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Should there be a standard Diagnostic charge


Gonzo

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This is an article I wrote several years ago for a trade magazine.... I think it's still true today... Love to hear your comments.

 

Diagnostics fee or not

 

This has been an issue since day one. Should we charge to diagnose the car or should the estimate be free. Let’s define an estimate first.

 

What is an estimate?

An estimate is a list of all the parts and labor involved in making a repair. With the possibilities of adding supplements to the original estimate if other work is deemed necessary after the initial work has started.

Ok that’s an estimate, or is it…? Let’s try this again.

 

What is an estimate?

It’s a guess……. With the chance that I might get it right but more than likely the final bill will be different than what was original “estimated” at.

Hmm, the two definitions are different but at the same time mean the same thing… What about the diagnostic side? Ok, how about that… that diagnostic thing.

 

What is a diagnostic?

It is the process in which a technician is able to determine the cause or failure of a piece of equipment, vehicle, or appliance.

Did ya get that? … One more time …

 

What is a diagnostic?

It is the process used to determine the root cause of a given mechanical or electrical problem that has become an issue with a vehicle, appliance or piece of equipment.

Sounds the same doesn’t it…. hmm, maybe we are getting to the real issue… MONEY

 

The diagnostics may take some time, may even require a few sophisticated scanners, wiring diagrams, and tools. Time is money as we all know, of course, knowledge, expertise and experience is a commodity that should always be respected no matter what field you are in. A service charge for such “diagnostics” is essential in the continuing financial stability of a shop or for that matter… any service oriented business.

Once the diagnostics has been completed an “estimate” can then be given to the customer for their approval. This should also be noted that if a “diagnostics” is preformed and the problem turns out to be “intermittent” or none exciting a fee still applies. The time has already been spent to figure out that there was nothing wrong. That brings up another touchy issue. For some reason the customer feels cheated if you charge for nothing found… now wait a minute, how was it determined that nothing was wrong… ah…the diagnostics lead to that result. Then the problem isn’t the problem anymore, it’s the time spent looking for the problem that is the problem. To ease the customer’s woes you could always give them a time table for future re-evaluations. (30 days is a good round number) Note; It wouldn’t be the first time I have diagnosed a car for a customer only to find out that their complaint is from lack of understanding of their vehicle or dare I say… their just another fruit basket behind the wheel.

 

Now I’m not in favor of a free diagnostics (if you couldn’t tell already) and I’m not too fond of the free estimate. If there is any “man hours” that are part of any job a “man” wants paid. If that “man” is working on a commission basis, I can assure you that he is going to rush through the “estimate” in order to get to the real money end of the job.

However a diagnostic is a totally different thing, I don’t think I could have made a living without charging for the time it takes to figure out some of the strange pr oblems I’ve encountered over the years. Some things were easy to diagnose, some took hours. But I believe it’s the standardization of a diagnostic charge that would make things a lot easier for the customers to understand the complexities of today’s problem evaluations.

If a tech couldn’t figure out a problem in a reasonable length of time … say an hour… then it’s quite possible the shop is going to be losing money if they kept him on that job. The next best thing would be to move him off that job. Put another tech on who might be able to figure out the problem in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, the shop is already behind the 8 ball, since the first tech didn’t get the job done, but in the long run… it will get done, there will be an estimate for the customer explaining the repairs needed.

 

I don’t know which is more of a problem, the shops out there not willing to charge for estimating… Oops I mean diagnostic time… or the customer who doesn’t feel that it’s a necessary part of the process. Then again, these are not yesterday’s cars.

It’s about time there were some standards that everyone in the industry had to go by, be it from the independent side or the dealer side. Regulation or self imposed limits as to how much can be charged across the board for various levels of diagnostics. Not to say diagnosing a bad ball joint is easier than a battery drain, no, not at all. Each field in the industry would have to come up with a balanced set of standards that those involved could agree was a fair price for that type of service. If all the independent shops charge the same fees in a demographic area it would lead to a more even playing field for the customer. Maybe, we should think about using a different term rather than “independent”… we can be independent in ownership, style, quality, etc… but put the customer’s concerns up front. If I wasn’t in the business and didn’t know where to take my car I would really would like to know that I’m getting quality work done at a fair price at any shop I went to. If there was a way to put an end to the “I can get it done cheaper down the street” escapades… my drive home would be a whole lot more pleasant than in the past. .

 

If that didn’t happen it then only comes down to a question of where to have the vehicle repaired at. Everyone has their favorite doctor, dentist, or restaurant. Which is probably based on location, atmosphere, or “ya just like that particular place”. Price is always an issue, and probably always will be. If you’re not getting the job done right at the shop of your choice… choose another one. How many times a day does your phone ring because you have some “price shopper” who is never coming to your shop because your price is higher than the last shop they called… even though they were referred by a friend to call you.

Maybe we should focus on better instructional classes, more information, and true manufacturer level scanners available to the independent side of the business. Sometimes too much effort is put on the “Be nice to the customer”, or the preverbal “Customer is always right” routine. The old saying; “If the customer knew what was wrong they would have fixed it themselves” still holds true today. But I’m talking about telling them what’s wrong with the vehicle, not how to fix it. With the advent of the computer age upon us the car has become a rolling updateable, flash reprogramming software jungle of information. The cost of these specialized scanners puts them out of the range of most consumers, and a lot of small shops, which, in some ways, also places the shade tree mechanic on the endangered species list.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same line from a customer’s after I have diagnosed a problem. “Well, I could have done that myself, I would have looked there for the problem if I had the time, and I don’t know why you’re charging me for something so simple. You should give a break on the price because it was so simple. “Hey, I’m a regular customer I should be getting a discount.” My usual answer is… “So if you knew what was wrong, why did you bring it to me to figure it out?” And, I’m not sure that other professional people you deal with such as a doctor, dentist, or the grocer…etc… is going to give you a discount just because you shop with them on a regular basis.

Common sense, the largest lacking component in all of these situations… In my opinion, once common sense is removed from the conversation “stupid” takes its place. I wonder if I could estimate how many times this has happened… maybe so… but I better think about diagnosing it first…

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While I am in agreement with what you say, what you are proposing will be difficult. Our industry is filled with shop owners that are just hanging on for their lives. Many do not understand how giving away valuable diagnostic labor is hurting not only their business, but the entire repair industry. Then we need to consider the mass merchandisers like AAMCO and AutoZone that offer their so-called “free” check engine light check, which we know is baloney. We are fighting forces that may not ever be in flux.

 

I too would not be in business if I did not charge a diagnostic labor charge (notice I never mention time). I equate diagnostic labor charges the way a doctor or hospital charges for certain tests. Your doctor never says you need an x-ray which will take 15 minutes and you also need blood works that takes 30 minutes. No, he just orders the tests and you pay for what the tests are worth. We are too caught up on thinking time and selling time that we have forgotten what the job is worth. I tell my service advisors; “An hour of brain surgery is worth more than an hour of cutting a lawn”. It’s not about time; it’s about what the job is worth.

