Read Part 1 here. Jump straight to Part 3 if you like to skip another 865 words.

What I can do to provide customers with better solution when it comes to diagnostics time charges?

After doing this job for two decades I have to admit I don’t have a complete solution that would be as good for me as it is for the customer (and vice versa). I have been working in different places with different policies, none of them were perfect for everybody.

There are places that do not charge customers for diagnostic time, or only charge some fixed diagnostic fee regardless of how long it takes to diagnose a problem. It sounds like the best deal for customer but there are not so many good things in life that you can get for free. Shop owner still have to pay wages for diagnostic technician. Having that much knowledge, skills and some talent that diagnostic technician should possess he won’t be happy getting low pay. Actually he is hardly going to be happy with mediocre salary either. Although from average shop owner point of view diagnostic technician “does not make money”, this guy “is only wasting time” and constantly complaining about “lack of equipment”. Why the hell pay him anything at all? 🙂

Good shop owner understands true value of diagnostic technician and his importance to the shop reputation. Solid reputation allows to charge more for shop services and this extra income allows to pay diagnostic tech what he deserves. This extra income comes from customer’s pockets, so what happens is that every customer subsidizes “free diagnostics” for some who need it.

Average shop owner does not understand value of diagnostic technician, does not pay him wages he deserves and sooner or later good diagnostic technician goes somewhere else. Very typical in this industry, by the way.

Another model that is getting popular is to charge customer for as much diagnostic time as it was approved by that customer. It is straight and honest way but it is not quite convenient for customer and not always efficient. Diagnostic time can not be estimated precisely because diagnostic is only needed where we dealing with unknown. The best diagnostic path is known only after problem is found. I know how long it would take to diagnose a problem when I know what is the problem!  Before that I can only make a guess how long it’ll take me to figure out what the problem is. My guess in this case is what I would quote for diagnostic time.

After that things could go in one of the three ways.

1. Customer approves my quote and the time I quoted happens to be sufficient to complete diagnostic process. By the end of this time problem gets found and sometimes even fixed. Customer gets diagnostic report stating what is causing concern with customer’s vehicle and how diagnostic technician came to this conclusion. Everybody is happy and customer can make a decision whether or not proceed with actual repair (replacing a part, repairing wiring or something else). This what actually happens in most cases but not every time.

2. Customer approves my quote but the time I quoted happens to be not sufficient to complete diagnostic process. Now I have to refit all the parts that were removed for access or inspection, write a diagnostic report listing all the checks, circuits, connectors, parts that were completed, inspected, removed and reinstalled with all the results of diagnostic process except the most important one – what is the cause of concern. Now customer is provided with this diagnostic report and new quote for additional diagnostic time. He/she might approve it and cycle goes again, including removing again for access parts that I’ve just reinstalled. Otherwise extra diagnostic time does not gets approved and customer leaves after paying for few hours of labor with the report that is not very useful for customer or another diagnostic technician in different place (I myself never rely on diagnostic results from another technicians, whoever they were). No one is happy including me. Yes, I got paid for my time but I missed the satisfaction of finding a problem.

3. Customer only approves some part of diagnostic time that was quoted. This is almost definitely the recipe for failure. There is only a small chance that I would be lucky to find a problem within that time. If not then we are going back to refitting removed parts, writing a report and charging customer for something that does not have a value. Everybody is frustrated, including me. Although at least I am getting paid for my time.

This is why this business model is better for retaining qualified technicians and there are better chances for customer to find a good diagnostic technician in a place that is charging customers for diagnostic time.

Is this model perfect? No, because diagnostic technician time is not being spent in the most efficient way and because for the money that were spent on that time customer is not necessarily getting valuable result.

Now it seems like I’ve told you all the reasons why I want to try some different policy. Go to Part 3 to read about it.

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