Creating More Accurate Estimates

Customers are often complaining about service that came in at a different price than they were first told. Many times, at least in the automotive service industry this isn’t done on purpose. It’s a case where more parts were needed than anticipated, something went wrong during disassembly, or an operation was left off the original estimate. Is it possible to create more accurate estimates?

I believe that it is. In our classes shops often talk about many “work arounds” to poor estimates. The most popular of these is a % bump to an estimate to cover any unexpected cost overruns. Although I don’t hate the idea, and it is practiced by many, the challenge created in today’s selling environment is the inability to compete with someone’s price who isn’t adding a fudge factor to their estimate.

For me the easiest way to create more accurate estimates is to ask some simple questions to your technician. Understand that technicians think differently than most people who work the service counter. The service counter will make certain assumptions and then create and present an estimate only to find out there was more the technicians new about the repair. Asking the technician “is there anything that you expect could go wrong with the repair” can help draw out useful information to present to the customer. Using “In case the customer asks me how you know this is the problem for sure, can you show me?” can help to get a feel for how certain the technician is that he or she has found the problem. “Are there any other parts you may need?” is something I asked my technicians with every repair. I hated the unexpected as much as the customer did. After a while the technicians figured out that I’d be asking and I could count on them to just tell me!

After all, accurate estimates are really all about setting expectations. Having more information will help you set better expectations. By thinking like a customer, anticipating what could go wrong, and asking simple questions you can increase the accuracy of your estimates.

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