Running a Shop

Broski: How to Turn 'Price Shoppers' into Customers

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I think most repair shops have the wrong view of the "price shopper" phone call—and it affects their attitude, their profit, and maybe their online reviews. They see it as only a call for a price quote. They presume these callers to be cheap bargain hunters looking for the lowest price. 

First off, how did they find you? Not from the Yellow pages; it’s extinct. Probably not a referral if their car just broke down. So, perhaps the web or a Google maps search where they checked out your reviews and website. Now at this point, they’re half sold already! But when they call, you miss an opportunity by offering no help on the phone. Instead of a quote, you try to convince them to bring their car in to verify what they think they already know.

In reality, these people have a car problem. They’re searching for a shop and not necessarily the cheapest shop. They’re looking for a repair shop they can connect with and trust that’s competent and meets them with a fair price.

What else are they going to ask beyond, “How much do you charge to … ?” or “What do you charge per hour?” They’re comparing prices around town. In my 30 years, no one has asked right off, “Why should I use your shop?” and only a few have said, “I’m looking for a long-term relationship.”

That call is really a person in need of your help—not a cheap price shopper. They’re probably in a predicament. They got a quote that they don’t like but need their car fixed. Help them! It builds the all-important trust needed now and later. Listen to their story. Some people want to tell you what happened and why this is a bad time for this unexpected expense. Listen. Ask questions. Show concern. 

To change your frame of mind, think: why are they looking for a new shop? Possibilities include”

  • They currently don’t have a regular shop to go to, because:
    • They are new to the area
    • Their car is off warranty
    • They purchased a new model car and their current shop doesn’t work on these
    • They’re quick lube customers who need additional work; not confident
    • They do some of their own repair work (rare these days)
    • They think their current shop is over-pricing, so they’re calling for a price comparison
  • Quality of prior repairs
  • Too many prior repairs
  • Lost trust in their current shop
  • Price shopper only

In my experience (with German cars), very few are solely price shoppers.

They simply want good, honest work at a fair price. Very few want the cheapest price (and all that goes with it). Help them to not go to that shop. To do that, build rapport. Ask how they found you? Learn about them and their family. Listen to their problem. Ask about the car’s history. Offer helpful suggestions. Casually promote yourself and your shop (tell them how many years you’ve been in business, combined years of your staff, training certifications, equipment, amenities, cleanliness, rides, etc.) That is, help them pick your shop.

Car repair isn’t only about price, but here are some reasons other shops charge less than you:

  • Don’t have your cost of training
  • Don’t have your cost of top-notch equipment
  • Don’t pay for top-quality technicians
  • They NEED the business

Every shop is told not to quote over the phone or is afraid to. Heck, a water pump is a water pump. I presume the shop thinks they are stuck to their quote, even if it is something else. Uh, no. Simple. You quoted a water pump.

Quote a price. Yes, give them a quote! Most shops bypass the quote and say, “Bring it in so we can confirm it.” Do you realize how much trouble it is just to bring their car in to diagnose and quote? Do you want them to drop their car off? That means getting a ride both ways. Do you want them to wait? That’s an hour and a half. And then, what if your quote is higher than their current quote? They now have to pay you and then pay for a third quote.

When you quote that water pump, consider that other shops have similar labor times, similar retail prices, and presumably, similar good parts. So … the difference is YOU!

If you quote, someone else may get this new customer. Or quote the price and promote your expertise and other bonuses as above. 

If you don’t quote, it sounds like all you want is the customer to bring their car in. You’ve offered no help, no advice, showed no concern, no patience, no caring, but somehow expect them to bring in their car. And when they don’t, you slam the phone down and say, “These price shoppers!”  You blame everything but you.

They are really checking your experience and expertise. They want to know that you know something about the usual things that go wrong with a car like theirs.

They know there’s a difference between the cheapest and the most expensive shops.

They know they can’t get top quality for the cheapest price.

They kind of think all shops fix the cars the same way with the same equipment.

They aren’t going to interview five repair shop owners to decide. They will start with a referral, then with online reviews, then they will go on how the person who handles the call makes them feel. 

These callers want help in making their decision. All they know is price. If they are truly price shoppers, you will find out soon enough. Let them go.

I hope I’ve shown you another way to look at the first-time customer who calls and asks for a price quote. So many times I turn them into customers using the method above. I think you will too.

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