Issue Date: Service Advisor Sept 1, 2009, Posted On: 9/1/2009
How much will this cost me? Tips for handling the price shoppers How do you answer customers who call up asking what your service department’s labor rate is? How do you answer the customer who wants you to estimate a job over the phone? Do you just tell them the hourly rate that is posted on the sign behind you, or printed on your repair orders? Or do you say nothing?
Before we jump into the answer, let’s step back and try to understand the customer’s mindset and why they ask the question.
Usually there is some issue with their vehicle. It might be that the brakes are squealing, the front-end is out of alignment, or it is due for a major service. But rest assured, something is prompting the call. They have a problem that they need resolved.
What will this cost me?
Think like a customer to understand this behavior. Once you realize you have a problem that requires professional help, you start calling likely professionals that can solve it for you. You might not be sure what service you need so you start with the basics – how much do I need to spend?
Let’s think of a comparison. Say you want to adopt a child and need an attorney. There’s no way of telling what you are getting into or what might be involved so you start calling around. Attorney #1 might quote an hourly rate of $225, and attorney #2 quoted $250. Well, you would assume that for the work that needs to be done, attorney #1 is your more economical option. That is unless attorney #2 offers a special rate for adoptions because he likes to do them. Or maybe he’s an adoption expert and can navigate the legal system faster than attorney #1.
Your shop is just like attorney #2. Even if you don’t have a variable or matrix labor rate, your shop probably offers dozens of different labor rates or specials. Maintenance is often done at a different rate, diagnostic fees are sometimes stated as a flat rate, and competitive services like brakes, alignments and shocks might be done at a discount.
Remember that what the customer is really after is, “what is this going to cost me?" So probe a little further and see what information you can get out of the customer. Maybe there is a special service you can quote instead of just an hourly rate. Or, you can answer with something like, “Because we sell and service these vehicles we are experts in all areas of repair. That allows us to package items at an economical rate and it means we can complete jobs quicker than most shops. Why don’t you bring your vehicle down and I’ll take a quick look. If it isn’t something obvious, we can get it into a mechanic to evaluate. Is 2 pm good for you?"