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#158802 - 09/04/06 09:20 PM Charging for troubleshooting  
electrode25  Offline
Junior Member
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 3
Ok guys here is my problem, i use a lump sum price for residential, but when it comes to troubleshooting idont know what to tell the customer on the phone about pricing. I don't give out my hourly rate that i use to find the cost to do my jobs.I know some calls could be short and some calls you could be there all day depending on the problem.What do you think i should do? Thanks .

Business, Office, Estimating, Legal:

#158803 - 09/04/06 09:31 PM Re: Charging for troubleshooting  
bot540  Offline
Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 174
Vernon Hills, IL
When people call me I give them my hourly rate and inform them of my service fee. I also assure them that I will be able to find and fix the problem in a timely manner versus a cheaper less experienced handyman. If they don't want to pay then thats too bad, they don't get my services. Don't give your work for free, also you may want to charge something like a service fee or hourly minimum for the service call that took you 45 minutes to drive to just to find a light bulb not screwed in all the way.

Jesus may have been a capenter,but God was an electrician.Genesis1:3

#158804 - 09/05/06 06:56 AM Re: Charging for troubleshooting  
Dnkldorf  Offline
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,064
nowhere usa
Contract pricing can kill you too on troubleshooting.

You have be real good at knowing the cause up front. If you figure in 2 hours and a trip, and it take you 6 hours you lose also.

A couple more options for T&M pricing would be:

1. Charge a 2hr minummum.(or 3)
2. Charge a higher 1st hr rate, then reduce it to standard rate. (ie, first hr at $125hr, then $75 hr thereafter.)

#158805 - 09/05/06 07:37 AM Re: Charging for troubleshooting  
mahlere  Offline
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 507
New Jersey
i'll let y'all slug this one out [Linked Image]

Les, how long have you been doing service calls flat rate?

[This message has been edited by mahlere (edited 09-05-2006).]

#158806 - 09/05/06 11:53 AM Re: Charging for troubleshooting  
Dnkldorf  Offline
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,064
nowhere usa
I don't think we are slugging? Are we?

I thought the OP asked for suggestions, and we gave him different options to think and play with.

It's up to him to decide what works best for his business..

#158807 - 09/05/06 12:25 PM Re: Charging for troubleshooting  
Celtic  Offline
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 361
Someday I'll tell you about the $6,000 GFI...

~~ CELTIC ~~
...-= NJ =-...

#158808 - 09/06/06 12:28 AM Re: Charging for troubleshooting  
briselec  Offline
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 141
Brisbane, Australia
what we discovered was, when you send a man on a service call, and the job took 3 hours including trip time, all we recovered was the rate, the non billed hours were never covered

So why couldn't you have simply taken the amount of non-billable hours into account when working out your hourly rate for service work.

#158809 - 09/06/06 12:31 AM Re: Charging for troubleshooting  
briselec  Offline
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 141
Brisbane, Australia
but when you are charging hourly, and you are fast, you most likely loose money on every call

That's why I have a minimum service call charge that covers the average amount of travelling time plus 1 hour labour. The guy that is fast and organised will make more than someone slow.

#158810 - 09/06/06 07:07 AM Re: Charging for troubleshooting  
Dnkldorf  Offline
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,064
nowhere usa
Les, most (90%) of what I do is T&M, as you guys know. How am I losing money?

If I get a call, while I am at one job, and have to leave to take care of someone one else. I bill T&M, point to point. You have to bill from the time you get the call, until you get back to the job and start working again. Otherwise,(this is where we agree) you will lose billable hrs.

Being fast or slow?

Both have some drawbacks. Being quick may decrease billable hrs, but it builds customer confidence, and then the most important, word of mouth advertising. That customer tells his/hers friends. Even if I lost 1/2hr of billable time, from here to there, I gained it in advertising.

Being slow, could lead to customer dissatisfaction, and scheduling headaches. But can increase biillable hrs.

