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Price Quotes On Repairs

18 Apr, 2001 By: Jim Intravia imageSource

Price Quotes On Repairs

Last month, I mentioned giving a customer a quote on a repair of their machine. That is a subject I believe needs more attention. Technicians like to work with their hands and that is a fact. The business and administrative duties of their job are often neglected. The word “typing” may be almost obsolete, and has been replaced with “keyboarding.” You probably don’t like to type, but people in management, who are constantly having papers shoved in front of them, do not like to have to slow down to read handwritten items. By this time, you had better have a computer, and had better learn how to punch out a simple letter. Proofreading, correcting and editing were never easier. The secretarial skills once necessary for this came free with your computer and you are foolish if you don’t use them. If you want to improve on them, there are probably classes available locally such as adult education, Microsoft seminars, etc. If not, just practice. Even if you type with two fingers, you can punch out a letter in a few minutes. You can then save it, and rework it for the next similar situation. Learn how to use some of the tools of your computer. For example, in Microsoft word “tools” has a spelling and grammar tool, which helps you to correct all the errors and grammatical mistakes that you might otherwise not be aware of.

Giving a customer a written quote on a proposed repair is not difficult. What is sometimes difficult is making money without looking like a crook. I personally do not like to itemize parts in certain situations. If I itemize items such as fuser rollers, drum blades, etc., it is counterproductive. The prices of the items will either appear too high or the labor will have to show as being too high. You cannot explain to a customer how much planning, expertise and experience goes into rebuilding a fuser unit. There is an unwritten and unspoken factor for mistakes and miscalculations. Every now and then, a brand new drum will self-destruct because of a flipped wiper blade. There is no formula for how to absorb that cost. In the end all customers subsidize that. If you eat all those incidents yourself, you go out of business eventually. There is no way to explain that to a customer. That is business. That is a form of overhead. When you pay your phone bill, you are not just paying for the call, but for the maintenance on the trucks, and for those phone gizmos that the workers all have on their belts. When you buy a can of beer, you are also paying for the flipped drum blade on the copier in St. Louis! All costs of business are passed along to end users, who then pass those costs along to their customers.

Do Not Itemize Too Specifically

Quotes do not necessarily have to be specifically itemized. Use broad terms such as “rebuild,” which does not specify items and procedures. This gives more room to work, and protection from being burned badly if there is a miscalculation. I sometimes send (usually fax to get things going quickly) a short letter.


“To put your copier in excellent running condition will require the following: drum and associated items, fuser unit rebuild and paper feed unit overhaul. Some other minor items will also be taken care of at that time. The total cost will be $550-650. All work performed will be guaranteed for 6 months or 20,000 copies. All parts will be ordered as soon as we receive your approval. To approve, you may initialize this letter and fax it back to us.”

A letter such as this reassures the customer that they are not issuing a blank check. It demonstrates that you know what you are doing, and that they will have a correctly working product when the work is completed. The warranty applies only to the work done, not to the entire machine. Although, I find that there is rarely a problem either explaining that, carrying it out, or bending my rules if something else happens.

As mentioned earlier, I prefer not to list the cost of each item, such as upper fuser roller, lower roller, bearings, pawls, drum, blade, paper feed clutches, feed tires, etc. By keeping the terminology broad (euphemism for vague) it sounds better, and gives you more flexibility and room to work. The “fuser rebuild” might include press roller, heat sleeves, bearings, multiple cleaner rollers, heat roller, and pawls. But you might find that the press roller and bearings are perfect and have a history of a long life. At the same time, you may discover a need to replace some missing springs and worn gears. By keeping your definition “broad”, you have flexibility.

Why Not To Itemize
If you itemize, some customers will try to get you to cut corners and will ask questions. In some cases, they may show the quote to another company, who can easily make you look bad if they choose to. It is rare for a customer to shop-around for a particular repair job to several dealers. When it does happen, it is almost always a customer who is concerned only with price. If so, they can always find someone cheaper. Your quality of work doesn't matter if they go elsewhere. These customers will feel that you would have overcharged them. You can't win them all, but that doesn’t take away the lost business or the embarrassment. It would be interesting to find out how they really made out with the “cheaper” competitor, but we rarely get that opportunity. As a former employee once said of an unhappy customer, “They can always find someone worse.”

Try To Deliver For Less Than The Quote

I generally quote a range that is higher than what I expect to charge. Obviously, the lower your quote, the more likely you are to get an approval. However, the repair business is not an exact science. You must factor in unknown events. When the job is done, you can adjust downward if everything went perfectly. You may choose not to. Some other day, you may choose to “throw in” something. You can't do that if you work too close to the bone all the time. One year later, the customer will remember that the machine worked well or that it didn’t. If the cost of that work was $600 or $750, it will not matter. If the machine works well, they will be happy. If it doesn't, they will feel they did not get their money's worth, no matter how little you charged. If it were a perfect world, there would be no copier technicians. I don’t think that it is so perfect!

Shop Quotes

Machines that are brought into our shop are usually turned over quickly, in a day or two. We do not usually send letters, but make phone calls. People who work as secretaries and receptionists tend to have better telephone protocol than technicians. The technician and/or principal diagnose the equipment and list what is needed and how much it will cost. Office personnel then call the customer with the estimate. Typically, we will note on the shop ticket if the machine is worth fixing or not. Since shop machines nearly always have a flat rate labor rate, we often list the items and prices separately. However, in many cases, we will follow the same guidelines as stated earlier, using words such as “rebuild,” “overhaul,” etc. Our finished ticket will usually list the cost of each item. Bear in mind that shop machines (generally purchased for well under $1000 new) require many different procedures than field machines.

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