Do you profit from Diagnostics?

It’s a straightforward question and this month John Batten takes a look at how to turn a “No” into a “Yes”

By John Batten |

Published:  08 November, 2019

Let’s face it, it’s a problem. It’s a problem that has existed for too many years. In fact, the solution to this day eludes so many intelligent garage owners. It’s the perennial problem. What is this enigma? What’s one of the most common questions I hear on our front-of-house training courses? Quite simply the question I’ve been hearing for decades is this: “How do we charge for diagnostics?”
To add insult to injury the cause of this problem is another question. It’s a question your front of house team will hear every single day from your prospective clients. It goes a little like this: “How much does it cost to…” turn a MIL light out, diagnose my DPF fault, solve a lack of power, diagnose a non-start, etc. It’s endless, the question keeps on coming and you definitely need to answer it. Why is answering this so important to your business? Let’s take a look.
While we’re talking about questions I’ve got one for you. Do you charge for all of your diagnostic time? If not, How much income do you lose to time not charged? If the answer immediately sprang to your lips then well done for having a monitoring system in place. If not then you might be surprised by the size of the problem.
I’ll err on the side of caution with my estimate but, if you have a workshop with four technicians and two of them lost half an hour a day to non-charged ‘diagnosis time’ (assuming your labour rate was £65 per hour) then that would be costing you £14,950 a year.
As a side note, it blows my mind to think how much revenue has been lost to this problem over the years across our industry.
Now, I’m sure if we’re honest with each other and we documented all the ways that this time disappears from your bottom line then you’d agree the problem is probably larger.
The BIG question is would you like to fix it? Of course you would, and here’s how.
Before we get to the answer let’s consider what our endgame is. From my point of view it’s simply this; The solution needs to be fair. Fair to the garage owner, fair to the customer and fair to the technician. What does ‘fair’ look like? I’d consider fair to be:

  • The customer pays the correct amount for diagnosis and a first-time fix
  • The technician is given suitable resources (time, information, tooling, training etc) to complete the job competently
  • The garage owner is suitably remunerated by the customer, and the work is carried out to a high standard in a timely manner by the technician

If your views are different then I’d be keen to hear them. Back to that question...How do you answer the question “How much to diagnose my fault?” It can’t be avoided, and frustration for both you and your customer will ensue until a suitable solution is found. The straightforward answer is process and systemisation.

Do you have a diagnostic sales system?
If you want to guarantee a result then you need a system. In this instance a system to sell all of your diagnostic hours. Once a system has been planned/designed, all you need to do is train your team and bingo -You can sit back and bask in your glory while the system produces the desired result, which in this instance is our fair outcome for all involved. What does this system look like? It goes a little something like this:

1 Define the process by which your technicians carry out a diagnostic evaluation. The Auto iQ 15 step ‘diagnostic circle’ is a great place to start

2 Ensure your technical team implement the diagnostic process rigorously

4 Define the costs for the various stages within the process

5 Ensure your front of house team are trained and understand the diagnostic process a technician follows, as well as how this adds value to your service

6 Ensure your front of house team understand your diagnostic pricing structure

5 Concisely communicate the process, its benefits and costs to your customer in layman’s terms through all channels

The is the usual response when this subject is discussed in a group and I interpret this as “show me how to bring this to life in the real world.”  It’s a fair retort and here’s how we do just that.
A key thing to consider is the journey a customer takes prior to calling your garage. They’ll obviously have experienced a problem with their vehicle and your website could well be the first contact point with your business after a Google search. The client will no doubt research your services and at it’s your first opportunity to get the relationship off on the right foot and help answer their “how much?” question. Here are some key points you’ll need to address.

A. Ensure your website creates trust and shows you as an authority. Have you won awards in this area? Do you have diagnosis specific reviews on your diag pages? Help your client to build a picture of your competency and the value you offer

B. Make it plain for a client to understand what’s required to ensure a successful repair. Their perception may be that the tools fix the car and that needs to be addressed. It’s an opportunity for you to set yourself apart from other businesses that may seem similar to yours. Here’s an example on some copy that does just that: “Accurate and efficient diagnosis is a combination of the right information, the correct tooling, and a highly skilled and knowledgeable technician.” It concisely helps the client to understand the key components required for success

C. Give your client an explanation of the process you follow. Bullet point this so the information can be easily digested.

Here’s an example of the points we’d recommend when explaining to a client how your carry out your evaluation:

1 Client consultation gives our technicians the opportunity to gather important and relevant information about your problem

2 Inspecting the vehicle with you ensures that our understanding of your fault is in line with yours

3 All vehicle systems are interrogated for current and historic faults

4 Technical service bulletins are consulted for known issues and software updates

5 System data is evaluated highlighting anomalies and identify tests required to identify the cause of your fault

6 Technical information is consulted to ensure accurate testing

7 Initial tests undertaken to ensure a first time fix

8 Test results analysed and client called with recommendations

Points A through C set the scene for the main event, which is the one question that needs to be answered:“How much does a diagnostic evaluation cost”. Here’s an example of how this can be answered.
“Each fault is different so the final cost of diagnosis depends on the number and type of tests required for your vehicle. Our initial evaluation costs £XX.XX. This typically includes points 1 through 8.
“Should the number of tests required exceed the initial evaluation then we’ll contact you with our recommendations.”
It’s an accurate and fair statement that sets the scene for future communication. It also has the added benefit of managing a customer’s expectations and could minimise the number of clients that ask “Can’t you just plug it in?”It’s a win-win for all concerned.
As with all systems consistency is the key. You’ll need to ensure the same story is conveyed by phone, at reception and in any sales literature, but the time required to set this in motion is far outweighed by the long term benefits this will bring to your team, your customers and your business.

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