Coincidentally, you pretty much have that now, but you call them “price shoppers.” And, you all but hang up on them because of what you read and hear from consultants and seminars. This type of thinking is for the old days, when people had only the Yellow Pages and picked shops to call because of the ads. Today, before a customer calls, they’ve checked out your website and online reviews. They are half sold on you already. You ruin the sale with your no-quote, “bring it in” attitude. Then, when they don’t make an appointment, you make it their fault and say, “Another price shopper.”
The phone book days are gone – it’s time for our industry to catch up.
As a service advisor, I look at that call as my time to shine. It’s my opportunity to “earn my keep” and to gain a new customer. I look at it as a treasured phone call from someone with a current car problem, who’s looking for a (new) shop to fix it. They are going to pick a shop. I want to be their car guy, unless they truly are a price shopper, which will become apparent rather quickly.
So what is this treasured call, really? They are searching for a brand new shop or disappointed with their current one. They have a car problem and don’t like what they are hearing from their current shop, or the neighborhood car guy who diagnosed it. They are in a predicament. They are shopping the only way they know how: by price. They probably won’t go to the cheapest or most expensive, which hopefully makes your shop a good option. They are feeling you out; help them choose you. They need their car fixed. Help them!
Converting the “Price Shopper”
It’s time to build rapport. Listen to their whole problem. Take your time with them and get their history. Learn about them and their family. Offer suggestions and advice. Be part of the solution. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in that order — however it comes out naturally.
Remember to promote yourself and your shop. Share how many years it’s been in business, combined years of expertise, training certifications, cleanliness, equipment, amenities, rides, etc. There is no right time to share this information, but the sooner the better. This may not be a quick call, but it seems a fair trade for a new customer.
Ask questions, including personal questions. You’re starting a relationship with someone who has no idea who you are, except maybe only by what your reviews say. I recall chatting with one guy about his recent move to California (hence the need for a shop), his work, his kids, kids sports, and then he said, “When can I bring my car in?” I never even got to promoting us! It was all about the relationship.
Now, it’s time to quote. Yes, give them a quote. Why? If they call five shops and three quote a price, they are not going to the other two. They have no idea of the cost. All they remember from you is saying, ”Bring it in.” Meaning, you want them to schedule two hours out of their day, or arrange a ride to and from your shop, just to get a quote? A water pump is a water pump. If it’s something else, they can’t hold you to it: you didn’t diagnose it, you quoted it. You want this potential customer to drop off their car, arrange a ride, and you won’t risk a simple quote?
As you’re working up that quote, it’s a great time to ask how they found you, why is it that they need a new shop and learn more about their problem. They want to hear that you know something about their car, their problem and some possible solutions.
Side note: If you quote book labor and list price for parts, they will probably go to a lower-priced shop. Someone else will get this NEW customer unless you sell him or her on your expertise, skill, experience, charm and charisma, etc. A lot of times it’s YOU they are buying.
If you still don’t want to do an exact quote, or if they press you for a quick quote because they don’t want to hear you promote your shop, you could easily say, “I’m not the most expensive and not the cheapest. I’m in the middle.” That is what most people are looking for anyway. Then, suggest that they don’t go to the cheapest. There’s a reason they are the cheapest.
If I find that we are not a good match for the customer’s problem, I still offer as much auto advice as I can. I tell them I’m here to help. That’s why we have good reviews. I even have a nice review from a price shopper who I helped over the phone and never even worked on his car. Remember, every caller has friends.
An Actual “Price Shopper” Call
“What do you guys get for an oil change on a Porsche Cayenne?”
I say, “About $210 (but forgot to say it’s an oil service, not just an oil change!!!). Are you new to the area?”
No, she’s been going to the dealer; it’s not going well, plus it’s expensive.
She asks: “Do you need it all day?”
I say typically yes, but offer her a ride to Starbucks during the oil service.
I ask, “How did you hear about us?”
Google and Yelp.
“Ya, we have great reviews. And that’s me! I’m Victor! (she chuckles)
I ask if she writes any online reviews. She says no. I kid her with, “You use Yelp and don’t contribute?” She chuckles again. I work in that the owner drives a Cayenne. She smiles. I tell her I own an old Porsche.
I don’t even get to tell her we are a Bosch Service Center when she says, “What’s your schedule this week?” I said nothing about how clean our shop is, how good our techs are, a ride, etc.
Spotting the True Price Shoppers
Here’s a tip to help spot the price-only shoppers. They want only a price, not a pitch or the “bring it in and we’ll check it out” response. Or, they ask, “How much for a radiator for a …?”
Be gentle when you ask: “How do you know it’s a radiator?” Most times they hate that, because they believe they already have a diagnosis. I disagree with the hook, “Bring it in so we can check it out ourselves,” or the extra salesy, “It might be something cheaper.”
I hope I’ve inspired you to try a different approach to the price shopper phone call. They say people can sense a smile over the phone, so make sure you display a cheerful, helpful, optimistic attitude. And, send me 10% of their first invoice.