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A woman called her dentist the other day and asked how much would a root canal cost. Her dentist replied, “Sure, hold on, let me look that up. Ok, that’ll be around $1400 for that job. Would you like to come in and have that root canal done?” Ridiculous scenario, you’re thinking? I agree! A dentist would never give a price over the phone without first examining the patient.

 

Why do some shops continue to give prices over the phone? Even something as simple as a wheel alignment price can lead the customer and you in the wrong direction. Do you really know the car needs an alignment?

 

Pricing over the phone is the same as giving them a diagnosis. When a customer calls for a price on a water pump and you give a price, you are saying to them, “Yes, it IS the water pump and here’s the price. And then you get the car in the bay and it needs hoses, a thermostat, and the radiator is leaking, not the pump.

 

Giving prices over the phone also tells the caller to please judge you on price alone; a road I refuse to go down.

 

I know this is going to push a lot of buttons today, but my tip today is to resist giving prices over the phone. Get the car into you bay, perform the inspection and/or the proper testing and then when you know what the problem is, sell the job.

 

We are professionals, no different than the Dentist.

 

Your thoughts?

 

 

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I disagree. Most of my aftermarket work is menu priced and what my customers are used to. But when I get a call like your water pump,

 

I say " I can give you an estimate that is based on the info (You provided). Or we can see what is going on and possibly save you some money." No, I did not agree it is the water pump. And planted a seed that encourages them to come in.

 

Either way, the customer feels we are trying to help them. And in the end that's what they want. Help solving their problem.

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I disagree. Most of my aftermarket work is menu priced and what my customers are used to. But when I get a call like your water pump,

 

I say " I can give you an estimate that is based on the info (You provided). Or we can see what is going on and possibly save you some money." No, I did not agree it is the water pump. And planted a seed that encourages them to come in.

 

Either way, the customer feels we are trying to help them. And in the end that's what they want. Help solving their problem.

 

I knew this would push some buttons. Thanks for the reply. Let's here from other shops...

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I disagree as well, me as a customer, you wont tell me how much a wheel alignment is? What are you hiding or what is the trick your trying to pull on me. Prices have been posted for services in the industry since day one probably, and for good reason.

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I like the idea of having customers come in for our technicians to take a look at the issue at hand but in reality I think it would be very difficult to implement this policy as people are used to calling in to get the prices of services. You are correct that for a doctor or dentist this may be different, but the general public does not seem to view our business in the same light. This might be part of the issue as automotive technicians are basically car doctors!

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Alas, Joe - what a doozy of a post to throw out on a Friday! :)

 

I couldn't agree more about not giving prices over the phone. The only pricing my staff is allowed to give over the phone is that which is represented by any of our advertised, "most cars" pricing, such as oil changes, fluid exchange services,basic A/C service, etc.

 

As a matter of fact, I've proven time and again that if a price-shopper calls us on the phone asking for a price for repair service, giving them the price over the phone is a near-guarantee that we won't win the job, and earn their business. On the other hand, handling price shoppers according to our process DOES, in fact, increase our car count, new customer count, and increases our sales exponentially over caving and thinking we're somehow doing them a service by yielding to their ridiculous request. Again...a dentist doesn't quote prices. A doctor doesn't quote prices, (and they even make you pay for the, ahem, testing...EVEN if you buy the medicine they later prescribe), nor does any other professional person...unless its a packaged, "Most Cases" type service.

 

The first thing we need to do is make sure that the person we're talking to falls into the category of "Price-Shopper". This is NOT just anyone that happens to be asking for a price. The basic premise I fall back on when training an advisor is that they need to educate our customers just enough to give them the ability to make an informed decision about the nature of the recommended services their vehicle needs. You can't do that over the phone. One of the simpleset, most powerful ways we accomplish this is by injecting the following into the conversation: "Mr. Smith, I understand why you're calling, and believe me...no one knows better how costly some repairs can be than we do, but I can tell you what the single most expensive part is that you'll EVER put on your car, and I'll always be correct. Since he apparently wants to talk about prices, I inform him that the most expensive part you'll ever put on your car is the part that you absolutely don't NEED.

 

With that in mind, I explain to him that the process we have in place is intended to protect him from ever having work done that doesn't target his primary concern. (As a side note, by the way, this is a BEAUTIFUL place to tell your garden-variety price shopper all about Repairpal.)

 

I like the previous comment regarding our value proposition. (Ok, those are MY words) Are you the low-price leader in your marketplace? If you are, then throw prices at everyone that calls. Most of us are not.

 

I take the time to practice selling them on why they should come to us, and let us "throw our hat into the ring" with all the rest of our competitors who apparently have no problem giving a price on the phone. There's ALWAYS an angle, and no matter what they say, our advisors are trained to give the answer that results in one thing, and one thing only: GET THE CAR TO THE SHOP.

 

Price shoppers who have been rightfully convinced that it is truy in their best interest to allow us the privilege of offering a free "quick-peek" inspection (If you're inclined to offer that), have come in with sometimes as many as 7 or 8 other estimates jotted down on a piece of paper, only to gleefully give us permission to service their car, sometimes at a final price that was 10 or 20% more than their best "phone estimate"

 

Why? Because we're able to show them how much we truly care about getting the job done, getting it done right, not wasting their time, and the 50 other reasons that all build VALUE into the proposition of allowing us to work with them in achieving their vehicle repair/maintenance endgame scenario. Heck...it's become standard practice to tell people that in the end, if they take us up on our offer to give them a free inspection & the estimate of their asking, that if they like what we have to say, then GREAT. If not, we always tell them they are authorized to ball up the estimate, and throw it back at us, and we can all still be friends. We are in the business of meeting people and making friends...and you can't do that as effectively on the phone, only.

 

The hardcore, meanie-head, sometimes crazy sounding automatons that just keep repeating, "But I need a price. I need a price." Those guys? They represent a VERY small minority of the market, (I've read them to be as low as only 11% of the universe of prospects) and you'd be smarter to LET them be mad at you and go elsewhere so they can give your competitors a hard time, cut corners, and beat them up on every last little thing, wasting their time, while YOU focus on the customers that are more interested in keeping their cars maintained, and those who appreciate a professional, capable, honest mechanic.

