Win the Diagnostic Game: Part 2

Order Reprints
Selling Services

Last month, we took a look at how to accurately calculate what you should be charging. This month, we’re going to examine how to successfully sell the value of what you’re charging. 

We must have a process and tool to sell our diagnostic services profitably. So, back to the statement of value versus time. If we just sell time and we have it priced as we must to ensure our profitability, then there is the inevitable “gulp” you hear a customer make when you answer their question of “how much?” 

I won’t go into all of the supposed justifications and defenses I’ve heard for such a high hourly rate. You have probably heard or experienced the awkward conversation yourself. I might suggest there is an alternative method that can not only avoid the “let me explain why” conversation, but just might actually turn the conversation to more of a “Wow! You are going to DO all of that?” With my shop and all the shops I work with, I suggest building a couple of diagnostic packages. 

    We use two:

  •     A Comprehensive Testing package and; 
  •     A Basic Testing package

They are universally applicable whether a drivability issue, check engine light, electrical issue or noise complaint. The service advisor decides which to present based upon the specific issue we are going to be addressing. The Comprehensive Package we use is based on 1 hour of technician time and the Basic Package is based on a 0.5 hour of tech time. Of course, as mentioned in last month’s article, the labor dollars charged for the package is at 125 percent of the regular labor rate. The magic occurs when you preface the cost with an explanation of what steps and testing you will be performing with the testing package rather than just quoting a time and the charge for it. Our scripting for the diagnostic testing package is simply an overview of the actual steps our technicians will take during this phase of the testing. Remember, a customer may not understand WHAT you say you are going to do, but they do appreciate the volume and detail of what you say you are going to do. WORDS = DOLLARS. The more detail you can give them the more value they feel for what you are asking them to pay. 

As a sample of how our presentation might go, we would present  the Comprehensive Testing Package as a follow up to the code scan conversation above:

 “As we reviewed, we have performed an OBDII (onboard diagnostics) scan test, which means we used our diagnostic computer to interface and communicate with your vehicle and it’s many computers and control modules. We were able to retrieve the factory failure and/or diagnostic codes, which tell us which systems or areas the computer(s) have found a fault with. Unfortunately, the codes won’t tell what failed, but it does give us the system or area in which a fault was detected. So, as part of our Comprehensive Testing procedure, we will retrieve the freeze frame & failure records. Your vehicle’s computer is programmed to take a “snap-shot” of the data recording when a fault is detected. Again, it will not necessarily show what went wrong, BUT it does show us what conditions the vehicle was operating in when the fault or condition occurred. This allows us to test drive the vehicle on similar conditions so that we can try and duplicate the conditions in which the fault should occur. This of course is extremely helpful when trying to diagnose and isolate the concern. We will also be performing all the pin-point tests related to the factory code testing procedures. This is a systematic step-by-step testing process by which we can isolate & confirm the failed area or component. We also check for factory technical service bulletins that may have been released by the manufacturer relating to the condition. Many times, the factory identifies issues or concerns after the vehicle leaves the factory and has some service in the field. If they note a pattern to the failure or if a common situation is at cause, they publish a bulletin identifying the cause and potential remedies which may include updated parts, diagnostics or procedures. As well, we have access to a national troubleshooting database that is able to identify pattern failures and concerns long after the vehicle has left the manufacturer’s warranty period. Often, these pattern failure alerts give us additional information that can narrow down the diagnostic process or point us to an area that the factory procedure may ignore. 


In almost all cases, our Comprehensive Testing procedure allows us to identify the fault and necessary repair. When we have completed this comprehensive diagnostic we will be able to explain exactly what we have checked, the results of our testing and exactly what will fix the condition OR we will be able to tell you exactly what we have checked, the results of our testing and what additional tests we may need to perform to confirm our findings and the failure. There are times that we may need to run and additional test to confirm our diagnosis much like your family doctor could send you to the hospital for blood work to verify his diagnosis. Of course, we will let you know exactly what we need to do and any additional cost prior to spending any more time or incurring additional expense on the vehicle.”


The hard part is over. We have them at the shop and have sold a profitable testing package. Now the challenge is to make sure both advisor and tech are aware of the one-hour time limit we have approval for and stick to it. All the best pricing policies and sales practices will go for naught if your technician loses track of time and gets buried in hours of un-approved time chasing the diagnosis. If you tend to run over or “get lost in it,” then I definitely suggest a time tracking and alarm process. With today’s technology, there are any number of tools, programs or apps that could help. To keep it simple, I suggest the basic egg-timer process. This is a pair of standard egg timers with one at the service counter and one  in the bay at tech’s toolbox (synchronized). Both are set to an hour with the understanding that when the bell goes DING then tech should be at the service desk with either a list of exactly what they did, exactly what they found and what exactly will fix the problem OR exactly what they did, exactly what they found and exactly what additional operations they will need to perform to confirm a fix. If you run into additional time needed, I suggest selling the additional testing procedure(s) as “a la carte” per the labor guide while of course using the labor only rate calculated above. 

It sounds like a lot, but following the basic steps above and using the tools and scripting provided (of course, adapted to your own circumstances), you will be able to turn that difficult “phone-shopper” in to a customer in your shop and one that you can be profitable with each and every time.


Related Articles

Win the Diagnostic Game: Part 1

Part 2: Plan Your Best Year Yet

How I Did It: Weathering the Storm in Nome, Alaska Part 2

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