By Joe Marconi
We all have those customers that focus on price alone. And we all struggle with our persistent attempts at converting them into believers. Believers of the concept that, while we cannot totally dismiss price, it’s the value of the product or service the customer needs to consider when making a purchase. What’s funny about these customers is that each visit tends to start with a complaint about price, even before the car is looked at. We recently had a situation that started off on the wrong foot, with price being the issue; but ended up a win for us, and for the customer.
Charlie Challenge (not his real name) arrived at our shop and asked for an estimate on replacing the timing chain for his Nissan Altima. My service advisor responded with, “Mr. Challenge, that’s a big job. How do you know your car needs a timing chain?” Charlie replied back, “Another shop checked it out and they told me it does. Can you please give me a price?” My advisor continued with, “Well, before we do anything, we need to perform a few tests to make sure you really do need a timing chain.” Charlie emphatically replied back, “And how much is that going to cost? All you guys want is my money! I asked for one thing; a price on a timing chain and you just want to make more money on something I already know I need!”
It took a lot of composure, but my advisor calmly stated all the reasons why testing is the best way to go, emphasizing the fact that if we replace the chain and it’s not the problem, the money spent would be wasted. Charlie shook his head, threw the keys on the counter and authorized the testing.
I’ve known Charlie for a long time. He’s not a bad guy. But price is always the topic of discussion. He has told me in the past that I should take a look at what other shops charge, and be more competitive with my prices. I have told Charlie that I don’t, and never will, price my services by what other shops are charging. I have also told him to look beyond price and look at the value you get. Besides, all the quality shops that I know are pretty much the same when it comes to pricing.
During the write-up process, Charlie revealed to my service advisor that the check engine light had been on, and that’s why he took his car to the other shop. The other shop replaced a valve timing solenoid, but that didn’t fix the problem. He was then told that the next step was to replace the chain.
Later that morning, the car was dispatched to a technician. A multipoint inspection was performed, along with all the tests related to the check engine light; which was a timing error. After the MPI and the tests were completed, we found a few things wrong with Charlie’s car. His Altima needed an oil change service, a battery, rear brakes, an air filter, the cabin filter had a mouse nest in it and the car needed an intake timing control sensor, not a timing chain. This engine has two intake control solenoids. One was supposedly replaced by the other shop. So, did this car have two bad sensors? Or was the wrong sensor replaced by mistake?
When my service advisor called Charlie to tell him the good news, he was silent for a moment. He was shocked that the car didn’t need a timing chain. He authorized the solenoid replacement, the oil change and replacing the mouse-infested cabin filter. He declined the other work.
I purposely did the follow-up call with Charlie a few days later. He was happy to hear from me and told me that car hadn’t run this good in years. I had to needle him a bit, “So Charlie, are we really expensive? We saved you a ton of money by doing the tests first and not just replacing the chain.” He said, “Ok Joe, I get it, I really do this time.”
During our conversation, Charlie did confess that he didn’t go to another shop, but actually went to that all-knowing, all-powerful place on the internet known as Google. It was Charlie that replaced the solenoid, not realizing there were two, and not knowing how to properly test the system either.
When I asked Charlie why he didn’t let us replace the battery, air filter and the rear brakes, he replied, “Joe, come on, I can do that work myself, and besides, you guys are expensive.”
Sometimes you win the battle, but it’s hard to win the war with some customers.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on October 1st, 2019
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I get the daily calls of wanting me to switch CC processors and with MUCH (misplaced) confidence, I refused to have a discussion with any of these guys, because I already had great rates. Then, I had a persistent one call me back and ask why I didn't want to talk. She said enough right things that I let the salesman come visit me.
My rates were and supposedly were going to get better over time as I built up history. Original Quote:
Credit Card Rate - 0.05% + Interchange (AMEX 0.055%) Debit Card Rate - 0.05% + Interchange Credit Transaction fee - 0.05 cents per transaction Debit Transaction Fee - 0.05 cents per transaction PCI Compliance-$9.95/monthly Chargeback fee-$10.00 (VISA, MC, Discover) $30.00 (AMEX) Paper Statement-$5.95 monthly (online statements free) The other guy comes in and tells me that my current processor increased my rates and added numerous junk fees. The rate raised to 0.25% for most cards and .75% for AMEX and now have a $34.95 platform fee and numerous other fees. At this point, I stand to save $250/month minimum by switching CC vendors. I did confirm that on day 1, my bills had way fewer fees. The bills also stated that they were raising rates along the way, so they were disclosed and allowed by contract. I'm halfway thru a 3 year contract with a $495 cancellation fee. This is what I'm paying now with the same processor:
Credit Card Rate - 0.25% + Interchange (AMEX 0.75%) Debit Card Rate - 0.05% + Interchange Credit Transaction fee - 0.05 cents per transaction Debit Transaction Fee - 0.05 cents per transaction PCI Compliance-$9.95/monthly Annual PCI Audit Fee - $99 Chargeback fee-$10.00 (VISA, MC, Discover) $30.00 (AMEX) Paper Statement-$5.95 monthly (online statements free) New Junk Fees - $41 To be clear, the interchange fees don't change on either deal. We are only dealing with CC processor markup fees and junk fees. The 0.05% is a markup fee over interchange. The new deal is:
Credit Card Rate - 0.05% + Interchange (all cards including AMEX) Debit Card Rate - 0.00% + Interchange Credit Transaction fee - 0.05 cents per transaction Debit Transaction Fee - 0.05 cents per transaction PCI Compliance - $0 (with a successful audit and $9.95/month penalty without one) Annual PCI audit fee - ?? Chargeback fees - $25.00 (VISA, MC, Discover, AMEX) - refundable if you win Monthly Charge - $10.00 As best I can tell, it looks legitimate. I'll be carefully reading the new contract tomorrow. So, the real question is whether or not I'm switching from one liar to another liar? This second one is telling me that my contract will have the rates guaranteed and locked in. If I see the right things in writing, I'll be switching. Will recoup my cancellation / startup costs in 3 months.
I guess the moral is get an annual checkup from a competitor.
Supposedly these rates are available as a result of being low-risk from my transaction history (or it's just marketing-speak). I don't know. My original deal was reasonable, but it isn't any longer. My plans were to wait for the 3 year contract to end before shopping around.
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