 

What's the very best thing that can happen? They finally come in because you caved, and told them it will be $125? If so, you better not try to charge them for a gasket that is also necessary, or worse yet, tell them their widget wasn't the problem all along...either way, those kinds of people will always want to make someone ELSE responsbile for the troubles they have on their vehicle, and conveniently forget that it was all in response to the campaign they launched to squeeze the last nickel out of someone over the phone.

 

Nah. I'm ok if they go somewhere else. I just make sure to plant the seed (politely) that if it doesn't happen to work out for them wherever they end up ,that I'll be happy to give them that inspection on their first visit, andmke absolutely certain we'll work as hard as we have to in making sure we meet or exceed their expectations.

 

Just one man's blissful avoidance of people who'd rather argue over $5 than have the doctor give them a real assessment.

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While I do agree with Joe in regards to bigger jobs, everyone else is showing the holes in the utopian theory.

Over time, a certain amount of commoditization happens in any industry.

Phone your dentist and ask how much a basic checkup or a tooth whitening is. They will likely tell you over the phone, because this is commoditized.

 

The same has happened for many services in the auto industry - the problem is that owners and SA's give out prices on things that aren't commoditized as well.

Asking for the price on a wiper install, an alignment or an oil change/3 month service - these are commodities - which is why they show up on menu boards.

 

Regardless of how you feel about giving out these prices, the customer is always gauging your prices, and commoditized prices are a good way for them to do this.

If your alignment is $40 higher then most other shops around town, they might not want to bring their old busted vehicle to you.

If your alignment is $40 less then other shops, they might not want to bring their brand new BMW or Mercedes to you.

 

If your pricing is way out compared to other shops - you should have a good reason why that you can quickly explain (only employ ASE techs/factory scan tools/better warranty etc)

In reality, it is a combination of all these things that contribute to your pricing, but in this world of immediate gratification, we need to adjust to the new realities.

Customers (which have been in the dark for decades) are now clamouring to be informed about their vehicles - and will use any and all methods available.

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Joe you're such a maroon :P . It's a very tough subject and as already stated by others there are many good points on both sides. I always say price shoppers are people that I don't want as customers but aren't we all price shoppers? We price shop for everything we purchase so why would we expect anything different from out customers? I think it's rude not to give them a quote over the phone when they ask for it but then again how can we really give them a competitive quote? What quality part do they want, how soon do they want it back, what warranty are they looking for? How many times have you given a quote based off a customer telling you what they want after they have refused to have you diagnose the car and whey they drop it off they say something like this, "yeah I'm pretty sure it's the starter but can you just make sure before you swap it out?" Then you are faced with informing them that you will but there will be a charge for it.

 

So in finishing my $.02, I agree, I disagree, I agree, I disagree.... :)

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Commodity items such as oil changes i give prices for. If a price shopper is going to cross me out because I have a slightly more expensive oil change then GOOD RIDDANCE! you bet your butt I educate every person who calls up the chance to see our value though.

 

"Just to inform you sir/ma'am we perform oil changes a little bit differently here. We perform what we call and Oil Service. This includes fully synthetic Liquid Moly oil which is made in Germany and carries all of the Factory recommended certifications so you know this is the oil you need in your vehicle. Secondly one of our professional certified German Car technicians will perform a courtesy digital inspection on your vehicle. Any recommendations we have for you will be presented on a report complete with pictures and explanation on anything we see that might be in need of attention. You get all of this for $119.97. I'd be happy to book you for the next most convenient appointment."

 

 

If we reel that off and they still want to price shop, GOOD LUCK!!

 

 

For everything else we avoid giving prices like the plague. You cannot possibly make a buying decision on service from a price. What I tell my service advisor is you have to have the mentality that we are the absolute best place for their car needs. The only way to help customers to understand that is to get them through our doors.

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I will quote menu priced items but what we try to do is get down to why they think they need a water pump or an alignment. Then we talk with them about the need to see the vehicle to find out what is really going on. Does it really need an alignment or are your tires worn out. I'm not 100% against giving prices but I have found that people calling for a quote on a water pump, simply don't come in very often. Hell, when I did give estimates over the phone. I would take the time to write up the estimate, inform the customer on the phone and then they would say "thanks" *click* 30 seconds later the phone is ringing and it's the same customer asking for a quote on their water pump. THEY DON'T EVEN REMEMBER WHO THEY JUST CALLED.

 

Gotta say that I agree with Joe on this. I make exceptions for some things but not very often.

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Joe you're such a maroon :P . It's a very tough subject and as already stated by others there are many good points on both sides. I always say price shoppers are people that I don't want as customers but aren't we all price shoppers? We price shop for everything we purchase so why would we expect anything different from out customers? I think it's rude not to give them a quote over the phone when they ask for it but then again how can we really give them a competitive quote? What quality part do they want, how soon do they want it back, what warranty are they looking for? How many times have you given a quote based off a customer telling you what they want after they have refused to have you diagnose the car and whey they drop it off they say something like this, "yeah I'm pretty sure it's the starter but can you just make sure before you swap it out?" Then you are faced with informing them that you will but there will be a charge for it.

 

So in finishing my $.02, I agree, I disagree, I agree, I disagree.... :)

 

First, I think you meant "moron.", not "maroon".

 

Second, to stimulate conversation, I sometimes post things TO BE controversial, It's the purpose of the forums. Do you think I really fall on one side in this debate? Just look at the amazing posts that were made. Proves my point.

 

So, am I really a maroon....sorry....moron?

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Joe, I think phynny meant maroon. He wasn't trying to be insulting. Interesting subject though. When we give a price over the phone we always qualify our answer and try to get the customer to

bring the vehicle in. Most of the time, the job is different than first presented over the phone because the potential customer forgets to inform us of the mods he or another shop already

performed.

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If you are a shop with highly competitive prices (and when I mean "competitive" I mean its going to be hard for a price shopper to find a lower price) then by all means give a price over the phone.

 

If you are a shop that sells value and benefits with your service then the only way for you to effectively get that across is to show the customer. Over the phone and with a price every shop looks the same. There is no way for you to win that battle. You win by having them visit you and your facility and give them an amazing experience where price is the last thing on their mind. At that point you have sold them on your shop and your people and not on a price.