 

We have two issues to deal with, the public perception of our industry and the lack of salesmanship at the front counters of most auto repair facilities.

Think about this; Most service advisors have no trouble selling a hour of labor to replace front brakes and rotors on a Honda Civic that takes about 20 minutes but struggle with selling 1 hour for a diagnostic analysis that usually takes anywhere from an hour to two hours. Right?

 

Anyway, I enjoyed reading your article. Great points, keep them coming!

 

 

This is an article I wrote several years ago for a trade magazine.... I think it's still true today... Love to hear your comments.

 

Diagnostics fee or not

 

This has been an issue since day one. Should we charge to diagnose the car or should the estimate be free. Let’s define an estimate first.

 

What is an estimate?

An estimate is a list of all the parts and labor involved in making a repair. With the possibilities of adding supplements to the original estimate if other work is deemed necessary after the initial work has started.

Ok that’s an estimate, or is it…? Let’s try this again.

 

What is an estimate?

It’s a guess……. With the chance that I might get it right but more than likely the final bill will be different than what was original “estimated” at.

Hmm, the two definitions are different but at the same time mean the same thing… What about the diagnostic side? Ok, how about that… that diagnostic thing.

 

What is a diagnostic?

It is the process in which a technician is able to determine the cause or failure of a piece of equipment, vehicle, or appliance.

Did ya get that? … One more time …

 

What is a diagnostic?

It is the process used to determine the root cause of a given mechanical or electrical problem that has become an issue with a vehicle, appliance or piece of equipment.

Sounds the same doesn’t it…. hmm, maybe we are getting to the real issue… MONEY

 

The diagnostics may take some time, may even require a few sophisticated scanners, wiring diagrams, and tools. Time is money as we all know, of course, knowledge, expertise and experience is a commodity that should always be respected no matter what field you are in. A service charge for such “diagnostics” is essential in the continuing financial stability of a shop or for that matter… any service oriented business.

Once the diagnostics has been completed an “estimate” can then be given to the customer for their approval. This should also be noted that if a “diagnostics” is preformed and the problem turns out to be “intermittent” or none exciting a fee still applies. The time has already been spent to figure out that there was nothing wrong. That brings up another touchy issue. For some reason the customer feels cheated if you charge for nothing found… now wait a minute, how was it determined that nothing was wrong… ah…the diagnostics lead to that result. Then the problem isn’t the problem anymore, it’s the time spent looking for the problem that is the problem. To ease the customer’s woes you could always give them a time table for future re-evaluations. (30 days is a good round number) Note; It wouldn’t be the first time I have diagnosed a car for a customer only to find out that their complaint is from lack of understanding of their vehicle or dare I say… their just another fruit basket behind the wheel.

 

Now I’m not in favor of a free diagnostics (if you couldn’t tell already) and I’m not too fond of the free estimate. If there is any “man hours” that are part of any job a “man” wants paid. If that “man” is working on a commission basis, I can assure you that he is going to rush through the “estimate” in order to get to the real money end of the job.

However a diagnostic is a totally different thing, I don’t think I could have made a living without charging for the time it takes to figure out some of the strange pr oblems I’ve encountered over the years. Some things were easy to diagnose, some took hours. But I believe it’s the standardization of a diagnostic charge that would make things a lot easier for the customers to understand the complexities of today’s problem evaluations.

If a tech couldn’t figure out a problem in a reasonable length of time … say an hour… then it’s quite possible the shop is going to be losing money if they kept him on that job. The next best thing would be to move him off that job. Put another tech on who might be able to figure out the problem in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, the shop is already behind the 8 ball, since the first tech didn’t get the job done, but in the long run… it will get done, there will be an estimate for the customer explaining the repairs needed.

 

I don’t know which is more of a problem, the shops out there not willing to charge for estimating… Oops I mean diagnostic time… or the customer who doesn’t feel that it’s a necessary part of the process. Then again, these are not yesterday’s cars.

It’s about time there were some standards that everyone in the industry had to go by, be it from the independent side or the dealer side. Regulation or self imposed limits as to how much can be charged across the board for various levels of diagnostics. Not to say diagnosing a bad ball joint is easier than a battery drain, no, not at all. Each field in the industry would have to come up with a balanced set of standards that those involved could agree was a fair price for that type of service. If all the independent shops charge the same fees in a demographic area it would lead to a more even playing field for the customer. Maybe, we should think about using a different term rather than “independent”… we can be independent in ownership, style, quality, etc… but put the customer’s concerns up front. If I wasn’t in the business and didn’t know where to take my car I would really would like to know that I’m getting quality work done at a fair price at any shop I went to. If there was a way to put an end to the “I can get it done cheaper down the street” escapades… my drive home would be a whole lot more pleasant than in the past. .

 

If that didn’t happen it then only comes down to a question of where to have the vehicle repaired at. Everyone has their favorite doctor, dentist, or restaurant. Which is probably based on location, atmosphere, or “ya just like that particular place”. Price is always an issue, and probably always will be. If you’re not getting the job done right at the shop of your choice… choose another one. How many times a day does your phone ring because you have some “price shopper” who is never coming to your shop because your price is higher than the last shop they called… even though they were referred by a friend to call you.

Maybe we should focus on better instructional classes, more information, and true manufacturer level scanners available to the independent side of the business. Sometimes too much effort is put on the “Be nice to the customer”, or the preverbal “Customer is always right” routine. The old saying; “If the customer knew what was wrong they would have fixed it themselves” still holds true today. But I’m talking about telling them what’s wrong with the vehicle, not how to fix it. With the advent of the computer age upon us the car has become a rolling updateable, flash reprogramming software jungle of information. The cost of these specialized scanners puts them out of the range of most consumers, and a lot of small shops, which, in some ways, also places the shade tree mechanic on the endangered species list.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same line from a customer’s after I have diagnosed a problem. “Well, I could have done that myself, I would have looked there for the problem if I had the time, and I don’t know why you’re charging me for something so simple. You should give a break on the price because it was so simple. “Hey, I’m a regular customer I should be getting a discount.” My usual answer is… “So if you knew what was wrong, why did you bring it to me to figure it out?” And, I’m not sure that other professional people you deal with such as a doctor, dentist, or the grocer…etc… is going to give you a discount just because you shop with them on a regular basis.

Common sense, the largest lacking component in all of these situations… In my opinion, once common sense is removed from the conversation “stupid” takes its place. I wonder if I could estimate how many times this has happened… maybe so… but I better think about diagnosing it first…

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While I am in agreement with what you say, what you are proposing will be difficult. Our industry is filled with shop owners that are just hanging on for their lives. Many do not understand how giving away valuable diagnostic labor is hurting not only their business, but the entire repair industry. Then we need to consider the mass merchandisers like AAMCO and AutoZone that offer their so-called “free” check engine light check, which we know is baloney. We are fighting forces that may not ever be in flux.

