One of the most common calls we receive from people contain the question, “How much to…?” do whatever they believe they need to have done on their car. The question is reasonable and understandable but it is also unprofessional to answer in most cases.
Things like an oil change, fluid exchange, alternator and battery test are fine to quote over the phone. Things that are common and routine maintenance can easily be quoted over the phone and commonly are.
The problem comes in when people are asking the reasonable question, “how much” for repairs such as brakes, fluid leaks, strange noises, check engine light or other warning light, etc. It might seem as if brakes would be easy to quote but how does the Service Advisor know if the rotors are within specifications, if the brake hardware needs replaced or not, are the hydraulic components leaking at all, what is the condition of the flexible brake line between the frame and the wheel, etc. How about a water pump replacement? Do the hoses need replaced? How about the belt(s)? I am sure you can see the point.
The reason it is unprofessional to quote a price for repairs over the phone is pretty simple. Let’s take the water pump example. If the Service Advisor looks up the price of the water pump and the labor and quotes the caller a price, it is reasonable for the caller to expect that to be the price they will pay if they bring the car in for the water pump replacement. However, once the technician opens the hood to inspect the job, he/she discovers the radiator hoses are cracked and need replaced and the cooling system has been neglected and the car needs a cooling system flush. Now the Service Advisor has to call the customer and inform them that to do the job it will cost an additional $200. Naturally the customer is not going to be happy and may feel as if they were lied to about the price in the beginning. The customer is unhappy and the shop has done nothing wrong in advising the vehicle owner of the actual cost to do the water pump repair correctly.
What the shop did do wrong was to quote a price for a job that had not been checked by a technician before giving the vehicle owner an estimate of repair. That is why we believe quoting such a price sight unseen is unprofessional. Trust is a strong factor in the customer relationship and having to raise a price quoted over the phone will almost always cause serious damage to the all-important trust factor.
Please remember this the next time you need a repair and call the shop to inquire as to how much and they request that you bring the vehicle in for evaluation before quoting a price. It is in everyone’s best interest that an inspection and/or diagnosis is performed before an estimate of repair is given.
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