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Why Can’t You Give Me a Price?


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Why Can’t You Give Me a Price?

By Joe Marconi

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I think in these shaky economic times we need to concentrate on service. We need to address the concerns of the customers and give them options. Your customers will be looking to you for help and guidance, that’s part of your job. The shop that continues to deliver outstanding service and charges a fair price will thrive. I have lived though many economic roller coasters in my 28 years in business and have no doubt that this ride will pass too.

If you’re wondering if Joe gave Dave a discount on the job, you can ask him that and any other questions, in this topic we have started for this story here. How do you feel he handled the situation?

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Hi Joe,

 

I think you had a great response. However, I really do think the price of the 60 000 mile service price could have been told to the customer first on the phone. I am sure he would have brought up the price difference at that point. Then you could have made the point you did and include that you are going to keep treating him good by doing the inspection as well.

 

I think the big thing here is to avoid getting the customer frustrated. But, overall very well handled.

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I guess I am a little gun shy about giving price over the phone. How many times have you given a price on a particular service only to find the car need additional work, like front brakes or tires?

 

Joe

 

Probably daily. We quote what was requested, inform them of the inspections which are part of the service, then call them with what we found. Normal daily operations. I can't recall the last time someone complained about this process.

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I have no issues when the vehicle is in the shop for service. We have no problems with that. What concerns me is giving prices over the phone before I see the car. It may seem straight forward at times, but I would still like to see the vehicle.

 

I guess for certain jobs with regular customers, it should not be an issue.

 

Agree? Or not?

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I have no issues when the vehicle is in the shop for service. We have no problems with that. What concerns me is giving prices over the phone before I see the car. It may seem straight forward at times, but I would still like to see the vehicle.

 

I guess for certain jobs with regular customers, it should not be an issue.

 

Agree? Or not?

 

Joe:

 

There are exceptions to almost anything.

 

In general, we will quote almost anyone a price on almost anything.

 

Works great for us!

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  • 2 months later...
I appreciate the input.

joe- i agree, i believe the reason the customer calls you is for the service. if its about price someone else is always cheaper. i never quote anything unless its been looked at or driven. i could give 50 quotes a day and get 1 -2 jobs out of it. the first thing i do is say "lets get it in here, we can then give you a firm quote before any work begins" since its broke and they need it fixed thats what we do is fix stuff.

-jake

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  • 4 months later...
Why Can’t You Give Me a Price?

By Joe Marconi

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I think in these shaky economic times we need to concentrate on service. We need to address the concerns of the customers and give them options. Your customers will be looking to you for help and guidance, that’s part of your job. The shop that continues to deliver outstanding service and charges a fair price will thrive. I have lived though many economic roller coasters in my 28 years in business and have no doubt that this ride will pass too.

If you’re wondering if Joe gave Dave a discount on the job, you can ask him that and any other questions, in this topic we have started for this story here. How do you feel he handled the situation?

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Great response to your customer. When we are asked a price over the phone and the customer wants to know how much? we ususally respond with it will cost you about 15 minutes of your time to bring it in and have it diagnosed properly. But being that it's so hard to keep up with dealership coupons, on our website we state that we will honor any dealership coupon, that way we can have them come to us regardless of what the dealer is offering

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I understand what you are doing. My only concern is that some of those dealer ads are misleading. For example: Timing belt $199.00. If they come to you with a coupon, it's up to you to inform them that this probably does not include the water pump, coolant, drive belts, etc. The cusotmer may think that YOU are trying to up sell them.

 

I don't like price wars. I need to be competetive, but profitable.

 

I don't mind competing apples to apples, but I rather take my chances building my business based on value proposition. In other words, what makes my company stand out against others? We all sell the same things, what can I do that will make people come to me. If it's only the price or for a discount, it won't be long untill you're pricing yourself out of business.

 

I have plenty of customers that tell me I am sometimes more than the dealer but they come to me for all the other reasons: the ride home, the while you wait service, friendly staff, clean shop, etc.

 

Just my thoughts, what do you think?

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  • 1 year later...

This has been a very trying question for me for years. I will quote standard services. Services for which I have standard costs. Oil changes, tire rotations, fluid flushes etc. are services I will quote. Brake jobs, and even exhaust work we try not to quote by phone. Does that mean we never quote these services? Of coarse not. There are those who you will never get to your door without quoting a price of some kind. I spend thousands of dollars to make my phone ring, why would I alienate even one potential new client because some management guru says never quote price? So give them one, only as a last resort and only because you are losing them and you have applied all your best tactics and talents to no avail . But be very clear its an estimate and more than likely the final cost will be higher. Converse with your caller! Its OK to be honest with them. It fun to be humorous with them, just be careful not offend them. There is a fine line between being humorous and being a smart ass.

Here my spiel.

Caller: "Can you give me a price for brakes on my 03 Impala"

 

Adviser: To be honest, it is very difficult to estimate the cost of brakes without visually inspecting the vehicle. Would you like me to schedule an appointment for you to inspect your brakes.

 

Caller: "No, I just want a price"

 

Adviser:" I understand, but I'm sure you want me to give you an honest estimate don't you?"

 

Caller: " Of coarse I want an honest estimate, so how much for brakes"?

 

Adviser: " If I'm being honest with you, without a crystal ball, I cant tell you what your car will require to bring the brakes back to safe operation until I have looked at them.

 

Caller: "Well XYZ gave me a price over the phone".

 

Adviser: "Well then, may I ask why they are not repairing your brakes" ?

 

Caller: " Well............. I am trying to find a better price". ( this folks is what this conversation is all about for the caller)

 

Adviser: If it the lowest price your after, I'm probably in trouble here, however, if you are looking for the best value for the money spent then I am your guy.

 

Caller: "The brake squeak is driving me nuts, I don't understand why you cant just give me a price". ( this lady is a tough one)

 

Adviser: If I give you a price over the phone, quite honestly, I would be guessing and that's not fair to you.

We have a saying around here. "if its squeaking or leaking, smokin or broken or hissing or missing, there is no way we can guess at the cost to repair it until we see it.

 

Caller: " HAAA that's funny"

 

Adviser: "I'll make you a deal, if you will give me 30 minutes of your time I promise to give you a complete estimate to stop the squeaking. 30 minutes to save your sanity seems like a no brainer doesn't it?

 

Caller: Yeah, I guess your right.

 

Adviser: " what works best for you, tomorrow or Thursday"?

 

Most calls, I would guess 95% or better ,should end here with the appointment made and the call ended .......................but, you ask, what if this is a really tough one and a quote is the only way you will get any consideration for the work? So give them a quote, but have fun with it. You will lose them if you don't so make the quote on your terms.

 

Conversation continued

Caller: Neither.............. until I know what its going to cost.

 

Adviser: "OK look, I will make you a deal, I will give you a quote for the most basic of brake service so you have an idea of the starting point but in return, you gotta promise not to freak out on me if it is in fact more money to make the repair than we discussed. Cuz I told you it it would likely be just an estimate. You promise?"

 

Caller: "OK"

 

Adviser: "Our most basic brake service is XXX but remember this is just the basics and we will know exact costs after we inspect the car. Now will tomorrow or Thursday be better"?

 

Does this work with all customers? Nope, but I submit to you, this tactic will help you turn more callers to customers if you try it and it did not cost you a dime. Give it a try, and remember, smile when you answer the phone, callers can hear a smile!

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