February 11

Why We Don’t Give Over The Phone Estimates

Car Maintenance, Podcast


Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience, 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are we doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So your company, as a policy, basically doesn't really give over the phone estimates. Is there a reason why.

Why Don't You Give Me A Price Over The Phone?

Bernie: So, yes, we rarely give over the phone estimates, and there's a few reasons why. Largely, we want to make sure that when you come into our shop that you get what you expect. If we tell you it's $200 to do a certain job, you come and it's $400, or it needs a whole bunch more work, that really sets a stage for not a great relationship, and probably some disappointment on your behalf.

The thing about estimating car work is it's pretty complicated. Even if you think, oh, I know it's this one part, often there's a lot more involved. I can think of a couple of examples. Recently we had a client who had a Mazda 3, called us up and said I need an alternator replaced in my vehicle, very sure that it was the alternator. Now, we didn't actually do an over the phone estimate for him. He brought the vehicle in. We looked at it, and found that the battery terminal was loose. Now, had we told him it was $600, for example, to do the alternator, I mean of course, he would have been very pleasantly surprised that the bill was under $100.

But oftentimes when someone would call and say, "Hey, I need an alternator," and we say it's $600, and we get the vehicle in the door, and by the way that's just a round, off the top of my head guessed price, we may find that there's belts that are worn out. There are bolts that are seized. A number of other things, some things we don't even know until we take it apart. But, generally speaking, we don't know what you're really going to need until we look at the vehicle, until we actually start taking things apart.

Mark: So you're just trying to create a good customer service experience by setting proper expectations prior to actually seeing the vehicle.

An Accurate Price

Bernie: Exactly. Another example we frequently get people asking, "I need front brakes in my car. How much is it?" Well, our normal response is, "We need to do a brake inspection first to see what you need." There are so many things that can affect brakes. I mean, normally, it's just brake pads and rotors, but often the calipers can be seized. Sometimes if the vehicle's older, it'll be brake hoses. Does the brake fluid need to be flushed? There's a variety of things, so we really want to make sure we do the right service, and with the right quality parts. Again, knowing who you are, what your expectations are as a client is important, but we need to know what the vehicle actually needs. It's truly a waste of everyone's time to make an estimate over the phone if we don't really know exactly what you need.

Mark: This sounds almost like you're caring more about the relationship with your customer rather than just, wham, bam, here's our price, $29.95 for an oil change.

A Correct Diagnosis

Bernie: Exactly. Thank you, Mark, for mentioning that. That's exactly right. We really care to establish a relationship with you based on honesty, trust, and that we're going to do the right thing for your car. That takes a bit of a process. Again, a feel between whether we're the right shop for you, whether you're the right client for us, and whether we're going to do the car service the way you want. That involves a bit of a dialogue, a conversation as to how long are you going to keep your car, what you're going to do with your vehicle.

I guess we could just stick brakes on, and we could give you an idea of the price, but really that doesn't serve you well in terms of what are your driving needs? Maybe you need a better grade of brake pad or something. We tend to look at the whole vehicle to kind of give you a big picture of what you need. So, yeah, the relationship is really what we're looking at.

Mark: Cars have gotten just a touch more complicated these days. I'm sure there's opportunities where somebody might say, "Well, I need a new X," and there's five other things that might be wrong up or downstream from that particular part that they're referring to.

Each Vehicle Is Unique

Bernie: Absolutely. I mean, cars are extremely complex. I'm thinking, again, of a couple of things where people might call and say, "I need an oxygen sensor replaced," because there's a certain trouble code in their vehicle. Without us diagnosing it and rally looking at it in detail, it's hard to know for sure that it is in fact the oxygen sensor, a wiring problem or something else. I mean, most of the time it could well be the oxygen sensor but, again, without doing a proper diagnosis it's hard to know for certain.

Another area I'm thinking, I had a client recently who called, how much is a thermostat on a particular BMW? Well, it's a lot more complicated than that. Often with BMW's there's plastic hoses, pipes. Do we need antifreeze, are the belts worn? It's a little more complicated than just changing the thermostat, and every car's different. It isn't the same thing every time. There's a variety of things that need to be changed. So, yes, the complexity makes a big difference.

Mark: And the complexity of how the car's actually been driven and maintained in previously also makes a huge difference, I'm sure.

Bernie: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I was thinking, back in the days, you know, when cars needed tuneups. A lot of shops would advertise a $69.95 tuneup for a four cylinder engine. Well, you knew you were going to need four spark plugs, and it was going to take ... They're all kind of the same. There wasn't a lot of variety, but nowadays, I mean, every car's different. There's a different amount of time to change the spark plugs. The types of spark plugs vary. I mean, a tuneup is not really a service you need any more, but there are different tuneup items that can be needed. So, again, it's all kind of customized.

Mark: And each manufacturer builds their vehicle in a different way, and their computer systems are different, etc., etc. Is that right?

Bernie: Exactly, and sometimes if you replace a particular part, especially if it has any electronic component, it'll need to be reprogrammed to the vehicle. This is happening more and more with newer vehicles. It's not just plug and play any more. Things are getting more and more complex.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for some service on your vehicle in Vancouver, and you want honest guys who are going to look after you for a long time, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604 ... Bernie, you do it.

Bernie: 327-7112. You can also watch our podcast. I know you know the addresses better than I do, but just search Pawlik Automotive on the internet. You'll find our podcasts, our videos, there's tons of them out there. Thank you, Mark. Thank you for watching.

Mark: Thank you Bernie.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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