 

I too would not be in business if I did not charge a diagnostic labor charge (notice I never mention time). I equate diagnostic labor charges the way a doctor or hospital charges for certain tests. Your doctor never says you need an x-ray which will take 15 minutes and you also need blood works that takes 30 minutes. No, he just orders the tests and you pay for what the tests are worth. We are too caught up on thinking time and selling time that we have forgotten what the job is worth. I tell my service advisors; “An hour of brain surgery is worth more than an hour of cutting a lawn”. It’s not about time; it’s about what the job is worth.

 

We have two issues to deal with, the public perception of our industry and the lack of salesmanship at the front counters of most auto repair facilities.

Think about this; Most service advisors have no trouble selling a hour of labor to replace front brakes and rotors on a Honda Civic that takes about 20 minutes but struggle with selling 1 hour for a diagnostic analysis that usually takes anywhere from an hour to two hours. Right?

 

Anyway, I enjoyed reading your article. Great points, keep them coming!

 

 

I'm in total agreement Joe, It's not the fact that there should be a "standard' fee... I think there should be... But.. your right ---- the forces against the evolution to the respectablity for the industry and not be considered "just a grease monkey" is probably way past my lifetime to resolve.

My entire point was to make a point.... and I think you see the issue at hand.... The guys (like myself) that are barely hanging on is no different than some private practice doctors barely hanging in there... however, they have that sheep skin that allows them to charge for nonsense. You know, it would be a total different thing if it was ... as we talked about on the phone.... IF...a big IF... educated people were the norm in the repair industry and not the so called high school drop out... that ends up running a repair shop. Some day, I don't know when... maybe after I'm long gone... the industy may see the need in handing out "sheep skins" to the techs..., but by then they automobile will probably float down the highway, and defy gravity.... so in a nut shell... it ain't going to change.... but we can dream... LOL

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I'm in total agreement Joe, It's not the fact that there should be a "standard' fee... I think there should be... But.. your right ---- the forces against the evolution to the respectablity for the industry and not be considered "just a grease monkey" is probably way past my lifetime to resolve.

My entire point was to make a point.... and I think you see the issue at hand.... The guys (like myself) that are barely hanging on is no different than some private practice doctors barely hanging in there... however, they have that sheep skin that allows them to charge for nonsense. You know, it would be a total different thing if it was ... as we talked about on the phone.... IF...a big IF... educated people were the norm in the repair industry and not the so called high school drop out... that ends up running a repair shop. Some day, I don't know when... maybe after I'm long gone... the industy may see the need in handing out "sheep skins" to the techs..., but by then they automobile will probably float down the highway, and defy gravity.... so in a nut shell... it ain't going to change.... but we can dream... LOL

 

The automotive service and repair has changed in the past 20 years to a point that it's almost unrecognizable. You know as well as I do that we need to shift to business model based on maintenance service , not waiting for repairs. Complicated diag work is not where your profit dollars come from. Maintenance and service is.

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The automotive service and repair has changed in the past 20 years to a point that it's almost unrecognizable. You know as well as I do that we need to shift to business model based on maintenance service , not waiting for repairs. Complicated diag work is not where your profit dollars come from. Maintenance and service is.

Good point Joe, maintenance, mainetenance, maintenance.... too bad that's usually the first thing people will put on the back burner when the economy drops. My shop, which is primarily an electrical repair shop takes in more diagnostic work than it does maintenance work. I guess that's why I'm so "up" on the intitial diagnostic charge... That's my bread and butter.

I figure it out and the customer takes it back to their "regular" mechanic to have the work done. Happens everyday.

But I totally agree... the service industry has totally changed from when I started... there needs to be changes... and discussing the "possibilities" in a forum such as this is not only good therapy.... but good sense.

Hope it is making everyone think about the service industry and the possibilities of the future of the business.

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Good point Joe, maintenance, mainetenance, maintenance.... too bad that's usually the first thing people will put on the back burner when the economy drops. My shop, which is primarily an electrical repair shop takes in more diagnostic work than it does maintenance work. I guess that's why I'm so "up" on the intitial diagnostic charge... That's my bread and butter.

I figure it out and the customer takes it back to their "regular" mechanic to have the work done. Happens everyday.

But I totally agree... the service industry has totally changed from when I started... there needs to be changes... and discussing the "possibilities" in a forum such as this is not only good therapy.... but good sense.

Hope it is making everyone think about the service industry and the possibilities of the future of the business.

 

You are in a tough position. Is there any chance to increase service/repair and maintenance work?

 

I am glad that you see the power of AutoShopOwner.

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I wonder how many shops use it for their "lost leader" kinda like the cheap oil changes. They figure if they can get the car through the door, they will make money. Not a bad idea if your tech is paid by the hour but sucks for the tech if he is being paid flatrate. How good are they doing that diagnostic for free?

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I wonder how many shops use it for their "lost leader" kinda like the cheap oil changes. They figure if they can get the car through the door, they will make money. Not a bad idea if your tech is paid by the hour but sucks for the tech if he is being paid flatrate. How good are they doing that diagnostic for free?

 

Using diagnostic work as a lost leader is a business killer. It cheapens the entire process. As far as gioving it away, they don't. It's more of a bait and switch. If you go to the AAMCO site you will see that the Scan is free, that's it. All other testing is priced accordingly.

 

I like to build my customer base. I don't like marketing that gets people thru the door because of a coupon.

 

You have great posts, I am enjoying the conversation.

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You are in a tough position. Is there any chance to increase service/repair and maintenance work?

 

I am glad that you see the power of AutoShopOwner.

 

Joe, sure I could change things to where it's more service/repair for mechanical.... but, my "rep" around here is the "go to" guy for any electrical problems. Been that way since day one.... I might be able to change the shop into more productive "mechanical" repair shop, but I'll bet this aging,cranky old wise crackin,take no crap from anybody , "soup nazi of the auto world" mechanic is probably not going to changing much.. (that was suppose to be funny) I'm pretty stuborn... good hearted, and never would I cheat anybody out of one thin dime... but still stuborn as the day is long. I do a lot of custom wiring for street rods, older cars for restorations, and the typical electrcial nightmares of today's cars. I have mainly dealer scanners and not to many off the tool truck type.

My biggest disadvantage now is the manufacturers that keep changing the scanners and then I have to go find a way to get one. This raises my overhead cost up and up and up. Then you have to produce with the scanners... that's another challenge, and another story...

 

AND, YES, the "power" of the AutoshopOwner site can be a wonderful addition to the complex questions new and old shop owners have. If nothing more, than create an awarness of the issues we all have.... maybe even get everyone to think of new and better ways of running the independent side of the business. If it can do that... It's done a service far greater than one voice could ever do. Keep it going Joe.... it's improtant, it's the technology of today working for a better tommorrow.

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Oh I agree. It shouldn't be free. I just dropped 2k into new diagnostic equipment to be able to diagnose easier. No way I am giving the work away.