This is where knowing your customer base is vitally important.

My customer base wants their problems fixed quick. Downtime is expensive. It can be $1000's/hr to them. They don't care (to an extent) what I charge. They look at lost time and production.

Same can be said about residential customers. Some may be at home all day, and really don't care how long things take. They are there all day. On the flip side, some may have to schedule themselves there, and want it fixed as quickly as possible.

So let's agree on this. T&M run wrong can lead to loses. Contract pricing run wrong can lead to loses.
Both run right, can be prosperous....

#158811 - 09/06/06 07:54 AM Re: Charging for troubleshooting  
mahlere  Offline
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 507
New Jersey
"So let's agree on this. T&M run wrong can lead to loses. Contract pricing run wrong can lead to loses.
Both run right, can be prosperous...."

Dnk, i actually agree with you on most of this. The big caveat comes in when you have employees. Different employees = different speeds = different prices to the same customer for the same work.

As a one man shop, it's much easier to justify your time charges and build customer confidence.

Start adding employees to the mix and T&M can erode customer confidence. We've learned this from personal experience over the years.

And yes, employees can lose you money on contract work. However, here is the difference- I can monitor employees on contract work and either correct any problems or fire an employees that habitually misses the mark. But in the process, I can still keep the customer happy and not put my companies incompetence on their shoulders (slow work = higher T&M)

T&M with multiple employees can work when your customer has multiple facilities run by different managers who have no stake in what's paid for maintenance. And the bills are paid by a single person who never goes onsite.

It also makes a big difference whether it's commercial or residential.

Commercial customers expect some level of T&M (what's your hourly rate?)They are typically more willing and amenible to paying travel time or portal-to-portal.

Residential customers do not understand the cost of doing business. They don't care about the cost of doing business. In addition, every dime paid (typically) is their money. They care about their money. Try billing Mrs. Homeowner for portal-to-portal and see how well that flies. "I know we were only here for 30 mins Mrs. Jones, but we had 45 mins travel each way, sot that is why your bill is for 3 hrs" Think that would get you repeat work or referrals?

As for raising you hourly to compensate- I think it's already been determined that if you are doing primarily resi/lt comm service work, you are only productive around 50% of the day. So if you determine your hourly rate at $70/hr for an 8 hr day, you now need to charge $140/hr for the 4 productive hours (actual hours on site that the customer will actually pay for)

If you can get Mrs. Homeowner, who typically won't pay travel, to agree to $140/hr with no predetermined end, than you deserve credit.

Another big difference is in getting paid. For a residential customer, "Mrs. Jones, the total cost will be $450. Mr. Electrician, that is fine. Please proceed"

Now, Mrs. Jones knows what the job will cost and is expected to pay me when I am done. vs.

"Mrs. Jones, we are all done. It took a little longer that we had hoped, but here is the bill - 3 hrs labor x $70, etc, etc."

Mrs. Jones response "it shouldn't have take 3 hrs to change that ceiling fan. It should only have take 1.5 hrs. That bill is too high, i'm not paying for 3 hrs. I'll pay you for 1.5 hrs, etc)

What do you do? You weren't there, your employee was. Did he move really slow? Did he have problem? Now you have do an effective case of selling your problems to a customer to get them to pay you for work that was already done. So you spend another 30-60 mins explaining to Mrs. Jones why it took you 3 hrs instead of 1.5. She tells you about the 4 cigarette breaks the installer took, etc.

So you have already installed the light. Already put in your time and provided whatever material. You still have to pay your employee for all of the time it took (that's the labor laws in most areas) and now you are haggling with Mrs. Jones about paying you your full rate. Now imagine also trying to add on an extra hour for travel time?

Now, this information comes from my experiences in my area (NJ) I've discovered that there may be areas in the country where a residential customer would rather pay a T&M rate and get billed 3 hrs for a 0.5 hr call (instead of just knowing up front that the job will cost $400)

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