parts are used, have been greatly reduced. We will figure it out and you can bring it somewhere that allows you to use your own parts or you can keep going around town till you find the guy willing to help you save money over his own needs to survive. We also didn't make our change overnight. So what I might suggest: Lower your parts margin and raise your labor rate. Like a $10 raise in rate coupled with an equal decline parts margin based on the hours you bill a month. Try that for 6-12 months and see where you land. Then readjust till you can reduce your margin. Our goal: To get all parts to a less than 50% margin. We're still a little bit away, but we are close enough to where online retailers don't make us look like we are just fleecing people. Consumables like brakes, air filters and oil/oil filters are the hardest to get down to reasonable levels.
  23. Yesterday I had a conversation with an investigator for the sales tax division in my state. I ask her the following questions: If I stop charging a mark up on parts and roll all the charges into my labor rate, would I be flagged for an audit by the sale tax division, because my overall sales would remain the same but the sales tax that I report would be cut in half. She did not think so and she had been asked the question before by other owners. Labor is not taxable in Michigan. I then asked her "what if" I stopped charging markup on parts and started charging a "shop rate" (in lieu of a markup on parts), and that "shop rate" was a variable of (and based on) the cost of the parts used on the invoice. She wasn't so sure how that would be received by sales tax division, by she would ask a compliance officer and report back to me. Personally, I would rather just have a shop rate that covers all controllable costs to the customer. Unfortunately in Michigan we are mandated to have parts & labor charges, plus billed hours, clearly called out on our estimates. It is unlikely, in my opinion, that the BAR would allow a "shop rate" other than as an additional charge on top of parts and labor, which is no less confusing to the consumer than our current scenario of marking up parts. I am currently in the middle of a friendly audit by the BAR and I will ask the compliance officer his thoughts on this. Maybe the first thing we need to agree on is that our true charge to any and every customer(consumer), by every and any automotive service facility, is typically: "Our normal charge for the job minus our cost on the parts " We control all other charges on the job, except parts cost. Regardless of what quality of part we use, there will be a parts charge and we did not set that cost. This whole mess became much clearer to me, when I figured out that the price we charge a customer that wants to supply their own parts, is as follows: Our charge when a customer wants to supply their own parts is whatever our normal everyday charge for the job is, less our cost on the parts required. Once we agree that is exactly what we charge our very best customers, in every shop model, we will be one step closer to a solution, Imo.
  24. It's not about the brake job. It goes beyond that in everything you do. The value I am referring to is exaclty what you state: Your morals and ethics and the relationships you have built. And I am not in agreement that what most customers care about is the bottom line, maybe some, not most. We have all sold top of the line tires not because of price, but because of value. I am not saying you can charge whatever you want, but when the customer is treated with respect and is shown that we do care, price is not the determining factor. This is not theory and it is not abstract. You build value with a focus on customer service. You build value by becoming known for going the extra mile, for being active in your community, for being part of fundraisers, kids sports, for treating people as family and by the quality of your work. Be known for more than just the local auto repair shop. As a fellow shop owner since 1980, I can tell you that there are some customers that only see price, but most want to be treated with respect. And I know that the majority of shop owners are just like me, they will go to the ends of the earth to win over a customer. Capitilze on the things that your customers recognize. Focus on why you do what you do and focus on the customers that show you the respect; those key profile customers. I hope this clears up what I am trying to conevy. It's a lot to communicate in a post.
  25. Not being a smart-A, but can you give an example of how you think we add value to the brake job so we can charge more? If the dealer is offering OE pads and rotors, it's not in the quality of the part, because the customer still sees OE as higher quality, just more expensive. We can't offer it necessarily on warranty, because the dealer offers a warranty too. So just what do you think that we add to the equation that the dealer does not? I know my customers prefer my shop over the dealers or national chains because of the personal relationship. They are dealing with the owner and my sense of morals and ethics not a soulless business operating under "business ethics." "Because we add value" is a nice buzzword phrase, but as Genuine wrote, most customers simply do not care, they look at the bottom line. Yes we need to build a sense of value in their minds, but just how do you propose to do it? Not theoretical, abstract, generic allusions, but specific examples please.
