People call in, get prices, make appointments and cancel them all the time. It’s pretty much a common occurrence. It’s my opinion that we in the automotive industry take this a little more personally than those in many other industries. Think of all the other instances of people making appointments after stopping by a booth at a state fair or some other function to get some kind of premium or other related promotional item.

First of all, you shouldn’t take it personally, as customers have been known to use some shops to quote one price before having another shop try to beat it. This is somewhat the same scenario that some of the big retail-electronics places experienced when customers would come into their places of business, look at the merchandise, talk to a salesman, get all the benefits listed, etc. and then buy the item online. What the big retailers did was say, “OK, we’ll match the prices of the people online.”

In your shop, if you have a customer call in for a job such as a brake job that is almost impossible to quote without an inspection, all you can do is offer prices on some of the fixed services that usually need to be done, such as pad replacement, rotor replacement, etc. There is no way you can know whether the car needs hoses, wheel cylinders, parking-brake cables or other items and quote for them. Some shops that lead by price switching would fail to even mention that to a customer.

If a customer makes an appointment with you but fails to show or calls shortly before to say he’s not coming in, oftentimes he won’t give you the real reason if you ask him why. If he does, there’s not really much you can do about it because the customer will then feel embarrassed by cancelling two appointments. He doesn’t mind cancelling yours but if he made an appointment face-to-face with someone who offered a lower price or if he is actually already at that location there is no way he is going to cancel it.

On a personal note, I have a family member who got a price on an air-conditioning compressor for a GM vehicle. A friend who runs the shop quoted him on a new compressor, flushing of the system, a warranty and all the things that should be done correctly. The price was $550-$600. This family member then went to a place where his wife has her car serviced and had the compressor replaced for about one-third less and feels that he got the same service. I actually saw the job ticket for what was done and essentially the compressor was replaced and the system was recharged. That was it. There was no flushing, no updating of components, no nothing. It was a bare bones, slam-bam-thank-you type of situation in which they took the customer’s money without really performing the service to the level at which it should have been done. The customer, however, thought he got a super deal and that the other shop was trying to cheat him. But nothing will ever convince this customer that the same job would not have been done at both locations.

The brand on the compressor that was put on the car isn’t a name brand. In fact, it has no name whatsoever. Rather than buying a compressor from one of the reputable major manufacturers, a compressor that probably was an import bottom-of-the-line unit was acquired and put on the car and does little more than bolt into the proper bolt holes. Nothing can be done now.

If a customer cancels an appointment, all you can do, in my opinion, is accept the fact that this happens and tell the customer that if the other repair doesn’t work out or if the price doesn’t come to be what was quoted and they need additional work to repair the lower-priced job, to please consider your shop again. It doesn’t do any good to get upset about it. You’re not going to win that battle. This is similar to the reason that airlines overbook. They know that a certain number of people are not going to show.

In your shop you anticipate work and schedule the workload of the day based on the appointments made. When someone cancels a job that normally would require three or four hours and for which you probably scheduled one of your top technicians, it can be financially devastating. Therefore, it’s beneficial if your shop has the ability to take call-in appointments on a short-notice basis or even walk-ins.

Customers who shop based only on price are troublesome. They are troublesome to the quality of your work. They are troublesome to your scheduling. Someone once said that you’re never going to be the absolute cheapest in town, so you might as well be the best. This is true, but often customers just don’t care. They look only at the short term and buy or make decisions based strictly on what they perceive to be the same quality of repair for a lower price. Don’t lose sleep over it. All you can do is run your business in an efficient, professional manner and try to do the right thing by people. You still need to make a certain amount of money to stay in business and it would be nice if it was true that if you are nice and fair to your customers they’ll be nice and fair to you, but that’s not always the case. Whenever you quote a price after a proper diagnosis, remember to explain the entire process instead of just saying a part needs to be replaced. Your thorough explanation can give that customer the confidence that they have made the right decision to come to your shop.