Menu-based pricing for repairs has been around since the 1920s. It is a business model that has worked for most of the industry, but on modern vehicles, it is quickly losing its effectiveness as a way to sell services and repair vehicles. There is no doubt that menu pricing can simplify the selling of maintenance, but when it comes to solving brake, suspension and wheel assembly problems, it can create more problems than it can solve.
Up until the 1980s, a technician might have seen only three different basic suspension types, two types of drum brakes and maybe four caliper designs. Also, wheel assemblies almost never exceeded 15 inches, or were not equipped with tire inflation monitoring systems.
Today, shops see a plethora of designs and problems that are unique to a specific make and model. So having one-size-fits-all prices and procedures for every vehicle can be almost impossible, and rationalizing that you will make money on most and lose some on a few is an expensive falsehood.
In the eyes of the customer, the menu can give a false impression that picking an item on a menu can fix a problem, like how a dessert cart can satisfy a sweet tooth. Keep in mind that no matter how cheap the customer, their need and goal is to fix the problem on their vehicle. Also, selling off a menu to solve a concern can create more communication problems than it solves.
How do you get off the menu or at least stop using it as a sales crutch? The first step is communicating with the customer. The easy sell is not always the best solution to the driver’s problems. Getting approval up front for a menu job may seem like the path of least resistance, but typically with today’s vehicles it does not solve the problem and can result in miscommunication and extra phone calls where the shop could be put in a defensive position. Communicating with the customer can help to identify the concerns of the customer and reinforce trust and understanding.
The next step is to change your menu. The menu that the public sees should only include maintenance services like oil changes, coolant flushes and tire rotation. The word “job” should not appear on the board unless “job” is in the name of your shop. Instead of selling (or the customer requesting) jobs from the menu, you can now focus on selling inspection and testing services that can be far more profitable to you.
Using the terms “inspection and testing” are more accurate descriptions and imply to the customer that something is being performed on their vehicle. The term “diagnostic” to the customer has unfortunately been devalued and to them can mean someone pulling codes or sniffing the dipstick. Do not worry about not selling parts with testing and inspection procedures. The notion that you have to sell equal parts of labor and parts on the same ticket is not applicable to today’s vehicles.
Next, create your own internal menu of symptom-based inspection and testing services. The testing and inspection services should include prices and procedures for brake, steering and suspension systems. Personnel at the front counter should know the procedures backward and forward.
For example, if a customer asks for an alignment and the customer reveals that the vehicle is pulling to the left, you could sell them a symptom-based alignment service package that might include an alignment angle check and test drive. If your shop has a balancer that can measure lateral and road forces, you can include a “diagnostic” balancing service as part of the package.
You can package this service to the customer at one price. The customer will feel more confident that the service will lead to a full resolution to the problem. Also, if the customer says that the pull occurs during braking, you can include a brake inspection as part of the package. It also means that the technician in the bay is not working for free during the inspection process.
The next step is to start using customer interview forms that can be filled out by the service adviser or customer. Forms can help to reveal information that the customer might not typically give or the service adviser might not think could be associated with the problem.
One of the benefits of selling symptom-based testing and inspection services is that you can directly sell services that use expensive capital equipment like alignment equipment and balancers with tire force measurement features.