 

Also lets keep in mind if you are dealing with a true "price shopper" then your goal is to get rid of them as fast as possible and let that customer be someone else's problem. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between someone who is looking for only a price rather than a person who doesn't know what to ask or has been "inceptioned" by a friend/colleague/family/neighbor/other shop.

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"One of the simpleset, most powerful ways we accomplish this is by injecting the following into the conversation: "Mr. Smith, I understand why you're calling, and believe me...no one knows better how costly some repairs can be than we do, but I can tell you what the single most expensive part is that you'll EVER put on your car, and I'll always be correct. Since he apparently wants to talk about prices, I inform him that the most expensive part you'll ever put on your car is the part that you absolutely don't NEED."

 

That's awesome! I'm pretty sure I'm going to be using that line. Thanks

 

I'm OK with quoting menu type services over the phone, although that rarely works out well.

Customers don't know what they don't know. Some can be educated, some don't care to be educated. I'm going to try to help those that want to be helped.

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First, I think you meant "moron.", not "maroon".

 

Second, to stimulate conversation, I sometimes post things TO BE controversial, It's the purpose of the forums. Do you think I really fall on one side in this debate? Just look at the amazing posts that were made. Proves my point.

 

So, am I really a maroon....sorry....moron?

 

Trust me, I know the difference between moron and maroon, why don't you read it for what it was instead of getting butt hurt. I liked the topic and was joking around, did you not see the face with the tongue out?

Edited by phynny
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"One of the simpleset, most powerful ways we accomplish this is by injecting the following into the conversation: "Mr. Smith, I understand why you're calling, and believe me...no one knows better how costly some repairs can be than we do, but I can tell you what the single most expensive part is that you'll EVER put on your car, and I'll always be correct. Since he apparently wants to talk about prices, I inform him that the most expensive part you'll ever put on your car is the part that you absolutely don't NEED."

 

That's awesome! I'm pretty sure I'm going to be using that line. Thanks

 

I'm OK with quoting menu type services over the phone, although that rarely works out well.

Customers don't know what they don't know. Some can be educated, some don't care to be educated. I'm going to try to help those that want to be helped.

 

 

Although I don't like to price out commodity repairs, it is the nature of the beast. It is one thing to not quote out a water pump due to many factors making the right repair possibly not the water pump however I am not trying to put off people when it comes to giving a price quote for an oil change or an AC charge... Some people out there are vindictive enough to bad mouth you over something as trivial as not giving a price for an oil change.

 

 

Also +1 to stow on that line, I like it a lot as well and will try it out!

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Trust me, I know the difference between moron and maroon, why don't you read it for what it was instead of getting butt hurt. I liked the topic and was joking around, did you not see the face with the tongue out?

 

phynny, knowing Joe he ain't offended. However, one thing I have learned is that humor doesn't always come across in print.

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Ok, fair enough. There are times when words do not get translated correctly and tempers get in the way of a healthy discussion. I too was trying to bring some humor into the conversation, but obviously failed.

 

For the benefit of the forums and all the other members, let us shake on this and get back to the discussions.

 

This is a great topic, and one that many people having strong opinions on.

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Fair enough, Joe.

 

Here's one that will likely have someone throwing stones at me, but as its on topic, I'll toss this out and see what you think. (I have a garbage can lid at the ready as a trusty shield)

 

I am NOT a mechanic by trade, nor do I have any such training or experience, so at times, I find myself able to play the "rookie" card when I make a mistake, or when it's easily proven that in the end, it's not my own skills, but those of the talented men & women technicians I employ, that my more technical-minded customers appreciate.

 

When dealing with genuine price shoppers, I've found it to be helpful in educating my prospects about value of the free quick-peek inspection to add just the right amount of "reasonable doubt" into the proposition on the phone.

 

For instance, if they want a price for a new alternator & belt on their car, and the conversation came around to it, the conversation might go like this:

 

Them: "...my husband just said to call around for pricing"

 

Us: "Oh, I see. Well, I'll do the best I can. Ok, let me ask you this - do you need a 90amp or a 10am alternator?"

 

Them: "I have no idea"

 

Us: "I see. Ok, do you need a serpentine belt or do you have a separate v-style belt for your power steering and A/C?"

 

Them: "um, again...I don't know"

 

Us: "Ok, well, since I've never seen your car before, it's pretty hard to male sure I'm giving you the very best information. I'd be happy to print out an estimate that will be EXACTLY what your service will cost, but I'd need to take a quick look under the hood. I can promise that it won't cost you a penny, and you'll have no obligation to us. You can just enjoy a cup of coffee, itll take about 10 minutes, and if you don't like what we have to say, you can free to ball up our estimate and toss it back at us, and we can still be friends."

 

My simple point is that sometimes I ask questions that I don't even know the answer to, and frankly not only don't I CARE at that moment, but it helps me to be able to make them understand that it doesn't matter because any reputable repair shop will want to see the car before giving them the very best info, and without any obligation.

 

For all I know, there isn't more than one option on the alternator & belt but unless I look it up...I can make as much wiggle room in the conversation as possible. After all, I think it's in their best interest to come to US instead of taking a chance on service anywhere else.

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Hey stow,

 

I usually agree with most of what you type, we seem to think a lot alike. However, you've said it multiple times, " come in for a free inspection".

 

 

Why do you do free inspections? I charge to look at pretty much anything. Granted there are times I'll check something out, but if a customer calls saying they need an alternator, I'm going to charge a nominal fee to look at.

 

 

That $1200 load tester I have and 20 years experience costs money. It seems to weed out a lot of those " price shoppers " right out. It's rare I have those black holes darkening my doorway.

 

If someone calls asking for the price of an oil change, yes I'll say it's anywhere from $50-120 and give the speech that it's a full service. It's become very rare that people price shop us. Our reputation is so solid that when we tell someone that it will be $120 to check out the dead battery no start, they say no problem, I've heard you guys are great and trustworthy.

 

That's where I think you need to focus on. Not worrying about converting the price shoppers, but making it so that you have such a great rep, that people just want to make an appointment.

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There have been a couple of very interesting posts in this forum recently that are worth

millions of dollars to you and your business, when you look at things from your customer's

perspective. One of the posts was written here by carolinahigear:
http://www.autoshopowner.com/topic/10103-openbay/?p=25600

 

And this brand new post from Mario:
http://www.autoshopowner.com/topic/10141-i-price-shopped-this-week/

 

In my humble opinion, sales is about giving the customer a valid reason to buy from YOU!

