In last week’s blog we talked about a scenario where a contractor was losing money in their service department, and did not want to raise rates because customers were already complaining. We ended that blog by saying while it might make sense to shed a department that was losing money, that may not be best for your firm in the long run.
The answer is not to shed service, but rather charge enough to make money in service, and the way to do that is by flat rate pricing the service rate. This way it takes the focus of your company away from the “per minute” rate and puts it on the quality of your company.
Contractors have told me their customers want:
- Prompt service
- Thorough service
- Things fixed right
- The fix stays fixed
- Fair Price
You cannot do the first four by undercharging your customer. And just what is deemed to be a fair price to the consumer? When you offer the customer a $65 or $70 per hour rate that is BELOW cost in many situations, they hoot and howl about the rate since THEY DO NOT MAKE THAT AMOUNT OF MONEY IN THEIR JOB! And if they do, they sure don’t want their pool guy to make that amount!
The only way to charge your customer is by quoting them a single amount for the entire job that includes all labor, parts and expenses and do that before the repair is performed. In the construction or remodel part of your business it’s called a quotation. In the service department it’s called Flat Rate Pricing.
Flat Rate Pricing is advantageous because the customer doesn’t nit pick your hourly rate, what you’re charging for the part, your tech taking a call on his cell phone or having a smoke. Again, it’s the ability to focus your company on the quality delivered, not on the per hour rate that you are charging.
So now you can go up to an hourly rate that is ABOVE your breakeven. You can now make a profit on what you sell. But there are other financial benefits to flat rate pricing.
Each flat rate repair has a time allotment that is based upon what a journeyman tech would take to do a repair under normal working conditions, with a little time added for working conditions. If the tech finds 2 or 3 items that need work, there are economies of scale because the tech should be able to do all items in less time.
Let’s look at a service scenario. A tech goes to a home in response to a noisy pump. The tech finds that the bearings on the motor are bad but also finds the burners on the heater need cleaning and the time clock mechanism has rusted to the point of keeping the pump running continuously. In a time and material scenario the tech goes to the house, changes the pump and then goes on to the next service call. At $75 per hour the contractor billed out $304 for the motor and $75 labor for an invoice total of $379.
In a flat rate scenario, the tech charges the customer a diagnostic fee, takes the time to thoroughly analyze the entire pool and spa system, and then makes recommendations for all repairs. Now the repair is thorough, professional and gives the customer options to buy repairs suggested because of the pool pro’s professional diagnostic. With finding the dirty burners and time clock mechanism, the repair is larger and done along with the original reason why he was there, the motor. Now the call went to $786, taken from the flat rate manual based upon $100 per hour (not a rate shared with the customer) which includes $391 for the motor, $100 for the burner cleaning and $246 for the time clock mechanism, PLUS the $49 for the diagnostic. This repair yields a significantly higher margin. Now the service company makes a profit!
Good news, right? Well the better news is that the customer PREFERS the flat rate scenario because you gave them the option to accept or decline the repairs before the job was started and they fully knew how much the check amount was that they were going to write before they committed. This is far preferable to the open ended way that time and material contractors charge.