The value of detailed fee quotes and bills for professional work

Jul 4, 2007 | Pricing

It’s been a while since my last blog post on the subject of billing and fees. What has inspired me to return to the subject? Well, I’ve just had my car serviced and I was impressed with the sensible way that the garage both managed my expectations and the way they prepared their fee notes. I think there are lessons here for all ambitious professionals.

Having booked the car in for a service and MOT I received a phone call from the garage to advise me that the car needed a fair amount of additional work doing. This didn’t really surprise me as the car is 15 years old!

The garage owner ran me through the list of things that would be required and estimated the aggregate cost could be as high as £1,000 plus VAT. I asked for a firm quote which he then gave me the next day. The service would be £205, the MOT £50 and the extra work including labour and parts together would be £740. Together with VAT this would take the total cost to £1,164.43.

When I collected the car I received two invoices. One for the service and MOT. The other for all of the additional items and work. The total came to the same figure as I had already been quoted.

When I complimented the garage owner on the way the extra charges had been communicated to me and shown on a separate bill he told me why they do things that way:

1 – They always try to over-estimate what the extra costs will be so that customers get a pleasant surprise that the actual cost is less then the estimate;

2 – They always breakdown their estimates to distinguish the key elements BUT they always end a conversation by referring to the aggregate charge as they know that customers only focus on the last figure they heard. In my case that would have been £740 rather than £1,164.43.

3 – They always show the extra costs on a separate invoice so that customers do not get confused as to the charges for regular services etc. In this case I know that the basic charge is nearer £200 then £1,100 which is important if I was considering getting comparative fee quotes for similar work.

I think that many ambitious professionals could adapt these excellent practices to good effect. How would that work in your office for example?

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