  26. @GENUINE - I work with JustTheBest and I can tell you that he knows what he is talking about, but I also know that you are 100% correct. Good customers are not everywhere, some places do have too much low-ball competition and there simply are not enough good customers to go around in some areas. You presented your REAL WORLD facts and JustTheBest presented fancy buzzwords but you are both right. For example, on the point of Henry Ford, his words were correct, but he operated a business on a far grander scale than most of us will ever achieve. And that gave him great opportunities that we will never have. I know two things from experience, 1) You will get a lot of "hate" and negative feedback telling you that you are wrong, that you can change your situation and your customers if you want to, if you try hard enough, if you put in enough effort, if you try this latest fad advertising. 2) I have been exactly where you are and deal with exactly what you express that you deal with. I have overcome some of it, but some of it I simply do not have the means, methods, opportunities or privileges to use to overcome. So in some ways, I can, in other ways, like you, through situation and circumstance, I simply can't. Not because I think I can't but because I do not have the means, opportunities or privileges to do so. For example. let's say even though you own your property, let's say you are renting, as I am, even if you wanted to move and you have the money to move and the bank approval for a purchase price that is at a level that is competitive, ALL of that is you thinking that you CAN, However, if there is no property available to buy that will allow your repair shop business (in my community it is not only "industrial" zoning but it also has to be approved for auto repair) then you CAN'T. You CAN'T not because you think you can't but because you do not have the privilege or opportunity. Sure, you "can" move your shop 100 miles away where there are buildings for sale, but that is not a wise opportunity or truly feasible unless you truly want to start over from scratch. However that was of little concern to Henry Ford, he didn't have to move his family or his business, he just moved a manufacturing facility or a dealership or an office complex, he moved a fraction of the operation, not the entire operation. That is where you are 100% correct, "The pie in the sky Apple, Starbucks, etc philosophy just doesn't always work, not at the small level of most independent repair shops. At least not here." And no matter how accurate JustTheBest and Henry are, it does not apply and does not change anything in your situation. I have worked with JTB for several years and he and I have disagreed on things and I had doubted other things would work but tried them anyway. The things I tried usually worked and had positive ROIs, some much to my surprise. Some didn't work very well (only X/10% ROI positive) while others worked extremely well and were 10, 20, 30x ROI positive. I have flat out refused to try some things because they cut against my personal beliefs. While I would not say they were dishonest, they were not consistent with who I am. Other things I have declined to try simply because they are not conducive to my business, like pushing LOFs HARD. I lose money on every one compared to selling that rack time for a full rate parts & labor job since I am a one man shop. If I was a big enough operation to have a dedicated LOF rack and tech, it would be a different deal, but I am not. So I "can" push LOF's hard and fill my day with oil changes, but I CAN'T make any money at them. That is not me thinking I can't that is just cold hard reality, Just like it is with you in your situation. So I suggest you "man up," put your flame suit on and be prepared to get torched with all these "The pie in the sky Apple, Starbucks, etc" philosophers. Not all are that way, but enough are and they are happy to tell you, "You can, but only if you are willing to work hard enough," not recognizing that you are working hard enough, you just don't have the right resources to draw from or build with. Others will tell you, "I was in your shoes, this is what I did and it will work for you, but only if you do it EXACTLY AS I DID." You and I both know that just because it worked in their shop doesn't mean it will work with yours. But there is still a great deal of knowledge here and JustTheBest has a lot of great ideas and systems to try, some you will stick with, others you might try and decide you either don't have the time to work or the interest in spending the money for help to do. But don't give up. You can't get blood from a turnip, but that doesn't mean you can't make it into a decent meal.
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