 

I just had to update one of my scanners... Mastertech... new software, new scanner, new cables... $4500. later... wonderful... oh yea, I'm going to do this for free.... uhuh... sure... just come on by... I like spending money and getting nothing in return.... NOT!

 

thanx for the input.... glad to see I'm not alone on this. that article is several years old.. still holds true today...

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I just had to update one of my scanners... Mastertech... new software, new scanner, new cables... $4500. later... wonderful... oh yea, I'm going to do this for free.... uhuh... sure... just come on by... I like spending money and getting nothing in return.... NOT!

 

thanx for the input.... glad to see I'm not alone on this. that article is several years old.. still holds true today...

 

It is my mission to make AutoShopOwner the "Go To" online forums to voice your opinions, share war stories, knowledge and ideas. We can make a difference if we learn that collectively we are a powerful coalition.

 

Getting back to Diagnostics charges, I believe that if we don’t stick together and charge a decent price for analysis work, it will greatly affect our ability to reinvest in future technology. My shop has a least 6 scanners (I lost count) and every time I turn around I’m buying an update.

 

When I hear that there are shops that are afraid to charge diagnostic charges or remove the charge if they get the work, it makes me crazy.

 

We are all in the same boat; we don’t work for free and need to earn a profit. We owe to our families, employees and to ourselves.

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It is my mission to make AutoShopOwner the "Go To" online forums to voice your opinions, share war stories, knowledge and ideas. We can make a difference if we learn that collectively we are a powerful coalition.

 

Getting back to Diagnostics charges, I believe that if we don’t stick together and charge a decent price for analysis work, it will greatly affect our ability to reinvest in future technology. My shop has a least 6 scanners (I lost count) and every time I turn around I’m buying an update.

 

When I hear that there are shops that are afraid to charge diagnostic charges or remove the charge if they get the work, it makes me crazy.

 

We are all in the same boat; we don’t work for free and need to earn a profit. We owe to our families, employees and to ourselves.

Glad to be a part of this ever growing techno world... and this web site ... I like what you are doing Joe, and I hope to be a part of it.... getting things out there and getting other shops to put their "two cents" into it ... makes it totally worth while.

thanx again Joe for letting me put my articles on the site... I think this one really hit home... Makes people think ... and thats what it's all about. thanx again Gonzo

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Do these shops understand what their fixed costs truly are? Some shops do not charge enough because they are working out of buildings that are paid for and their labor rates, low parts mark up, "free diagnosis" is subsidized by not figuring the true market value of the property or the return they should expect from that investment. The costs of real estate, the cost of equipment, the cost of training, the cost of adequate help, i.e. is very high. We started a shop from scratch: bought the land, built the building, purchased the equipment, stocked inventory, hired help, placed yellow pages ads before we opened, paid franchise fees, etc. etc. That experience is a true eye opener as to the costs associated with this business. If we do good work we should be proud of what we do and charge enough for an adequate return on our investments.

 

Gonzo, you hit the nail right on the head! We as independents need to keep the dialogue going. That’s what AutoShopOwner is all about. I thank YOU for your contribution.

 

Understanding the true cost of doing business is precisely the reason why we need to charge for analysis work. The problem is that I don’t think enough shop owners have taken the time and calculated a budget or a have done a CODBA (Cost of doing business analysis). Once you do the math, you know exactly what you need to make per job, per week, per day, per minute. That’s a real eye opener.

 

Then you have the other side of the coin with some national mass merchandisers that offer that phony baloney free analysis. This is a form a marketing that prays on people’s emotion just to get masses of customer through the doors.

This problem is complicated and we as independents need to stick together on this one.

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My shop gets an hours worth of diagnostic charge quoted up front to the customer. If it turns out being a difficult diagnosis, we call the customer to let them know, and they can make up their mind if its worth more money, or to live with it. (95% ok more time) . Not all diagnosis are the same, as is no dental procedure is the same or no doctor visit is the same. Educate our customers to this and life is a lot easier. Being proactive instead of reactive in our industry is a great tool.

 

It really burns me though that my local parts supplier ( who wants ALL my business and to be 100% loyal to him) reads SES codes for free!!! Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. I know most of his customers are the do-it-yourself type of customers, but it is really hard to explain to my customers why we charge for diagnostics.

 

Dia charges have always been a battle in our area, there is a local shop that is advertising on the radio "free diagnostics" "no charge to look at your car" in our area right now. I think he is on the ropes big time, and he is spending a lot of advertising dollars to promote free work???? I just dont get it. I guess that is why there are professional shops and the shade tree shops.

 

I'll stick to my guns on diagnostic charges, if we lower are standards then we are no different than the other 75% of the shops out there.

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I agree totally. I would have serious issue with that part supplier!

 

But, let me plays devil’s advocate for a minute: We all know that there is no such thing as a "Free Diagnosis". It's either bait or switch type advertising or they are building the DIAG into the price of the job. We do a lot of diagnostic work and get tons of people coming to us for check engine lights and the first thing they ask is…How Much for the Analysis?. For a lot of new customers, it’s always a battle to try to educate them. The time spent is a killer and many say ok, but don't like it. My fear is that we will be perceived as high-priced with all other services and may not have the chance to gain a customer...

 

So, here is what we are doing as an experiment. When a customer now asks what we charge for a check engine we offer them a complimentary scan to see what direction we need to go and what tests are needed to determine the cause the check engine light. So far, we have had NO issues and actually sell the DIAG time after the initial scan. We have maintained our price structure and eliminated the grief.

 

What do you think?????

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I agree totally. I would have serious issue with that part supplier!

 

But, let me plays devil’s advocate for a minute: We all know that there is no such thing as a "Free Diagnosis". It's either bait or switch type advertising or they are building the DIAG into the price of the job. We do a lot of diagnostic work and get tons of people coming to us for check engine lights and the first thing they ask is…How Much for the Analysis?. For a lot of new customers, it’s always a battle to try to educate them. The time spent is a killer and many say ok, but don't like it. My fear is that we will be perceived as high-priced with all other services and may not have the chance to gain a customer...

 

So, here is what we are doing as an experiment. When a customer now asks what we charge for a check engine we offer them a complimentary scan to see what direction we need to go and what tests are needed to determine the cause the check engine light. So far, we have had NO issues and actually sell the DIAG time after the initial scan. We have maintained our price structure and eliminated the grief.

 

What do you think?????

Something for nothing.... ???

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I agree totally. I would have serious issue with that part supplier!

 

But, let me plays devil’s advocate for a minute: We all know that there is no such thing as a "Free Diagnosis". It's either bait or switch type advertising or they are building the DIAG into the price of the job. We do a lot of diagnostic work and get tons of people coming to us for check engine lights and the first thing they ask is…How Much for the Analysis?. For a lot of new customers, it’s always a battle to try to educate them. The time spent is a killer and many say ok, but don't like it. My fear is that we will be perceived as high-priced with all other services and may not have the chance to gain a customer...

