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Phone shopper wants a price and says, "I know exactly what I need give me a price" What do you do?


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Just curious about this. Had a call this morning, tried to get to come to the shop so we could inspect his cooling system for a leak. Was adamant it was coming from the water pump. Acknowledged he could have other issues was super insistent on getting a price for the water pump. Do you give him the price or tell him something different? I find that not giving someone a price once they have made up their mind that's all they want is a recipe for disaster. Thoughts?

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We just stand firm that to give an estimate we can stand by, we need to see the car. A good customer will understand and appreciate that you want to be accurate on your estimate. Let's say you estimate a water pump, the car comes in and the timing cover is leaking as well. Here you go back to the customer and tell them your $XX estimate has now doubled. Not a pleasant situation.

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We all get this call from time to time. I like to start a dialogue with the potential client. I explain that the water pump may be the problem, or it may be a symptom. Ask what his profession is...then draw a similar analogy. Lets use a roofer. "well Mr. Jackson, what would you charge me to put a roof on my 2000 sq. ft. house? I know it needs to be replaced". Then shut up and wait for his answer!!! He will realize the question is loaded with variables and assumptions. Tell him and answer would be a disservice to everyone. Any phone answer he gets would most probably inaccurate. Get them talking, understanding, as you win him over, offer a no charge evaluation if you can. Get them in and make them in to a new fan that respects your integrity and professionalism. Its fun to do!

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We all get this call from time to time. I like to start a dialogue with the potential client. I explain that the water pump may be the problem, or it may be a symptom. Ask what his profession is...then draw a similar analogy. Lets use a roofer. "well Mr. Jackson, what would you charge me to put a roof on my 2000 sq. ft. house? I know it needs to be replaced". Then shut up and wait for his answer!!! He will realize the question is loaded with variables and assumptions. Assure him and sight unseen answer is loaded with unknowns and assumptions. Tell him and answer would be a disservice to everyone. Any phone answer he gets would most probably inaccurate. Get them talking, understanding, as you win him over, offer a no charge evaluation if you can. Get them in and make them in to a new fan that respects your integrity and professionalism. Its fun to do!

 

 

Thank you for your post, my question really is directed at the phone customer you have already tried everything with. Use analogies, assure them that whatever price will most probably be inaccurate, point out what unknown variables, offer COMPLIMENTARY inspection of the possible issue, etc etc. End of all that I'll sometimes get, "Yes I understand you make a lot of sense, but what if its the water pump. It looks like its leaking from there. I JUST WANT A PRICE."

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The guy that says"Yes I understand you make a lot of sense, but what if its the water pump. It looks like its leaking from there. I JUST WANT A PRICE." is not a prospective client of mine. I stick with why I will not compromize my professionalism by phone quoting. Tell him your shop is ready to help him, and wish him a good day. After all, this guy is a hard core price shopper. 20% of customers are 80% of the problem, and 80% of your clients are 20% of the problem. You must decide if this kind of customer is what you want. its that simple. Not everyone is a good fit as a client.

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shopcat, I agree completely. I was looking for the best way to NOT give a price quote but also minimize damage with a phone customer. People don't like to hear no. Also someone that is not open to listening to reason is obviously a selfish person and my experience is that if they are slighted it wouldn't be beyond them to write a bad review or something to that effect. Yeah I have VERY little faith in the character of the people living in my city LOL

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I politely tell the customer "Company policy does not allow me to estimate anything we have not looked at. If you will not bring it by, pop the hood and hold the phone closer" This usually will jog the mind set into trying to understand what you are saying. Then lead in with "Grandpa always said If you can't do it right, don't do it at all." Tell them they are probably right (stroke that ego) and a simple pressure test will confirm this. You want to provide a correct repair the first time to uphold your reputation and be a shop he would recommend to others. Apologize for the inconvenience it may cause But Grandpa would turn over in his grave if you didn't.

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It is so easy to say, "I won't give a price over the phone." Which really is saying, "If they won't do as I want them to do then they aren't my kind of customer."

 

We all know that giving a price over the phone is NOT in our or the callers' best interests, but the public is not always interested in their best interests. It is easy to simply answer the caller's question. Of course if they won't listen to you and agree to allow you to have it competently inspected then they likely won't be willing to pay for your competent professional repairs. However I do offer phone quotes, but with many caveats that I repeat multiple times. Meanwhile I get two types of customers, those who are simply looking for the cheapest price and they are not the ones you or I want. But I also get those who don't care what the price is, I'm going to get the work anyway, but they need to know if they can afford the repair they need. What I mean by that is if they need, say a $500 repair but they only have $350 right now but will have the rest in two weeks, there is no reason for them to "bring it in for a look see" until they have the money to pay for the repair, especially if it isn't safe (for them or the vehicle) to drive it in or if it needs to be towed in.

