Re: For the guys who Do time and machine charge.
We do something like that, but package it differently so that we can present an understandable estimate to the customer.
A few quick questions during the initial phone call will pretty much let you suss it out, and you know what you are doing and what you are using.
we then 'flat rate' the first hour; a clogged toilet is x, a toilet that is backing up into a tub is clearly different, and that is $y, a sink that is clearly just the sink is $z, a sink that is a back to back takes a little longer and that is $z+a bit.
so we package a 1st hour/1hr minimum and a machine charge and trip charge into one number by fixture, and can then tell the customer after a few questions "I think I understand your problem, and unless I'm missing something it should be straightforward and we can solve it for $x. If we run into something unusual that takes some extra time, we charge $y/hr after the first hr, but we get 95% of them within an hr."
When I first started using this system, it seemed a little overly complex, but after a few years with it it makes a lot of sense to me. Customers feel they've been led down the path when you tell them you are whatever an hour and they get a machine charge and trip charge on top of the hourly, and it takes too long to explain it all over the phone and get them to understand it and it makes them think too much. Much cleaner to simply say kitchen sink = $x. And they feel better about having been told $x and then it's done and here's the bill and sure enough it's $x. And most of the time on, say, a sink I'm out in about 35 minutes. And I'd have coversations every day about how I billed for an hour but I was only there 35min while with this system those just don't happen. In fact it often turns it around to where I'm seen by customer as extra good because I got done quick for the $ I said I would and they can get on with their day.
Additional clogs are discounted from flat rate as I don't have to drive; like 'My laundy drain backed up and I need that cleared, and the sink in the kids' bathroom has been slow for months so can you do that too?' gets a price break on the second fixture. This is good for me as if I'm cranking and I get their 2 probs done in an hour, I still charge for 2 probs, not just the hour, so I get paid for being intelligent and effiecient instead of another guy who gets paid for being slow or milking it. And the cutomer still gets a break which is only fair because I didn't have to drive to another site.
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