 

So, here is what we are doing as an experiment. When a customer now asks what we charge for a check engine we offer them a complimentary scan to see what direction we need to go and what tests are needed to determine the cause the check engine light. So far, we have had NO issues and actually sell the DIAG time after the initial scan. We have maintained our price structure and eliminated the grief.

 

What do you think?????

 

My problem with that is what do you do with the easy ones? Do you sell yourself short? I totally respect you for going out and trying something new, I like the concept of it, I'm always looking for a new marketing strategy. Please share the "cons" if there are any yet.

 

I think it would be hard to be disiplined enough to get what you have coming, when that "gross evap leak" comes through the door what do you do??? With a scanner in hand it would be VERY easy to just clear it, then tell the customer it was probably just a loose cap and send them on their way. "something for nothing?"

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No, think about it. Let the customer see value first. Let them know you are looking out for their best interest. I have to tell you, my advisors are spending less time defending themselves and more time selling DIAG work.

 

Just think about it. A customer says, "My check Engine Light is on". You tell him that it will be "X" amount to do the analysis. The customer "thinks", you have not even looked at the car yet. All I am saying is that we change our approach.

 

What if it just a loose gas cap, you never checked the car and they go somehere else. That may look bad for you.

 

We now say: “Mrs. Jones the check engine light is on because the vehicles’ on-board computer system has detected a fault. Depending on what the fault is, certain tests are going to be needed to accurately diagnose the problem. Let’s do a quick scan on your car’s computer to see what direction we need to go. After the scan I will explain in detail the tests needed and the cost to do those tests.”

I am telling you, we just started with this approach and with great success. We sell just has many analysis jobs, if not more now. And, we have not changed our pricing.

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No, think about it. Let the customer see value first. Let them know you are looking out for their best interest. I have to tell you, my advisors are spending less time defending themselves and more time selling DIAG work.

 

Just think about it. A customer says, "My check Engine Light is on". You tell him that it will be "X" amount to do the analysis. The customer "thinks", you have not even looked at the car yet. All I am saying is that we change our approach.

 

What if it just a loose gas cap, you never checked the car and they go somehere else. That may look bad for you.

 

We now say: “Mrs. Jones the check engine light is on because the vehicles’ on-board computer system has detected a fault. Depending on what the fault is, certain tests are going to be needed to accurately diagnose the problem. Let’s do a quick scan on your car’s computer to see what direction we need to go. After the scan I will explain in detail the tests needed and the cost to do those tests.”

I am telling you, we just started with this approach and with great success. We sell just has many analysis jobs, if not more now. And, we have not changed our pricing.

 

So just like the chain stores that will scan your car for free, your willing to do that... ok, that's fine... I'm a small shop and when I spend a couple of grand on a "code reader" and after reading the code... the customer then says... "Oh, that's going to be to expensive to fix.... no thanks, I'll wait..." where's that leave me....

""" FOR SALE ---- ONE SLIGHTLY USED SCANNER --- """"

I know I can't agree with what your saying... hey, if it works... good for you... But it sounds to me as if it's the customer that has to be educated that these tests do cost money.... and nothing in this world is free.... I'm sorry, I just don't agree with your theroy... I can't think of a time I went to the doctor... and he said "Oh, it's just the common cold, since was so simple for me to figure it out... I'm not going to charge you as much.,,," Yea, right... that'll happen...

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I think it would have to do with who the customer is. Mr. Powers has 5 vehicles that I service. He comes to me with a check engine light on, I will read it for free because he has spent thousands of dollars with me and will be back and he will send customers my way. Mrs. Jones who was referred to me by her friend at the beauty shop and her check engine light is on and I have never seen her vehicle before, I will quote a diagnostic fee.

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Ok, I hear you all. I knew this would make heads spin. I don't think I am getting my point across.

 

I am not suggesting we give anything away, I am suggesting that we change our approach. I treat all customers as if they just spent thousands. Why? Because if I create a customer, that customer will be worth thousands to me in time.

 

We are a high volume shop (200plus car per week). I get a lot of new customers each day. My sales have up because I learned that in order to keep my bays full I need to see what the customer sees. Their perception is the only reality that matters.

 

Just think of this: I rather spend the time with the customer selling the DIAG work than trying to defend my charges before I even looked at the car.

 

That's it...Simple. I have not given anything away...I have in fact increased my DIAG sales with happier customers.

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I think it would have to do with who the customer is. Mr. Powers has 5 vehicles that I service. He comes to me with a check engine light on, I will read it for free because he has spent thousands of dollars with me and will be back and he will send customers my way. Mrs. Jones who was referred to me by her friend at the beauty shop and her check engine light is on and I have never seen her vehicle before, I will quote a diagnostic fee.

CarMan.... You got it... that's my approach... I'm not a high traffic shop, never intended to be... but I would like to think professional courtesy is important... and that professionalism goes both ways.... Mr. Powers in one direction, because he keeps the bays full... Mrs. Jones... I would like to think that as a customer you should never expect something for free... I like the way you stated this issue.... congrats!!

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Joe,

 

What do you do with the customer that says "I just want to know what the code is" or "I just want the light cleared for now"? Is that done at no charge also?

 

I'm just trying to see all the pro's and con's on this approach, not trying to stir the pot. I REALLY like the approach, and I can see myself doing this, and my reasoning is, there are a lot of places that are offering free scans, and I think it is just to get them in the door. Its a nice approach to keeping up with the competition and not joining them.

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Let me try again to express myself. I am not suggested we offer a free diagnosis. Nor do I want to follow the path of AAMCO by advertising “We’ll check it for Free”. Nothing is for free, we all know that. My entire business model is predicated on honesty and integrity, not bait and switch.

 

Consider this: How many times has a customer (old or new) come to you with a check engine light and before you rolled the car in the bay you went through an entire presentation on the complexity of the system and all the charges associated with the analysis only to find that the gas cap was loose?

 

Or, what about a customer that is on her way to work and the check engine light comes on, but really can’t leave the car. Tell me none of you ever scanned the car just to give her peace of mind?

 

Here is the concept: Explain to the customer that until we access the error codes, we do not have a direction on what tests we need to perform. Offer to the customer the initial scan with the understanding that after that scan is done, we will explain the necessary steps needed to complete the actual diagnosis. We tell them that this scan is not in any way a diagnosis. We actually give them a price range before hand.

 

I know that there will be those times that the customer will say, thanks for the info and goodbye. But we take that chance every time we try to sell anything.

 

I feel that this approach helps to comfort the customer. My analysis charges are more than the local dealers in my area. They come to me and pay more because of the value and service we offer.

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Let me try again to express myself. I am not suggested we offer a free diagnosis. Nor do I want to follow the path of AAMCO by advertising “We’ll check it for Free”. Nothing is for free, we all know that. My entire business model is predicated on honesty and integrity, not bait and switch.

 

Consider this: How many times has a customer (old or new) come to you with a check engine light and before you rolled the car in the bay you went through an entire presentation on the complexity of the system and all the charges associated with the analysis only to find that the gas cap was loose?