It doesn't matter what you're selling.

 

Consider this...

 

If a good friend of yours called you up on the phone and asked, "how much is an

alternator for my car?"

 

What would you say to them?

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Hey stow,

I usually agree with most of what you type, we seem to think a lot alike. However, you've said it multiple times, " come in for a free inspection".

Why do you do free inspections? I charge to look at pretty much anything. Granted there are times I'll check something out, but if a customer calls saying they need an alternator, I'm going to charge a nominal fee to look at.

That $1200 load tester I have and 20 years experience costs money. It seems to weed out a lot of those " price shoppers " right out. It's rare I have those black holes darkening my doorway.

If someone calls asking for the price of an oil change, yes I'll say it's anywhere from $50-120 and give the speech that it's a full service. It's become very rare that people price shop us. Our reputation is so solid that when we tell someone that it will be $120 to check out the dead battery no start, they say no problem, I've heard you guys are great and trustworthy.

That's where I think you need to focus on. Not worrying about converting the price shoppers, but making it so that you have such a great rep, that people just want to make an appointment.

 

Great reputations take time to foster. For a lot of shops converted price shoppers into valued shoppers is what is needed to grow. Not everyone is blessed with a decade long established reputation.

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I think Joe is absolutely correct. Never give a price over the phone. Its tough to implement, but I suggest trying it for a couple weeks and see what happens. The dentist never quotes prices over the phone. Never. You shouldn't either for reasons discussed above.

 

Even tires, which are a commodity, I ask the size, the speed rating, the treadwear, traction, and load index number. The customer does not know the answers 99% of the time which makes it very easy for me to invite them over so I can take a look at their vehicle. If they are bent on price shopping I have them look at their door jam and read me the numbers and I'll quote a price. If I'm the only guy who asked these questions I get a bonus point for being more knowledgeable about tires in their eyes.

 

Think about it, the phone rings "how much for a radiator" you look up the parts and labor and say its an easy one you quote the job. $250. "When can you get me in?" Because its a 30 minute job you schedule them in the same day. So far so good, the customer leaves you the keys and a check because you were the cheapest price so they pay you what you quoted and they comment how you are their hero for doing it so fast and cheap, because they can't be without their car and that's all the money they got. The car comes in and your tech replaces the leaking radiator. That's the job written on the calander. You all know what's next, the car overheats in the bay because the thermostats stuck. OK you call and explain and put a thermostat in. Another $75 the customer isn't too happy. After the thermostat it becomes clear the electric fan is no good which caused the radiator and stat to go bad. Uh oh, now your tech is hours deep into this working on an overheating problem. You got suckered into a payment plan at this point. The next appointment is waiting impatiently because your tech is behind and they take their 60k mile service somewhere else. After figuring out the fan driver or fan motor failed your price shopper is really fuming. After exceeding your quote by 5x the car finally leaves fixed. The next day the car is back with "the same problem", the radiator is leaking again. You are mad at the tech for damaging the radiator, the tech is mad at Napa for making a defective radiator, the customer is mad at you for being a crook. More free diagnosis, more appointments lost, more coolant leaking mess in your bay and parking lot. In the end the slipping water pump impeller caused a blown head gasket which over pressurized the radiator blowing the tank apart again. The coolant got into the tranny cooler this time. Who pays for a new engine and transaxle? What's the customer say? "Why did you sell me a radiator when it didn't need one?" Blood pressure in the high double digits. Lol.

 

The above situation can be avoided very easily. " how much for a radiator?" Mr smith, we can get you in tomorrow to diagnose your cooling system problems, it will be $60 for this service and we will be able to let you know exactly what needs to be done and how much it will cost after my tech diagnoses your vehicle.

 

You might lose the job by not quoting a price over the phone but its better than the alternative.

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We've all been down that road Alfrado, no good deed goes unpunished and even if you are 100% correct the yelp and google reviews will not reflect that.

 

Isn't it more of a case by case basis really? By now, we can all tell if a customer is interested in a repair or price shopping and has no money. Service writers and owners make a living off of interacting with people and understanding individual personalities. Sometimes giving a quote to a "price shopper" works out to your advange. How many times have you given a quote or even just a quote for diagnosis and you don't hear from them until a month down the road when the repair didn't work or failed. When this happens you have earned yourself a customer for life which is our ultimate goal.

 

Most important IMHO is listening to that inner voice when it's sounding the "AVOID THIS PERSON AND THIS JOB" alarm.

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Hey stow,

 

I usually agree with most of what you type, we seem to think a lot alike. However, you've said it multiple times, " come in for a free inspection".

 

 

Why do you do free inspections? I charge to look at pretty much anything. Granted there are times I'll check something out, but if a customer calls saying they need an alternator, I'm going to charge a nominal fee to look at.

 

 

That $1200 load tester I have and 20 years experience costs money. It seems to weed out a lot of those " price shoppers " right out. It's rare I have those black holes darkening my doorway.

 

If someone calls asking for the price of an oil change, yes I'll say it's anywhere from $50-120 and give the speech that it's a full service. It's become very rare that people price shop us. Our reputation is so solid that when we tell someone that it will be $120 to check out the dead battery no start, they say no problem, I've heard you guys are great and trustworthy.

 

That's where I think you need to focus on. Not worrying about converting the price shoppers, but making it so that you have such a great rep, that people just want to make an appointment.

SMMotors,

We decided from the beginning that we were going to handle genuine price-shoppers differently than pretty much anyone else we interact with for a couple of reasons, and that let our "board" to decide that if the difference between getting a price-shopper in the door or not seeing their smiling face at all was to offer a "quick peek" inspection, then we felt that was the circumstance that warranted the risk of the giveaway.

 

We've managed to do an adequate job building value into the "Comprehensive Vehicle Inspection" program we have, and that has a fee associated with it for even our most loyal customer. The babies, the newborns, the people who don't know how wonderful it is yet to have us on their side....well, we'll offer them 5-10 minutes of our time. We decided that it would be well worth the risk/investment, and it has paid off handsomely as our price shopper conversion rate, when we can get someone in front of us to shake our hand, is more than 85%.

