How to Make Extended Diagnostics Profitable

Rodney Koop
Contributing Writer
The New Flat Rate, Founder

I wrote the book Why Won’t They Pay Me What I’m Worth because as an electrician with over 10 unrestricted licenses, I still could not sell a $78.00 outlet replacement behind a microwave with a flat rate book. And if I couldn’t even find the problem then, well I looked pretty stupid.

To be fair, I’m in a manufacturing town where 20,000 people think they are electricians because they have changed a motor or switch in a carpet mill. So, they will change an outlet for a six-pack of beer.

However, my talent, skill, knowledge, expertise, and craftsmanship had no value when I told them a price.

So, that is all changed now, but here’s what’s different about electrical compared to most trades.

It’s usually less than an hour, just in and out on a service call, but every now and then, there’s that ghost of a troubleshooting call.

We created…I think we created it: “Extended Diagnostics.”

In my area, you can’t have a service and diagnostic charge of $200 because you will be shopped.

The problem is, customers don’t know how to do service calls; they think they are supposed to “shop” with the call taker.

So, you need a reasonable call out charge, or service charge, or service and diagnostic charge, which is what I call it.

Let’s say it’s $79.

“Mr. Customer, our service and diagnostic charge is $79, and for that, we will send a certified electrician with a well stocked truck.  He will check out your problem, and if it’s something simple like a tripped breaker or fuse, there may not be any additional charge.  However, if a part or additional service is needed, he will go over your options before he goes any further so there are no surprises.  Is that fair enough?”

That will get you in the door almost every time.

Now back to the real subject. How to get paid for extended diagnostics.

Remember this golden rule. It is not your house; it is their house.  It is not your problem; it is their problem. You are the solution, not the problem.

Step 1. Greeting & clarification:

Before you enter the home or business, set your watch or phone timer to 45 minutes. This is enough time to allow to greet the customer, have the discussion, and diagnose the problem.

Step 2. Diagnose:
Get some tools and really check out what is going on.
Do not fix the problem during the diagnosis unless it is a simple thing like someone accidentally turned off the breaker.

If your alarm goes off and you know you are not ready and that you need more time to diagnose, then it’s time for a second conversation with the customer.

“Mr. Customer, I just want you to know that we are still working through your system, but the problem has proven to be more severe than we could have anticipated. What this means is that we are entering into what we call an extended diagnostics scenario. This means there will be additional costs. However, I will try to keep it as low as possible. But usually in these situations, we will be looking at $____to $____.  Can you give me an approval to proceed?”

Get a signature of customer’s approval for the extended diagnosis.

Extended diagnostic rates should be set up as per your rates. If you charge $150 per hour, then you could use $75 to $150, which gives you 1/2 to 1 hour. Whatever.

Now, here’s the very important thing about this. If you still don’t find it in the next hour, you have the same conversation again with the customer.

In my company, if an electrician couldn’t find it within the first hour, they had to call me. You know, the big cheese, the smart guy. If I couldn’t find it in the next hour, I just looked stupid.

So, either get approval to get more money or get help, but still get more money. Remember, it’s not your house, and you probably didn’t wire it originally. Let them pay by simply having conversations.

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