 

Or, what about a customer that is on her way to work and the check engine light comes on, but really can’t leave the car. Tell me none of you ever scanned the car just to give her peace of mind?

 

Here is the concept: Explain to the customer that until we access the error codes, we do not have a direction on what tests we need to perform. Offer to the customer the initial scan with the understanding that after that scan is done, we will explain the necessary steps needed to complete the actual diagnosis. We tell them that this scan is not in any way a diagnosis. We actually give them a price range before hand.

 

I know that there will be those times that the customer will say, thanks for the info and goodbye. But we take that chance every time we try to sell anything.

 

I feel that this approach helps to comfort the customer. My analysis charges are more than the local dealers in my area. They come to me and pay more because of the value and service we offer.

 

You know, I feel this discussion is really making a difference, Joe, thanks for letting me post my article on the subject. It's really got people tallking... and I think, that, is, the best thing that could ever happen.

 

Now, my take... which by the way... is my version... of course we all have our opinions... but hey, that's what this is all about.

My take on all this.... a Joe, your baiting them... oh come on Joe... you know thats just a polite way to put it.... you're baiting them and hoping they come in for the repair. Your not calling it that, your being as thoughtful to the customer as you can be.... and I think it would be affective... but lets play with this a little... Here's another scenario that needs to be considered. Let's say you have a regular customer that you see every other week with a lot of cars, maybe even a fleet. He is out of town and can't get back to your shop. He goes to a unfamiliar shop... they look at his vehicle and they charge him a diagnostic fee straight up front.... I can just see the guy going balistic... because... he is not use to the charge... and thinks this guy must be ripping him off.. .... well, now what. Oh, he is a loyal customer of yours and he comes back and tells you all about the rip-off artist he was at.

But, lets look at it this way..... if (IF) there was a standard policy on diagnostics that was across the board ... would there be that much to bitch about... if everyone in the independent market charged... "something" for the diagnostics and didn't hide it in the cost of the repair ... maybe.. just maybe people would then consider it normal business practice. And not be so quick to call us all crooks for doing our jobs.

 

Keep this going ... I'd like to hear every angle on this subject... everyone has a thought about it... come on... tell us... I'd like to know, and so would the rest .. I'm sure of that.

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Yes this is a very stimulating topic. This is what this forum is all about; the free exchange of ideas and opinions. Thank you for initiating it.

 

Now back to the topic. It most certainly is not baiting. I would not resort to that. If you knew me better you would never suggest that.

 

Maybe, I’m not explaining myself correctly. We explain all the expected charges up front. We never, never, Never, NEVER say we offer a free diagnosis or free analysis. We don’t market it that way or advertise it that way. And with regular customers, the issue never comes up.

 

Now, let me try to re-visit this again: A customer arrives at the front counter and says: “My check engine light is on, how much to fix it.” Our upfront policy WAS to tell the customer the analysis charges and sell it. We then explained that after the analysis, we would discuss the repair.

 

The problem with this is that some customers see no value in this because we really do not know what is happening with the car before we do some sort of scan. There is also a fear about the total cost of the job (analysis plus repair). Plus my advisors were spending too much time educating the customers. Most of time they did go for the analysis, but I can tell that some customers had some issues.

 

So we came up with this strategy. If we feel that there is an issue, we offer the customer a complimentary scan to get a direction where we need to go. We fully explain that depending on what we see with the scan you will be looking at “X” amount for the analysis fee. And after the analysis is done, we will discuss the repair. We have an easier time with this stadegy and the customer feels like we are looking out for his best interest.

 

We try to see this from the customer’s point of view.

 

As for you scenario of my customer out of town; this industry is so all over the map, I can be worried about what may happen in that case. We get challenged on procedure every day, because there are no standards.

 

You propose standards, that’s all well and good, but that will take some doing to accomplish, if it is even possible.

 

Does this make better sense?

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Yes this is a very stimulating topic. This is what this forum is all about; the free exchange of ideas and opinions. Thank you for initiating it.

 

Now back to the topic. It most certainly is not baiting. I would not resort to that. If you knew me better you would never suggest that.

 

Maybe, I’m not explaining myself correctly. We explain all the expected charges up front. We never, never, Never, NEVER say we offer a free diagnosis or free analysis. We don’t market it that way or advertise it that way. And with regular customers, the issue never comes up.

 

Now, let me try to re-visit this again: A customer arrives at the front counter and says: “My check engine light is on, how much to fix it.” Our upfront policy WAS to tell the customer the analysis charges and sell it. We then explained that after the analysis, we would discuss the repair.

 

The problem with this is that some customers see no value in this because we really do not know what is happening with the car before we do some sort of scan. There is also a fear about the total cost of the job (analysis plus repair). Plus my advisors were spending too much time educating the customers. Most of time they did go for the analysis, but I can tell that some customers had some issues.

 

So we came up with this strategy. If we feel that there is an issue, we offer the customer a complimentary scan to get a direction where we need to go. We fully explain that depending on what we see with the scan you will be looking at “X” amount for the analysis fee. And after the analysis is done, we will discuss the repair. We have an easier time with this stadegy and the customer feels like we are looking out for his best interest.

 

We try to see this from the customer’s point of view.

 

As for you scenario of my customer out of town; this industry is so all over the map, I can be worried about what may happen in that case. We get challenged on procedure every day, because there are no standards.

 

You propose standards, that’s all well and good, but that will take some doing to accomplish, if it is even possible.

 

Does this make better sense?

Makes perfect sense Joe, and YES I totally.... TOTALLY... believe there should be standards... and yes... it would very hard to ever think it would be standard across the board... But, hey, we can dream.... right now it's close to a nightmare... LOL... just kidding... But I see your point. and I hope the rest of our readers get involved and put theri comments out there... the more input we can have the more likely we may acutally solve these issues... It's not me, it's not you... its US... that will make the difference in the future of this business. ... I hope I'm making sense...

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We need this dialogue to come together as an industry. As a veteran with more than 35 years in this business I have nothing but the upmost respect for shop owners. These are the people that keep this country moving. We work hard and we sacrifice for the public, sometime, with little to show for it.

 

It may be a dream, but its worthwhile chasing that dream.

 

Great topic, what else is on your mind????????

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is more fuel for this fire. TB Service Zone Newsletter

 

In this article the writer points out that all some shops do is clear codes and send people on their way. How many times has a customer come into your shop with a service engine soon light on who says that it has been on for months or years and "their" mechanic says it wasn't anything. Between the discount parts stores with their code readers and technicians/mechanics who don't understand diagnosis and the way cars operate today we face an up hill battle.

 

This is a problem we encounter in our area too.

 

Just yesterday I had someone come to us asking to reset the check engine light so he can pass the NY State Inspection. When I explained to him why I could not, he told me that he has been doing this for years!! He then went on to tell me that he was new to the area and first went to the Valvoline Quick Lube down the block from me and they told him that they don’t work on check engine lights.