 

I appreciate that you've read some of my posts, and if you are able to feel like you know a little about how we operate, I just want to remind you of this: In the end, after my technicians ahve been generously paid for all their time inspecting/servicing the vehicles we see, we end up with weekly margins of as high as 65-68%. So....it may be a freebie quick peek, but in the end, everyone's getting paid.

 

Thanks again for taking the timeto read my commentary. I've wondered if I just didn't come off sounding like a guy who needs therapy, not a professional forum to post to!

Edited by stowintegrity
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Just to stir the pot. I am seeing a lot of "The customer does not no what he needs till I tell him what he needs." Well guess what? Some of these people do know what they want.

 

Some are looking for a better price than the dealership that just did a diag. Yes I know, They may have mis-diagnosed the problem. But it is hard to convince a customer that the dealer is wrong and they need to pay for another diagnosis.

 

Some have the ability but no longer have the means to do their own work. Divorced, sold tools, live in an apartment, career change What ever the case may be.

 

So you are on your weekend get away. 500 miles from home you lose a water pump. Bearings shot, coolant coming out the seal it's obvious. How are you going to feel when you start calling locals and can not get a price till they see it?

 

It was said earlier "a case by case basis" Every phone call is a potential customer. Why would you want to discard that customer. The price only customers weed their selves out.

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Just to stir the pot. I am seeing a lot of "The customer does not no what he needs till I tell him what he needs." Well guess what? Some of these people do know what they want.

 

Some are looking for a better price than the dealership that just did a diag. Yes I know, They may have mis-diagnosed the problem. But it is hard to convince a customer that the dealer is wrong and they need to pay for another diagnosis.

 

Some have the ability but no longer have the means to do their own work. Divorced, sold tools, live in an apartment, career change What ever the case may be.

 

So you are on your weekend get away. 500 miles from home you lose a water pump. Bearings shot, coolant coming out the seal it's obvious. How are you going to feel when you start calling locals and can not get a price till they see it?

 

It was said earlier "a case by case basis" Every phone call is a potential customer. Why would you want to discard that customer. The price only customers weed their selves out.

 

Good point. I would counter that though by saying why would you change your policy for a very small percentage of price shoppers calling you? If you are finding success in selling the value of your shop and a visit to your shop before price is discussed then why would you go and change what you have been doing? You might start seeing adverse effects from this. The customers you would normally convert from price shopper to value shopper will stay price shoppers with your quote in their hand comparing it to the other shops.

 

I have learned the hard way trying to run my business for the minority instead of the majority.

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I bought a high volume shop before several competitors came along. I'm still higher volume but about 100 cars short from these summer months last year. I get anywhere from 5 to 15 calls a day asking for prices. If they're menu board prices I provide them but I ask questions first. Questions like 'where do you usually go?' 'How did you hear about us?' I will also include our process in the inspection and build trust by getting to know them on the horns.

 

I won't give a price on anything I have to look up while on the phone. I ask for their name and number and if they've been here before so I can look up their vehicle information. If they haven't been here I need this. Once in a Blue Moon someone will come back a month later saying I quoted them this or that price and I haven't a clue unless I have their estimate saved on file. If they won't give me a name or number they weren't very interested in coming here.

 

Like most of you - if a prospect wants a price that needs a diagnosis first I won't go there. I build value in determining what the issue is before talking price through our process.

 

**I just quoted tires to an existing customer. I price tires competitively and I'm usually in the ballpark. But today, and this happens once or twice a month, Big O' Tires quoted the tires right at my cost plus installation. The customer can't tell me what installation and other fees there will be but they think I'm outrageously expensive. All I can tell them is if you can get the tires for my cost installed or only pay another $30 per tire installed then please buy them there. It'll help you and me out at the same time!**

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The way I do it is very similar to the way that stowintegrity does. The only thing I will give a price for is an oil change. Even then, I say "Our oil changes range from $30.49 to $76.95 depending on the grade of oil, type of filter and type of vehicle." Almost 100% of the time, if they are shopping JUST for price, they will say "thank you" and hang up. I have yet to answer a "but what does it cost for my car" question after I say that line.

 

Also, if they ask me what the price is for a specific item, (i.e How much for a water pump?) I say that I would be more than happy to give them a price and ask them whether they would like to bring it in now or would later this afternoon would work better. And explain to them that I would be delighted to give them a price but I would have to see the vehicle first absolutely free and no more than a few minutes of their time. Again, don't take any more than 10 minutes on the free inspection.

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We've all been down that road Alfrado, no good deed goes unpunished and even if you are 100% correct the yelp and google reviews will not reflect that.

 

Isn't it more of a case by case basis really? By now, we can all tell if a customer is interested in a repair or price shopping and has no money. Service writers and owners make a living off of interacting with people and understanding individual personalities. Sometimes giving a quote to a "price shopper" works out to your advange.

I like the good deed wisdom, Phynny...I'm using that one sometime.

 

I've been waiting for someone to make this point because I'm guessing many of you will agree, but it's important FIRST to make sure we're all talking about the same person, calling. I will agree with your case-by-case approach, Phynny if you're contending that on a case-by-case basis you need to determine IF the person is a genuine price shopper, but once the answer is a resounding "YES", then I say "Down with giving pricing on the phone".

 

Two people call me, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones. They are both asking for a price over the phone, and I happily give Mr. Smith a direct answer to his query, but Mr. Jones is told I need to see the car before I'm able to give him the accurate info he needs. Does that sound like it contradicts anything I've already said on this topic? Nope.

 

Mr. Jones has never been to me before (or maybe he HAS, and he's proven to be a "PIA" or a "$SHOP" which are system codes we use to categorize customers to assist future advisors when they answer their calls. Mr. Jones is calling 10 shops, looking for the best price. He's happy to tell you so, so you better give him a good one, or else you might lose his business forever, Mwa-hahaha... Mr. Jones is a price-shopper.

 

Mr. Smith, however, has been to us more than a couple times in the past. He doesn't spend a whole lot each time, maybe only a few hundred dollars, but you've got enough history (or notes) in your system to know his wife's name is Julie, and he has 2 kids in college. (who's cars you also get to service.) Mr Smith, you see, has a big party coming up (for Julie, probably), and wants to know how much that water pump may cost him so he can make sure he's got enough to pay you, what with all the balloons he has to buy, along with the cake & ice cream. Mr. Smith is not a price shopper...he's a customer that needs to get an idea of what his visit to your shop MIGHT cost him, so he can plan for the investment in your service.

