When a customer brings a vehicle into your repair shop, should you charge for the initial inspection?
One could argue that not charging is costing you money by bringing your labor rates down.
Other repair shop owners might disagree, believing that the initial inspection is more like a handshake introduction. And what comes out of the inspection is an opportunity to sell higher margin repairs that the customer needs. It's also the opportunity to set a customer up for a long-term maintenance plan.
Certainly, trading an hour of free service to gain a loyal customer for life is a good trade, but how many of those new customers can really be sold on a long-term relationship with your shop?
Could charging for the inspection be a good way to weed those people out?
NPD Group Inc. reported in August that despite vehicle miles driven dropping significantly in the first half of the year, aftermarket sales actually rose. They attributed this to more people taking on DIY projects during the pandemic.
There is a belief among many consumers that an initial vehicle inspection just involves plugging in a diagnostics tool. Why charge for that, right?
Those customers don't understand that a scan can identify a problem but maybe not the problem. It's the technician who sees the real issue and prescribes work that will keep the customer from returning every couple of months as they chase one "cheap" fix after another.
Of course, when those customers do go for the "cheap" fix, who do you think they are going to blame when they have another problem three months later?
"When faced with an uncertain repair, customers revert to a short-term thinking model," Jeremy Oneal of Advisorfix said during a recent AAPEX session. "This type of thinking can have negative consequences, and is a red light in the sales process."
And while it might pain a shop owner, Mr. Oneal advises to avoid "red-light" customers to put more focus on those customers who are going to think long term.
He advises that you can generate more money for your shop by charging for those "invisible" services, such as diagnostics, inspections and adjustments. And if you are charging for those things, your labor rates stay where you want them to be, and it gives your technicians more time to focus on quality customers.
Remember, the federal government said there was around $2 billion in service work that wasn't done last year, and the biggest reason is because technicians didn't find the issues during their inspections.
When it comes to the initial inspection, Mr. Oneal said you have to step up your game by building a very clear and detailed repair order, giving customers deliverables, such as data package printouts, wiring diagrams, testing procedures, photos and video, and a clear repair path from the technician.
It's poignant to think about right now, because consumers are only gaining more information about their vehicles and more confidence that they can diagnose repairs properly.
The problem with living in the information age is that everyone thinks they're an expert. But having a lot of information is not the same thing as having a lot of knowledge.