 

I explained to him that we would need to diagnose the problem before he could pass the state’s inspection test. He looked at me with a smirk and walked out in a huff.

 

If other shops are resetting check engine lights out there, they need to stop.

 

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy.

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The "technicians" and "shops" that tell customers to ignore check engine lights that they don't mean anything are really doing the customer and the industry a diservice. There are evidently some thatr do this because I still hear it from time to time. Probably more of a carry over thinking from the OBD1 days.

 

I think we need a code of ethics that all shops adhere to. It must be confusing for the public too. You have one shop that resets the light and sends them on their way, while another shop wants to properly diagnose it. It would be nice if we were united, but maybe I just a dreamer.

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I think we need a code of ethics that all shops adhere to. It must be confusing for the public too. You have one shop that resets the light and sends them on their way, while another shop wants to properly diagnose it. It would be nice if we were united, but maybe I just a dreamer.

An across the board standard... yes... I'm for that.... if everyone is one the same page... then it's not so hard for the customer to feel more confident.. then it's just "who" the consumer wants to do the work... not so much the price..

 

In my book there is a chapter on this subject... page 168... it's not the perfect solution.. but just like the diagnostic article... it's an idea, an opinion... it's thoughts on paper... something for all us to think about. Gonzo

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The problem with our industry is the lack of consistently from shop to shop. We continue to portray a low image of the auto service business. Just look at the condition a lot shops are and the overall look of the customer reception area. Not to mention the bathrooms in too many shops.

 

If we are to move from the Stone Age we need to clean up our act across the board. No code of ethics will work if we don’t send the right message to the consumer.

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The problem with our industry is the lack of consistently from shop to shop. We continue to portray a low image of the auto service business. Just look at the condition a lot shops are and the overall look of the customer reception area. Not to mention the bathrooms in too many shops.

 

If we are to move from the Stone Age we need to clean up our act across the board. No code of ethics will work if we don’t send the right message to the consumer.

That's a great name for it Joe.... Code of Ethics... I like that... In fact I'm talking with "Brake and Front end Magazine" I might have the "Diagnostic fee Diagnostic free" story reprinted in their magazine. We should get a lot of repsonce. If possible I may even mention this website.

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That's a great name for it Joe.... Code of Ethics... I like that... In fact I'm talking with "Brake and Front end Magazine" I might have the "Diagnostic fee Diagnostic free" story reprinted in their magazine. We should get a lot of repsonce. If possible I may even mention this website.

 

I would appreciate any mention you could make. I feel that AutoShopOwner can provide a great, needed service to our industry,

 

Thanks,

Joe

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So what would you put in a code of Ethics list? I would love to have one that is pretty universal (agreed upon) that I could post on the wall in my shop.

 

We could ask the members for input and start putting together a list. Then we could talk about what we like and do not like. It can be done.

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So what would you put in a code of Ethics list? I would love to have one that is pretty universal (agreed upon) that I could post on the wall in my shop.

You wouldn't have to ask twice... YES, excellent idea... as a matter of fact... that would be a great new article for me to write.

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You wouldn't have to ask twice... YES, excellent idea... as a matter of fact... that would be a great new article for me to write.

At this point... I don't know exactly what I would put in there.... BUT... the real issue is... it will not be my idea... it will be the general automotive independent market speaking... that's what I believe would become the true CODE OF ETHICS... So think of a few things, I'll write them down and I'll try to get it published to as many places as I can.

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Won't let me post it any other way? Works on my end...

 

www.digitalliteracyproject.com/2009/02/14/pc-based-equipment-in-mobile-diagnostics/%#comment-19

 

I read the article... very good article I might add... VERY long winded article.

I have to agree with everything he wrote in his artilce.

I said the same things in my article ... (which is more than likely going to be reproduced in Brake and Front end this month or next) I didn't get as lengthy as he did (LOL)

 

Myself, I do what this guy does ... but in my own stationary shop. I'm the guy that other shops bring the car to when they can't figure it out. I do 99% electrcial diagnostics and repair. From anything like an automatic sliding door system to the "engine spits and sputters" routine. Seen a lot of weird stuff in my 28 years... and I doubt that I have seen it all.

 

This business isn't the business I started out in... times have changed. We, as an industry have to change. Charging for the diagnostic time is just the first start in reworking the independent industry.

 

Maybe.... just maybe... before I'm retired and the wrenches have been put away... we might be able to make a difference in the future of this industry.

 

Thanx for the article, thanx for being a part of the change. Gonzo

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  • 4 weeks later...

This is an article I wrote several years ago for a trade magazine.... I think it's still true today... Love to hear your comments.

 

Diagnostics fee or not

 

This has been an issue since day one. Should we charge to diagnose the car or should the estimate be free. Let’s define an estimate first.

 

What is an estimate?

An estimate is a list of all the parts and labor involved in making a repair. With the possibilities of adding supplements to the original estimate if other work is deemed necessary after the initial work has started.

Ok that’s an estimate, or is it…? Let’s try this again.

 

What is an estimate?

It’s a guess……. With the chance that I might get it right but more than likely the final bill will be different than what was original “estimated” at.

Hmm, the two definitions are different but at the same time mean the same thing… What about the diagnostic side? Ok, how about that… that diagnostic thing.

 

What is a diagnostic?

It is the process in which a technician is able to determine the cause or failure of a piece of equipment, vehicle, or appliance.

Did ya get that? … One more time …

 

What is a diagnostic?

It is the process used to determine the root cause of a given mechanical or electrical problem that has become an issue with a vehicle, appliance or piece of equipment.

Sounds the same doesn’t it…. hmm, maybe we are getting to the real issue… MONEY

 

The diagnostics may take some time, may even require a few sophisticated scanners, wiring diagrams, and tools. Time is money as we all know, of course, knowledge, expertise and experience is a commodity that should always be respected no matter what field you are in. A service charge for such “diagnostics” is essential in the continuing financial stability of a shop or for that matter… any service oriented business.

Once the diagnostics has been completed an “estimate” can then be given to the customer for their approval. This should also be noted that if a “diagnostics” is preformed and the problem turns out to be “intermittent” or none exciting a fee still applies. The time has already been spent to figure out that there was nothing wrong. That brings up another touchy issue. For some reason the customer feels cheated if you charge for nothing found… now wait a minute, how was it determined that nothing was wrong… ah…the diagnostics lead to that result. Then the problem isn’t the problem anymore, it’s the time spent looking for the problem that is the problem. To ease the customer’s woes you could always give them a time table for future re-evaluations. (30 days is a good round number) Note; It wouldn’t be the first time I have diagnosed a car for a customer only to find out that their complaint is from lack of understanding of their vehicle or dare I say… their just another fruit basket behind the wheel.

 

Now I’m not in favor of a free diagnostics (if you couldn’t tell already) and I’m not too fond of the free estimate. If there is any “man hours” that are part of any job a “man” wants paid. If that “man” is working on a commission basis, I can assure you that he is going to rush through the “estimate” in order to get to the real money end of the job.