 

"Well Mr. Smith...you know us well enough to know how we operate. I don't want to mislead you or make any promises, but I know how it is sometimes when you need to juggle some bills, and I appreciate that you're thoughtful enough to want to make sure you'll have enough to pay the nice mechanic who's been so good to you. Your water pump, if that is INDEED what you'll need, might represent an expense of $XX or more, but you can be sure I'll be as competitive on pricing that service no matter what you end up actually needing."

 

And by the way...if you DON'T keep a stock of anniversary, birthday, graduation, and general congratulations cards on hand...you're missing the boat. We keep them in the back room, and when we hear the word grad party, we find the time to write a few nice words in the card, slip in a free oil change certificate along with our business cards, and present it to them when they're checking out. Killer move.

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Chuckle, chuckle, got a good laugh over these posts. ROFL.

 

Where am I on all this? No prices over the phone. That's where. Well, I do have to explain that. I seldom do book time work, such as brake jobs or shock R&R's, my work is generally electrical diagnostics and repair. AND, in that sense I can't tell you how much to make your brake lights work from some book time or based on what the last job took.

 

So, there's a place for both phone prices (diag.) or no phone prices.

 

In fact, just for fun I called my dentist and asked how much for a root canal. Now, we're old friends, we go fishing together, play golf, etc... and... even with that, he wouldn't even give me an estimate. He said, "Bring it in." Imagine that.

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A little side bar here.

Take a poll of your phone shoppers

 

Out of the ones that you gave a price to -- how many showed up

Out of the ones you didn't give a price to -- how many showed up

Out of the ones you tried to persuade into coming to your shop - - how many showed up

 

My experience in all the categories is about 20% of the phone calls are in the persuaded section and virtually 0% from the other two sections. Your results may vary.

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A little side bar here.

Take a poll of your phone shoppers

 

Out of the ones that you gave a price to -- how many showed up

Out of the ones you didn't give a price to -- how many showed up

Out of the ones you tried to persuade into coming to your shop - - how many showed up

 

My experience in all the categories is about 20% of the phone calls are in the persuaded section and virtually 0% from the other two sections. Your results may vary.

We have a phone shopper log sheet on a clipboard thats grabbed the second we know its a price shopper we're talking to. We use it periodically to "crunch the numbers", and see who is the most effective at getting people to set an appointment, KEEP an appointment, as well as the eventual sales $ totals.

 

I can't even begin to try what you've suggested, though, Gonzo, because we simply refuse to give prices out over the phone. I can tell you, however, that we log about 12-15 price shoppers a week, successfully getting 85% or more of them to come in so we can do things the way it makes sense, the way that's in their best interest, and without any misunderstandings, guesses, or mistakes.

 

I LOVE dealing with price shoppers, and am sometimes handed the phone with a particularly difficult one who thinks if we don't give him a price on the phone that he has grounds for a lawsuit. It doesn't matter, in the end because the numbers dont lie...when he comes in for his appt, I usually find out the REAL reason he was hesitant to do anything but GET PRICES, GET PRICES.

 

I am SO waiting for the opportunity to fit in the line from Tommyboy somehow about "taking a butcher's word for it" when it comes to knowing what's wrong with his car. I know,...not a perfect parallel, but I can't wait for the chance to let fly, like Mussolini from the balcony.

 

Today was delightful - Lots of people coming in, lots of new faces, and of course, lots of genuine, down-to-earth, warm-hearted customer service. I love being a service manager.

Edited by stowintegrity
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Fair enough, Joe.

Here's one that will likely have someone throwing stones at me, but as its on topic, I'll toss this out and see what you think. (I have a garbage can lid at the ready as a trusty shield)

I am NOT a mechanic by trade, nor do I have any such training or experience, so at times, I find myself able to play the "rookie" card when I make a mistake, or when it's easily proven that in the end, it's not my own skills, but those of the talented men & women technicians I employ, that my more technical-minded customers appreciate.

When dealing with genuine price shoppers, I've found it to be helpful in educating my prospects about value of the free quick-peek inspection to add just the right amount of "reasonable doubt" into the proposition on the phone.

For instance, if they want a price for a new alternator & belt on their car, and the conversation came around to it, the conversation might go like this:

Them: "...my husband just said to call around for pricing"

Us: "Oh, I see. Well, I'll do the best I can. Ok, let me ask you this - do you need a 90amp or a 10am alternator?"

Them: "I have no idea"

Us: "I see. Ok, do you need a serpentine belt or do you have a separate v-style belt for your power steering and A/C?"

Them: "um, again...I don't know"

Us: "Ok, well, since I've never seen your car before, it's pretty hard to male sure I'm giving you the very best information. I'd be happy to print out an estimate that will be EXACTLY what your service will cost, but I'd need to take a quick look under the hood. I can promise that it won't cost you a penny, and you'll have no obligation to us. You can just enjoy a cup of coffee, itll take about 10 minutes, and if you don't like what we have to say, you can free to ball up our estimate and toss it back at us, and we can still be friends."

My simple point is that sometimes I ask questions that I don't even know the answer to, and frankly not only don't I CARE at that moment, but it helps me to be able to make them understand that it doesn't matter because any reputable repair shop will want to see the car before giving them the very best info, and without any obligation.

For all I know, there isn't more than one option on the alternator & belt but unless I look it up...I can make as much wiggle room in the conversation as possible. After all, I think it's in their best interest to come to US instead of taking a chance on service anywhere else.

 

This. Exactly this. How much is a water pump. Do you have the 4 or 6. Do you have glycol coolant do you have multi belt. Is the aspilate mixer in the way. Once you get two or more I don't know's from the customer you say has Noone else asked these questions? Sounds like your not gathering accurate estimates want to st op by real fast?

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This. Exactly this. How much is a water pump. Do you have the 4 or 6. Do you have glycol coolant do you have multi belt. Is the aspilate mixer in the way. Once you get two or more I don't know's from the customer you say has Noone else asked these questions? Sounds like your not gathering accurate estimates want to st op by real fast?

