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Son of Samurai's Blog

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Being the Technician in the Face of Overbearing Customers

Son of Samurai

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Sometimes, the hardest part of being a tech is dealing with the customer. Customers always have expectations, some reasonable and some not, and we have to manage these on top of performing our diagnostics and repairs.

A large part of being a real technician is knowing when to trust your own expertise over customer demands. This struggle generally manifests in two ways:

1. The customer has their own diagnosis that they're sure is correct. We've all encountered this before. Something along the lines of, "I know it's the belt -- I just need you to come out and change it." The moment you start to put any stock in this kind of "diagnosis", you're already on the wrong track.

You're the technician, you're the one who knows how to determine the failure. That's part of your job description, and if the customer isn't happy with that, then that's your cue to back out of the job. After all, if the customer knows exactly what the problem is, they're the one who should be doing the repair...

2. The customer thinks the repair should cost less. A similarly tricky situation. You've done your troubleshooting, found the problem, and given the quote for the job. But the customer just doesn't think the repair should cost that much. Maybe they even tell you to find a less expensive, generic part for the repair, just to cut the price down.

Again, as the technician, you know exactly how much time and labor goes into each repair. You know that OEM parts will almost always make a more reliable repair than generic ones, even if they do cost more. And of course, you know the cost of running your business and how much you need to charge to make it profitable. These are facts -- they aren't for the customer to debate.

The bottom line: it's your job to know what the right repair is and how much it costs. If the customer won't trust your judgement, then you either need to convince them of your credibility or collect your service call fee and leave them to find the trained monkey they're clearly looking for. Don't be cowed by the customer -- you're the tech. Own it.

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Well said.  Sadly there are a lot of companies that don't charge enough and make it difficult for those of us who know how much it costs to be profitable and dare I say maybe someday retire.  Customers have become increasingly pushy over the last several years with the increase of YouTube videos.  Apparently they know best and have cut into our business and we need to charge more.  In most cases it's not an issue but when it is, we sometimes need to walk away.  In the last 7 years since I left Viking and went on my own, there have been 5 cases where I will never grace a customers door sill again.  Not a lot but enough.  Customers don't know better and if they did they would've fixed it themselves.

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santacruzappliance

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Confidence, confidence, confidence! Walk in the door with friendly authority and CONFIDENCE, and immediately your customers will bow to your thrown. This works for me 99.99% of the time. I charge full blue book price and offer cash discounts when a customer hints at a pricery repair. I stick to my  policy (blue book) and confidence and it always works. Rarely is there ever a dispute or argument about pricing. IF my customer thinks its too much they typically humbly opt for replacing the machine. Customers, although they may not be conscious of it, are also paying for your competence and confidence in your work, along with the repair and your word/warranty.   

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abeygold

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How do you deal with a DIY  customer that they need you for troubleshooting and then after figuring  out that let's say you need a board replacement they tell you "the price is to high"  now they'll do it themselves.  So all you collecte is your diagnostic fee even though you spend time ,sometimes disassembling? 

Or you don't explicitly tell them what's being replaced on till you're done 

Edited by abeygold

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Son of Samurai

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Great question, @abeygold! One simple solution is to set your diagnostic fee high enough that it will weed out bad apples like this. For example, our diagnostic fee is $125 -- enough to make any DIY tire kicker think twice.

I'm actually working on a blog post that's directly related to this. It should come out later today, so stay tuned!

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My service charge is $160 and it covers the trip + the 1st 30 minutes labor after that it's $30.00 per 1/4 hour.  I get paid for time and the customer benefits from my experience.  When things go smoothly it's quick and easy, when things don't they pay more.  It all works out.  We only servie high end though, my average customer doesn't want to fix it.  Not saying there aren't tire kickers but its worth my time.  We are at a point in time where people need to pay more for what we do, we aren't operating fly by night companies anymore.  Those days are over, we carry computers to diagnose appliances, specific tools to access some appliances, all these things come with a price tag and we are entitled to get reimbursed for them.  Customers are better educated and so are we.  Some people don't understand why costs are so high but yet they're living in a home and like to enjoy some luxuries in life, we do too.  They have to pay for that, may sound greedy but is it?  

