To Price or Not to Price

Rodney Koop
Contributing Writer
The New Flat Rate

Traditionally, when customers call Plumbing, HVAC, or Electrical service companies, one of the most commonly asked questions is, “How much is this going to cost?”.  As service providers we can feel as though we need to answer all their questions immediately, because truthfully, we don’t want them to go somewhere else.  As contractors and business owners we have an inherent need to please our current and potential customers.  This need can make you a true success, but it can also keep you from the very success you dream of.  But, have you ever wondered, maybe we’ve been doing a few things wrong?  Just maybe we have been giving out all the wrong information and ending up stiffing ourselves in the proverbial bank account…or our real bank account.

We’ve all done it!  A customer calls in and does the following:  self-diagnoses the problem via the internet, self-prices the repair via the internet, forms an opinion based on that information and then wants to know what we’ll charge to come out and do the work.  Does this seem about right?  So many people these days, because of our access to information, have much more knowledge about service industry repairs than ever before.  But, they fail to have the most important piece of knowledge, the kind you can only acquire through experience.  It’s why they call you. And, because of that experience the value of that repair goes up…exponentially.  And, also allows you to not give a price without a diagnosis.

When we give prices over the phone it’s typically, even though we might not think so, a number determined by the consumer’s information, and not our professional diagnosis.  And the value placed in an experienced technician’s diagnosis is far greater than any Google find.  Well, what about just a “guestamation”?  What if we give the customer a possible price? That is a bad idea too!  Why is that you say?  Expectation!  The moment you give the customer a price, you have communicated perceived worth.  And, the moment that “perceived worth” is calculated in a consumer’s mind, chances are you may never get the “actual worth” or, you will have a really difficult time getting it.  Expectations are set when a price is given even though it wasn’t what was promised. The expectation that the service will be reasonable and within reason of the given price is a dangerous place to put yourself.

Contractors all over the nation are “short thousand-dollar changing” themselves, not just “short changing” themselves.  The profit being lost is far more than pennies.  We are allowing the customer to define the cost.  So, how can we answer, “How much is this going to cost?”  It’s simple, and here’s how.  Follow the script.

Customer: “How much is x y z going to cost?”

CSR/Technician/Contractor: “Our service and diagnostic fee is $59, for that we will send out a certified technician with a well-stocked truck who will do a thorough diagnosis. Then he will present 5 repair options to you so you can decide how much you want to spend. If you choose a repair option the service fee will be waived, does that sound fair?” Great will someone be home tomorrow? “

It really is simple.  You are the expert.  Correct assessments can only be made in person.  You could be paying for part of the repairs if you’re not careful.

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