However a diagnostic is a totally different thing, I don’t think I could have made a living without charging for the time it takes to figure out some of the strange pr oblems I’ve encountered over the years. Some things were easy to diagnose, some took hours. But I believe it’s the standardization of a diagnostic charge that would make things a lot easier for the customers to understand the complexities of today’s problem evaluations.

If a tech couldn’t figure out a problem in a reasonable length of time … say an hour… then it’s quite possible the shop is going to be losing money if they kept him on that job. The next best thing would be to move him off that job. Put another tech on who might be able to figure out the problem in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, the shop is already behind the 8 ball, since the first tech didn’t get the job done, but in the long run… it will get done, there will be an estimate for the customer explaining the repairs needed.

 

I don’t know which is more of a problem, the shops out there not willing to charge for estimating… Oops I mean diagnostic time… or the customer who doesn’t feel that it’s a necessary part of the process. Then again, these are not yesterday’s cars.

It’s about time there were some standards that everyone in the industry had to go by, be it from the independent side or the dealer side. Regulation or self imposed limits as to how much can be charged across the board for various levels of diagnostics. Not to say diagnosing a bad ball joint is easier than a battery drain, no, not at all. Each field in the industry would have to come up with a balanced set of standards that those involved could agree was a fair price for that type of service. If all the independent shops charge the same fees in a demographic area it would lead to a more even playing field for the customer. Maybe, we should think about using a different term rather than “independent”… we can be independent in ownership, style, quality, etc… but put the customer’s concerns up front. If I wasn’t in the business and didn’t know where to take my car I would really would like to know that I’m getting quality work done at a fair price at any shop I went to. If there was a way to put an end to the “I can get it done cheaper down the street” escapades… my drive home would be a whole lot more pleasant than in the past. .

 

If that didn’t happen it then only comes down to a question of where to have the vehicle repaired at. Everyone has their favorite doctor, dentist, or restaurant. Which is probably based on location, atmosphere, or “ya just like that particular place”. Price is always an issue, and probably always will be. If you’re not getting the job done right at the shop of your choice… choose another one. How many times a day does your phone ring because you have some “price shopper” who is never coming to your shop because your price is higher than the last shop they called… even though they were referred by a friend to call you.

Maybe we should focus on better instructional classes, more information, and true manufacturer level scanners available to the independent side of the business. Sometimes too much effort is put on the “Be nice to the customer”, or the preverbal “Customer is always right” routine. The old saying; “If the customer knew what was wrong they would have fixed it themselves” still holds true today. But I’m talking about telling them what’s wrong with the vehicle, not how to fix it. With the advent of the computer age upon us the car has become a rolling updateable, flash reprogramming software jungle of information. The cost of these specialized scanners puts them out of the range of most consumers, and a lot of small shops, which, in some ways, also places the shade tree mechanic on the endangered species list.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same line from a customer’s after I have diagnosed a problem. “Well, I could have done that myself, I would have looked there for the problem if I had the time, and I don’t know why you’re charging me for something so simple. You should give a break on the price because it was so simple. “Hey, I’m a regular customer I should be getting a discount.” My usual answer is… “So if you knew what was wrong, why did you bring it to me to figure it out?” And, I’m not sure that other professional people you deal with such as a doctor, dentist, or the grocer…etc… is going to give you a discount just because you shop with them on a regular basis.

Common sense, the largest lacking component in all of these situations… In my opinion, once common sense is removed from the conversation “stupid” takes its place. I wonder if I could estimate how many times this has happened… maybe so… but I better think about diagnosing it first…

 

This article was just picked up by Brake and Front end magazine... be watching for it in the April addition... (The story had to be edited to fit, but it's more or less the same.) Gonzo

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Yes this is a very stimulating topic. This is what this forum is all about; the free exchange of ideas and opinions. Thank you for initiating it.

 

Now back to the topic. It most certainly is not baiting. I would not resort to that. If you knew me better you would never suggest that.

 

Maybe, I’m not explaining myself correctly. We explain all the expected charges up front. We never, never, Never, NEVER say we offer a free diagnosis or free analysis. We don’t market it that way or advertise it that way. And with regular customers, the issue never comes up.

 

Now, let me try to re-visit this again: A customer arrives at the front counter and says: “My check engine light is on, how much to fix it.” Our upfront policy WAS to tell the customer the analysis charges and sell it. We then explained that after the analysis, we would discuss the repair.

 

The problem with this is that some customers see no value in this because we really do not know what is happening with the car before we do some sort of scan. There is also a fear about the total cost of the job (analysis plus repair). Plus my advisors were spending too much time educating the customers. Most of time they did go for the analysis, but I can tell that some customers had some issues.

 

So we came up with this strategy. If we feel that there is an issue, we offer the customer a complimentary scan to get a direction where we need to go. We fully explain that depending on what we see with the scan you will be looking at “X” amount for the analysis fee. And after the analysis is done, we will discuss the repair. We have an easier time with this stadegy and the customer feels like we are looking out for his best interest.

 

We try to see this from the customer’s point of view.

 

As for you scenario of my customer out of town; this industry is so all over the map, I can be worried about what may happen in that case. We get challenged on procedure every day, because there are no standards.

 

You propose standards, that’s all well and good, but that will take some doing to accomplish, if it is even possible.

 

Does this make better sense?

Hey great subject along the same lines when you sell the repairs is your tech always right or fix the whole problem.I,ve been a tech for 25+ years I thought I had a good understanding of electrial and OBDII always had good luck.But lately I had 2 vechiles that apperently had multiple problems with lean conitions both I found a large vacum hose split.I fixed it and cheaply sent the vechile s down the road but the light came back on 15-20 miles down the road.1 was a MAF sensor and the other a tune valve in the intake.Since then I beleive I could drive longer and look a fuel trims more closley.But the question I,m posing is do you some how leave the repair side open as far as we need to fix the obvious vacum leaks first

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Hey great subject along the same lines when you sell the repairs is your tech always right or fix the whole problem.I,ve been a tech for 25+ years I thought I had a good understanding of electrial and OBDII always had good luck.But lately I had 2 vechiles that apperently had multiple problems with lean conitions both I found a large vacum hose split.I fixed it and cheaply sent the vechile s down the road but the light came back on 15-20 miles down the road.1 was a MAF sensor and the other a tune valve in the intake.Since then I beleive I could drive longer and look a fuel trims more closley.But the question I,m posing is do you some how leave the repair side open as far as we need to fix the obvious vacum leaks first

Yes, I would never ever call done ... done... I almost always tell the customer that .... this is what i found... hopefully you won't have another problem, but there are so many things that can cause that check engine light to come on. To bad there isn't a check engine light for every different problem but your dash would look like a cockpit... and it would be to distracting to drive on the roads. That usually makes them feel better if the light comes back on after I'm done with the repairs that I originaly found. try that and see if it helps.

Gonzo

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