Diagnostic Fee, Service Fee, Trip Charge: Which One?

When using flat rate pricing with systems such as FieldEdge Flat Rate (Formerly Coolfront), we recommend charging a fee for the travel to the customer’s house and the first 15 minutes on the job.

But there is great debate among plumbing, HVAC, and electrical contractors over what to call this initial fee. Is it a diagnostic fee, service call fee, trip charge, or something else?

Diagnostic Fee vs. Service Call Fee

First, we need to distinguish between these two types of services: 

  • Diagnostic fees are primarily used in the HVAC and auto industries. In a nutshell you are charged a fee for figuring out the “why” behind a problem. Whether it’s a bad transmission or a noisy blower motor it takes time, skill and tools to diagnose the issue. 
  • Service call fees are most used in non-HVAC service businesses when a customer may already have a good idea of what’s wrong (e.g. a clogged toilet).

So Which Name is Right for Me?

Trip Charge – Our advice? Never use this term. You’ve got to build value in order to be successful and grow profits. It is much harder to build value into the term “trip charge.”

The homeowner might think they’re reimbursing you for gas money. That’s not the kind of image you want to display to your customers.

Diagnostic Fee – This term is best used by HVAC contractors. It promotes a value in the charge because a heating and air conditioning system is very complex. 

This verbiage helps the customer understand that time will be spent searching out the cause of their system malfunction and diagnosing a solution.

Service Call Fee – For plumbing and electrical contractors, we most recommend using the term “service call fee”. Since homeowners may know the issue with their electric or plumbing, a technician does not need to spend much time diagnosing, but rather confirming the issue. 

By calling the fee a plumber or electrician “service call fee” a contractor is now in a position to explain exactly what it will cover.

Regardless of what you call it, service call fees are a standard in many industries. And because your service technician drives to a call to diagnose a problem, they are providing a service and the business should be compensated for it. 

That’s why it is never a good idea to refund this service fee.

How to Tell New Customers about a Service Call/Diagnostic Fee

How do you let potential new customers know that you charge a service call/diagnostic fee?  Though it’s typically an industry standard, you may get occasional push back. Here are a few tips to explain why you charge for this service.

  • Be polite, yet direct with the customer. It’s fair to charge this fee to cover the time it takes to drive to a call, the cost of gas and an initial assessment.
  • The service technicians are trained professionals in their field. It’s worth a small fee for them to come out and troubleshoot the issue. 

One way for customers to get discounted HVAC service call fees is to purchase a maintenance agreement, which covers a yearly inspection to make sure your system is running smoothly. 

Some companies try to reel in customers with “free service calls.” But they are rarely “free.” This fee is either rolled into the eventual cost of the job. Or, if the customer decides they don’t want a repair, they are charged the full service call fee.

FieldEdge service software can help your business by simplifying all of your business charges in one app. 

Want to help out your techs and office professionals? FieldEdge can help manage service/diagnostic fees right on your employees phone or tablet. 

Streamline your tasks and increase revenue with: 

  • Time tracking
  • Price presentations
  • Transaction processing
  • Customer outreach automation
  • Communication between office and field

See how FieldEdge can further your employee’s success! Book your FREE personalized demo today!

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