 

I love all the anecdotes about how, "We had a customer...." who didn't need what the other shop said they needed. But you know what? Sometimes the customer doesn't know how else to start the conversation. Yes you need to educate them but you still need to feed them, their psyche, their muse, their ego. I had a customer who....went to the dealer, had an "inspection" performed and was told she needed front brakes, rear brakes, rear wheel cylinders (yes a different FULL RATE labor op) and exhaust manifolds on her Ford van. She called me for a competitive quote. If I had not offered her an estimate over the phone I never would have gotten that $1400 job. She would have paid the $2500 at the dealership and I would not have a loyal customer. Why? Because she "knew" what she needed, the dealership told her. So she wanted to know if I would do the work cheaper because we all know that dealers are sooooo expensive. I inspected her van, I charged her for the inspection too, and I found that she did not need any brake work (at least 50% left, nearly new rotors and drums well within specs. Wheel cylinders were good too) and her exhaust manifolds only needed to be resurfaced and reinstalled with new studs and gaskets. So not only did I honor her, her request but I also saved her money by not doing work that was not needed. I made a good profit on honest work. I blew away her expectations. I gained a loyal customer and a great referral source. How did I do this? BY GIVING HER A PRICE OVER THE PHONE.

I am not saying that those who refuse to give quotes over the phone are doing it wrong, what I am saying is they are wrong for telling those of us who do that we are wrong for doing so. Just as those who claim that doctors don’t diagnose over the phone, they do offer prices over the phone. I know this. And not just primary care general practitioners either. Just as we should not diagnose a problem over the phone, or over the counter either but we can quote a price for a certain job. If it needs that job, then our price should be responsible. If it does not need that repair, then your quote should have had that disclaimer too. We can’t diagnose a problem over the phone, just as your doctor won’t diagnose your ailment over the phone either but they will likely tell you what their office visit, x-ray, EKG, procedure charges are. If you push the issue that is.

Case in point, I have a hernia. When I was diagnosed over 10 years ago I was all set to have the surgery and then a week before the surgery the surgeon decided he wouldn’t participate with my insurance anymore. They told me in order to continue with the surgery I would have to sign a form agreeing to pay all the charges myself. I asked how much it would be. They didn’t know until the surgery was over. When I pressed the issue they finally admitted that my surgery was pretty routine and if there were no complications then the surgery would be $XXXX.XX. Just as we can quote a water pump. But if there are complications, like a broken bolt, then it will be more due to unforeseeable conditions. And any competent estimate or quote should address that contingency too.

Again, I am not saying that those shop owners who won’t offer prices over the phone are wrong but I am saying don’t tell us who do that we are wrong for doing so.

Edited by TheTrustedMechanic
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I made a good profit on honest work. I blew away her expectations. I gained a loyal customer and a great referral source.

You made a really good point. By being able to communicate clearly and effectively with the customer,

you were able to win them over. From the customer's standpoint, she now has a shop she feels she

can trust... and from a business standpoint, you made a profit on the job.

 

And more importantly, you have a loyal customer and great referral source, which will pay off forever - in future jobs.

 

I am not sure if everyone is aware of what I call "The HIdden Problem" that is standing between you and

the sales and profits you want.

 

Briefly... this problem is the fact that consumers don't trust the people in the automotive industry,

which includes the tire and auto repair end of it, too.

 

Here is the latest BBB.org stats:

http://sellmoreautoservice.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/bbb2013statistics.jpg

 

If you notice, the "Auto Repair & Service" category came in at number 10 for complaints and

number 5 for inquiries - out of over 5,000 industries.

 

What this means to you is: the public is trying to avoid being taken advantage of,

which is their greatest fear, by doing research online and by phone. They're making inquiries

at the BBB site and reading reviews on all of the review sites in order to help them determine

who they can trust.

 

And then, they are trying to be a "smart shopper" by ringing you up. And unfortunately,

because they know very little about that big piece of steel sitting in their driveway...

they're asking the only question they know how to ask, which is, "How much....?"

 

Yes, there are some people that are shopping for the cheapest prices... but the majority of

people calling or stopping in are just trying to do the only thing they know how to do...

in order to solve their problem.

 

And by the way... the auto repair industry doesn't help when all of the advertising

focuses on "Here are our prices and special deals for your next....."

oil change, brake job, wipers, etc.

 

So, the consumer is confused. And the person and shop that can help them clear up

all of their confusion... will win every time. Every phone call, every person that stops in is an

opportunity to add another customer. When you look at it this way... we are no longer

in the auto repair business... we are in the communication business.

 

This really is the best time to own an auto repair business because all you have to

do is to communicate just a tiny bit better than your competition and you'll own your market.

 

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I get not wanting to alienate anyone. Disagreeing without being disagreeable is a bit of an art, but I think you have it mastered. Your posts and all the EXCELLENT reviews of your shop speak volumes about your ability to handle people and about your professionalism.

Edited by Shopcat
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We get it all the time "how much for a coolant flush? How much for a tune up?, how much for an alignment?" Very few customers actually need the service they are asking for. We always try to get the customer in and have a conversation about what's going on, once they are in the door they realize it's the same as going to the doctor - describe the symptoms and let the experts deal with them.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         5 comments
      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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