I remember my dad had a $14.95 service charge and was lucky if he walked out of someones home with $75.00 those days are over.  I've spent over $5000 fixing my van this year that now has over 260K miles on it.  On average I lose 1 in 20 calls due to my prices, I'm ok with that.  When they call their local handyman to service their Miele dishwasher and figure out they can't or it costs them double what it would've had they had me come out in the first place, they eventually come around.  Or they don't and I don't lose any sleep over it.  Times are changing folks.

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Great article.   Sore subject for most of us.

From my perspective, what I see/hear is that people don't understand cost-basis.  How much does it cost to run a profitable (not exploitational) repair business?  My question to someone questioning me is, "what's your basis of understanding?"  This usually throws them under the bus, and then I continue to parry - my time, my expertise, my cost of doing business (vehicle, insurance and a zillion other items) all factor into my cost.  I'll also typically see my competitor's fridge magnets on their fridge, so you know they're shopping for price, are overbearing, too picky, etc.  If they compare me to someone else, I'll ask if "someone else" is a full-time, trained, certified, licensed and screened professional service technician.  I'll ask if "someone else" is insured for a least a million in liability coverage (preferably two million aggregate), I'll ask if the customer prefers knock-off, non-warranteed parts or genuine OEM, fully waranteed parts -- you catch my drift.  Yes, you will have jerks.  I have almost 50 5-star Google reviews, all based on my commitment to my customers but I recently had a new-wealth (hubby's a relatively new dentist) lady throw me out of her house because I "dared" question her so-called "comparative analysis" after she balked at my very fair rate for a Samsung washer pump replacement.  She did that as a tactic to avoid paying me anything, including my service call fee.  She is very wealthy and very cheap and it was obvious that her "god" is money and control.  Even if I had done the job for nothing, it wouldn't have been good enough.  I could bill her but instead, blocked her in perpetuity.  And frankly, she did me a favor.  I don't have to deal with her again.  Be careful of this tactic and those where any claim of unprofessionalism, rudeness, etc., is used as a lever to avoid paying you.  It's not happened to me but one of my colleagues was even threatened with review extortion where if they didn't do exactly what the customer wanted, the customer was going to give my colleague a bad online review.  Sad that people like that exist - that activity should be criminal.

Also remember, you're the expert.  People will try to bowl you over, second guess you, condescend towards you, compare you, etc.  Hold your ground professionally, and as Scott mentioned in the article, if it gets into unprofessional zone -- name calling, yelling, threats, etc., it's time to collect your service fee and leave.  You'll also have people who want to haggle with you over nickels and dimes and the infernal comparison to Amazon and Ebay, which is NO comparison, but a contrast and you need to sell it that way.  I take the offensive when it comes to that because again, there is no comparison.  Do you want butter or do you want margarine? 

Lastly is the ever-growing awareness that appliance repair can be lucrative.  Over the years we've had and currently have, guys who will do $20 service calls here.  They're either working entirely for cash (illegal), supplementing Social Security, have another job or don't know how to run a business and don't last.  At that rate, they can't afford liability insurance and I've called a few out over that over the years, especially after cleaning up after a few of them and their often-times dangerous "workmanship."  Warn your customers that price and value don't typically go hand in hand.  If the tech is cheap, there's a reason.  And the bottom line, are you dredging the bottom for customers or building up a base of high-quality customers who you know, and who know you and will return to you because they know you're the "real deal."  Strive to be the real deal and you'll never have to worry about anything other than COD again.  Stay committed to training and all aspects of professionalism.  I find Appliantology and a few other resources exactly what I need to be a successful small businessman.  

Regards,

Bob
Lafayette Appliance Repair

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As they say

Skilled labor isn't cheap

and Cheap labor isn't skilled. 

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