 

Bingo. You're NOT deceiving anyone by refusing to give a price over the phone. Once you learn not to be afraid of losing the "price shopper", your phone will eventually begin ringing only because people who want to schedule appointments are calling.

 

I've heard some of my staff answer like this (out of context), "<chuckle> Oh, you've never been here before? Well, you don't know what you're missing. We're confident that if given the chance to be of service to you, you'll understand that in order to stand tall, and boldly behind the work we provide, we like to get it right the first time. Stop by, let me shake your hand, make you a cappucino while you're waiting, and we'll prepare any estimate you ask us for. Your trip & your time will be well spent, and you won't feel pressured into letting us do anything for you that you don't want. We're here to serve...give us a chance to meet and make a new friend?"

 

Priceless.

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1) You pay a lot of money to make the phone ring.

2) Consumers are conditioned to ask for price based on the constant bombardment of advertising.

 

With that said I will gather as much info as I can. Then I do my best to persuade them to come into the shop. If they simply want a price I will give them one based on the info they provide. Then I explain again the complexities of the modern auto and advise them to beware of lowball rip offs.

 

People shop for groceries at Wal-Mart because they are conditioned to believe they are the lowest price. Others shop at Publix because they believe it's better quality. What we have to do is convince them that we can provide the quality they expect for a price they can accept.

Just my $2.98 ( 2 cents plus the Obama care tax)

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1) You pay a lot of money to make the phone ring.

2) Consumers are conditioned to ask for price based on the constant bombardment of advertising.

 

With that said I will gather as much info as I can. Then I do my best to persuade them to come into the shop. If they simply want a price I will give them one based on the info they provide. Then I explain again the complexities of the modern auto and advise them to beware of lowball rip offs.

 

People shop for groceries at Wal-Mart because they are conditioned to believe they are the lowest price. Others shop at Publix because they believe it's better quality. What we have to do is convince them that we can provide the quality they expect for a price they can accept.

Just my $2.98 ( 2 cents plus the Obama care tax)

 

I appreciate your take on this Jeff! Anymore, it really does seem like the largest part of the problem is tryingg to get people's ATTENTION. My kids are all in college and we've had the discussion about "screens" in our house more than once. (Someone always has a screen of one sort or another in front of them, most of the day)

 

I think I understand the notion of "paying a lot of money to make the phone ring", but I'd accept that only as a euphemism. We invest money in advertising, and carefully monitor the ROI. If I decided to asdvertise on coupon flyers on the tables at a local italian restaurant, and it was going to cost $4000 a month, I'd be ok with that...especially if I showed my partners that it was netting us $15k a month. Now that's a spicy meatball!

 

We had a near record week one time, and yet our phones were down for almost 3 business days.

 

Just one man's screwball experience.

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1) You pay a lot of money to make the phone ring.

2) Consumers are conditioned to ask for price based on the constant bombardment of advertising.

 

It's an interesting situation because of the conditioning you mentioned. In other words,

almost every shop is promoting a product or a service that is price-related.

 

Then, they get frustrated when customers call for pricing.

 

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with marketing...

 

Because it provides opportunities to add a new customer to your customer base that will

now use your shop for all their repair and maintenance needs whether you have a

promotion running or not.

 

From my experience, it boils down to: How good is your staff at converting those

phone calls or walk-in's, into an appointment?

 

And then, converting them into loyal customers?

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Hey Stowintegrity, you had mentioned that for price shoppers you offer them a free 10 minute inspection. I believe you had mentioned that in your conversation with the customer on the phone you tell them it will cost them absolutely nothing and will provide you with the necessary information to give them an honest and accurate estimate. What happens when its not something you can diagnose in 10 minutes to give an accurate estimate? Do you then tell them they will have to pay for the diagnostic? We typically charge whenever our technicians look at any problem/vehicle. For most of our customers, they understand that the technicians time equates to money but for price shoppers, many times their view is that shops should be able to diagnose/look at the vehicle for free. Just wondering if you encounter this type of situation and how you handle it with the customer?

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Hey Stowintegrity, you had mentioned that for price shoppers you offer them a free 10 minute inspection. I believe you had mentioned that in your conversation with the customer on the phone you tell them it will cost them absolutely nothing and will provide you with the necessary information to give them an honest and accurate estimate. What happens when its not something you can diagnose in 10 minutes to give an accurate estimate? Do you then tell them they will have to pay for the diagnostic? We typically charge whenever our technicians look at any problem/vehicle. For most of our customers, they understand that the technicians time equates to money but for price shoppers, many times their view is that shops should be able to diagnose/look at the vehicle for free. Just wondering if you encounter this type of situation and how you handle it with the customer?

 

Good point, 5Star, and you're absolutely right...we have to be careful in situations like that.

 

So for instance, if you called us and wanted us to give you pricing over the phone for service you believed was necessary, in so many words, we'd deliver the message you reiterated:

 

"I promise, we won't charge you a nickel for our inspection service, and this will give us the privilege of giving you an accurate recommendation and estimate for the repair service you need. If you like what we have to say, wonderful! If not, we tell everyone we're most interested in meeting and serving new people, so you're authorized to ball up our estimate, and toss it back at us, and we can still be friends."

 

The situation doesn't change at all, if after a "quick peek", we find bona fide reasons for not being able to give them a guaranteed fix...we can still keep our promise and give them an honest recommendation based on facts, and what it will cost if they authorize service.

 

"Mr. Smith, we've finished peeking under the hood just like we promised, and it I have to tell you, I think you may be correct about the fact that your water pump is the source of the coolant leak. After taking a closer look, my senior technician has indicated that your engine has small coolant tubes that run in the same vicinity of the pump, and the fact that there's so much coolant i the area, I'm inclined to give you an estimate for servicing both of those items, as a worst-case scenario. We can't imagine what else it may be in that area, so I think it's safe to say that there's at least a small possibility that the wter pump is fine, and that it's the coolant pipes/seals that are leaking. Whatever it is, you can be assured that you won't be paying for any service that doesn't take care of the problem."

 

Of course, we're not always this bold, 5Star, but the example I used involves some "grey area" when our tech just can't be POSITIVE on a quick inspection. In this example, we may even recommend they allow us the privilege of performing a cooling system pressure test first, which would come with a fee attached. Regardless, price shoppers that come in to our counter are ALWAYS given the estimate they asked for...even if after they arrive, we're not given permission to inspect the vehicle.

