Tom Ham writes:
“How often do you do some type of survey of your competitors related to pricing or other things?”
A service shop manager in Oregon, Ohio, replies:
“We check out our competitors, especially on tires. Clients say they can get this for said price.
“We find out 98% of the time they are incorrect on the pricing or the other person has left critical parts out of the estimate. With the Internet… it is easy to double check.”
A service shop owner in Traverse City, Mich., writes:
“I don´t get into price wars, so we don´t really check. I do read all of the coupon packages that get mailed to me just to see what deceptive specials are being published.
“In the past, I used to have my daughter take her Honda in to other shops for an easy diagnosis just to get on their mailing list and see what they could find wrong with the car.
“I feel that I get at least 2 calls a week from price shoppers (most always female) that know way to much about the problem they need help with, and I bet it´s other shops (the caller ID is always blocked). I will only give an estimate out over the phone for scheduled maintenance. Anything else I need to inspect the vehicle first.
“I ask the caller if it´s the cheapest price they're after, or would quality be their goal. I´m also not shy to ask if their vehicle is at another shop or if they´ve gotten another price. If they fess up, I´ll give them my opinion if the price seems fair and what they should be getting for the money.”
A service shop manager in Oak Ridge, Tenn., replies:
“I routinely check our competitors for price and service. While sometimes this does not matter, as our prices are set by the owners.
“In our case, though, we use coupons and actually they are a great deal for our customers. It´s better for them than for us.
“Price is important, and the economy and Internet have forced some clients to be less loyal and more price conscientious. I try not to give quotes on most work, generally on tires, oil changes and menu items. In my experience the person $5.00 cheaper on a service will get the job, so I do not attempt to try to compete.
“I get lots of calls and price is the request…. 'Look XYZ can do it for $150.00 can you beat it?' So my response is to question the diagnosis. How do you know it is that? So, generally I do check pricing but only on a limited basis.”
A service shop manager in Monction, New Brunswick, replies:
“We generally do not check the competition for pricing. We try not to quote pricing over the phone except for tires and general maintenance items.”
The questions and responses are posted on the Automotive Management Network website, which is operated by Deb and Tom Ham, owners of Ham's Automotive Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich. (The comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.)