 

Our view is that we're happy to give out estimates all day long at our counter, where we at least have access to vehicle information. Someone could come to our shop with a radiator that is working perfectly, with no signs of compromise whatsoever...and if asked, I'll give them an estimate at our counter for it's replacement. Our invoice, of course, will include a disclaimer that the component was replaced at their request only, that a comprehensive system diagnosis was NOT completed by our staff, and that we cannot guarantee that the service will address any of the symptoms they're experiencing. Why not? We have people often enough ask me to replace parts on their car that I tell them up front, "I strongly believe that replacing your flux capcitor won't address the problem you're having...but we are here to serve, and would be happy to perform any service you as of us."

 

I think you're probably referring to issues that blatantly require a diagnosis, however, 5Star. In that case, our free quick peek still comes with the culmination of service resulting in us keeping our word...the estimate they get will explain everything we then know about the car, what trouble codes (if any) were present, and a to-the-penny estimate for the recommended service.....which in this case is: "TECHNICAL DIAGNOSTIC SERVICE: Testing and other service necessary to determine the root cause(s) of the complaints/symptoms desccribed on this work order. May include time necessary to remove components & examine or test them for normal function after having been removed from the vehicle."

 

If the professional in front of you says you need teardown/diagnostic service, or else throw parts at your car at your peril....they don't HAVE to let me do anything.

 

Option 1: Thank you for the free information. You guys are really nice...thank you for being thorough, & trying to help me figure this out. (Free)

Option 2: Yes, I think what you're saying makes sense. Let's schedule the diagnostic service, per your recommendation. ($)

Option 3: What you're saying makes sense, but I really think it's my flux capacitor. I think I'll just have you replace it, per the estimate you gave me, knowing that if I'm wrong,

we'll have to have you run your diagnostic afterwards. ($)

 

Just one man's approach to giving people what they want.

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The bottom line on all of this is to get the customer in the door. That can be achieved without giving a price on the phone or scaring them away with diag charges for everything. Be smooth, get the people in, sell what's needed and get paid for your time. Honestly I don't like to talk money at all with customers. I want them to trust me, feel confident in my shop, and want me to solve their car problems. As a courtesy and comply with the law I get approval for the $$$. If I can get a customer to accept me as their go to guy the money isn't an issue. For sure, calling me for a price on anything but a tire will end in no price.

 

Think about your marketing, I advertise the lowest price on tires. Of course I quote tires over the phone along with the value added freebies. I dont advertise oil changes or service deals, so no need to talk phone money.

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The bottom line on all of this is to get the customer in the door. That can be achieved without giving a price on the phone or scaring them away with diag charges for everything. Be smooth, get the people in, sell what's needed and get paid for your time. Honestly I don't like to talk money at all with customers. I want them to trust me, feel confident in my shop, and want me to solve their car problems. As a courtesy and comply with the law I get approval for the $$$. If I can get a customer to accept me as their go to guy the money isn't an issue. For sure, calling me for a price on anything but a tire will end in no price.

 

Think about your marketing, I advertise the lowest price on tires. Of course I quote tires over the phone along with the value added freebies. I dont advertise oil changes or service deals, so no need to talk phone money.

 

You touched on another good point, AlfredAuto, mentioning at what price points you advertise your tires. When we write our estimates we have an in-house procedure we keep in mind, that gives us yet another level of consideration when polishing an estimate before presenting it to our customer, we call in the BEST pricing program, and it's really simple.

 

When writing estimates for Brakes, Exhaust, Shocks, or Tires...always be as aggressive as you can. These are the main categories of service that are price-shopped in our area, and if we earn someone's trust/confidence with expert brake service at a highly competitive price...when they come back for a water pump, they don't even ask for the price up front!

 

Just one man's Mneumonic estimating device

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Hey....us Northerners are fighting it year round, lol. I stock 300' of NC 3/16" brake line....although I haven't looked at it in awhile, there's been months where we've installed nearly 500' of the stuff. You just GOTTA love rust, no?

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Hey....us Northerners are fighting it year round, lol. I stock 300' of NC 3/16" brake line....although I haven't looked at it in awhile, there's been months where we've installed nearly 500' of the stuff. You just GOTTA love rust, no?

 

 

dislike

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BEST is a good acronym, I follow the system without even realizing it. For example when I quote exhaust I charge standard markup on parts and offer free install. That gets my price competitive. Same with quick struts. Buy 2 get free installation. If I had my way we would do BEST work all day and never work on an engine. I haven't had a car yet that I struggled to put a muffler on.

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Them: How much for you guys to .......... on my car?

 

My manager on the performance side of the shop: I'm not sure. You give me $1000. and I promise to give you change back. How much change depends on the work we have to do, and we won't know that until we take a look at your vehicle and are able to diagnose exactly what is wrong with your car.

 

Them: laughter Yeah, I guess I need to make an appointment.

 

If they come back with "I just need ................... done, how much for that?"

 

Manager: When you call the doctor's office, do call the ask them to diagnose your leg over the phone or how, or do you call to make an appointment to have them diagnose what is wrong. The doctor will look at it, perform tests, and use their education and experience to diagnose exactly what is wrong. We like to do the same thing with your car.

 

**Not everyone can do this, but he can because of his personality and the delivery. I hear this line about once a month, he gets the diagnosis booked.

 

This is a good discussion guys, good points for both sides. Thought I'd throw a little laughter in.

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Whenever we get these call's I usually look at the caller ID, If they are a regular customer I try to look them up first while I am creating chit chat. If they are new I try to ask them how they found us and so on. Also if their name is on the caller ID i usually refer to them and this usually catches them off guard. After that always try to get the vehicle in the shop and I always point to the differences in parts so we need to make sure that its apples to apples, most of the time if you see the pattern of phone shoppers its usually the same type of jobs. Brakes, Tune-ups and exhaust, at least this is my experience in my shop. When I can get them to my shop the closing rate just increased because they saw that I took time to talk to them and not hurry them off the phone. Also if you know that they are coming in after you get them off the phone make sure that you acknowledge them, in my shop sometimes this is the hardest customer to win over, but treat them with kindness and respect and this usually will make the next step easier.

This topic sure creates discussion......

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