Going After Profitable Market Share
Advertising in Yellow Pages under Locksmith section
- Most emergency calls come from YELLOW PAGES.
- Dedicated lockout ads have little competition.
- Headline your ad to read . . “KEYS LOCKED IN YOUR CAR?”
- Split the ad with other companies . . . when possible you can run 4 spots for the price of one or one large full page.
- Choose the phone book which is distributed most to the phone booths.
Establish yourself as a reliable company to call
- Let local business know this is a service you provide.
- Restaurant Managers, Parking Garages, Law Enforcement, etc.
- Reprint your yellow page ad and post Wherever possible.
Getting employees equipped and trained
- Start up costs for everything needed is reasonably inexpensive.
- Train from this free web site.
Questions to Ask the Calling Customer
First determine the customers location to get an idea of the time involved with this potential job. Knowing driving distance and your time will help to quote costs later in the conversation.
Its important to ask exactly where the keys are locked within the vehicle. They could be lost or in the trunk. If lost, are you equipped to produce a working key? If locked in the trunk, ask what type of remote trunk release, if any, the vehicle may have available. Most 1990 and up models have remote releases activated by electric switch or manual pull wire types. Pull wire types are of no trouble to us, where the electric type could be in the glove box which may be locked, or the battery my be dead, or the ignition needs to be on to power the switch.
If electric and located in the glove box, ask if they keep it locked. Seldom are they locked. Can you pick a simple glove box lock? Once in the car and in the glove box we may need to get power to the release switch.There are ways to supply 12 volts to the switch without use of the ignition switch. The surest way is through the fuse panel or directly off any 12 volt battery. This is dangerous due to the high amperage supplied from auto batteries. The temporary jumper wire becomes a potential welding device if touched to exposed metal other than the trunk release switch.
Ask for useful phone numbers, such as a car phone. Ask the make, model, year and whether it is a 2 door or 4 door. Often the opening methods listed in your car opening book are different between the 2 and 4 door models of like generations.
Quoting Terms and Price Options
When pricing the job ask for the form of payment they intend to use. If by check you may want to know if it is from a local bank before accepting that form of payment. If payment becomes a problem, you may suggest calling a friend to put the charges on the friends credit card. Be creative, after all, these people have found themselves in an unfamiliar situation.
Pricing the job and getting the job is the goal. Success is often hit and miss until you get the hang of quoting. Your response time is a major factor in the mind of the customer, so quote your time as, “I can leave now” with an estimated time of arrival. Time and costs go hand in hand, therefore quote them both together.
Arriving at a price requires quick calculating. We use a rule of thumb which starts with the standard 9 to 5, Monday through Friday rate your area normally charges. In town is $35. From there we will add $5-10 if the job site is beyond a ten miles radius. After work hours add another $5-10. Weekends, when less competition is willing to take jobs, add another $5-10. On holidays ask for double the standard $35, dollar rate plus any add ons. Therefore, We sometimes require $75, and up to as much as $100 if it is a night call, a long drive and a holiday.
Our area is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the most visited park in the nation. This area attracts 6 million vehicles a year, all out of town, with no other option other than to accept someone’s quote. The key is to keep the conversation going to get the job. If they feel your price is out of range, remind them they have the option to set an appointment during Monday through Friday standard hours. Be there early AM, and often they will accept those terms. At last ditch, people love discounts. Offer them a 10% discount. The 10% is easy to calculate, for both you and the customer.
This industry has always been under paid work considering we have to drop everything we are doing and out the door. Any other service provider always charge no less than $60 for the first hour. Computer repair, Sears, plumbers and the like also schedule an appointment. Our business advantage is the low start up costs. All that’s needed is a one time purchase of a lockout kit. Maintaining your kit at most is equal to the cost of a single tire each year. Most years you only have to update to the newest edition instruction manual.
First Steps at the Job Site
Confirm the vehicle to be opened: Often, even the most seasoned technician dives into the opening procedure before the first few quick and easy steps are accomplished. After introducing yourself to the customer you must confirm the year of the vehicle through interpretation of the V.I.N #. This is easy as your manual has this guide posted throughout the Z-Tool System Manual. Simply count from left to right the 10th digit and compare to chart.
You would be very surprised at how many customers only guess at the year, make and model. If you take their word without confirmation you may look up the wrong generation vehicle and never get it opened.
With the year confirmed, go to the rear of the vehicle and note the vehicles placard name, as that placard is the name you will find the vehicle listed under, less the DX,HX,LX,SI,EX etc., as those are most often reference to trim line which has nothing to do with the vehicle model. We only care about the basic name. For example, a placard for a Honda, Civic EX would be listed at the vehicle index guide as Civic. Therefore you need four pieces of confirmed information to look up the exact opening method. Again, those four are: the make, model, year and whether 2 or 4 door.
Previously Attempted Opening
There is an easy way to determine if someone else has attempted to open the vehicle before you without having to ask the customer. Simply inspect the glass on the door you are about to open before you start that opening. Never skip this step and make it become your personal habit. There are always streaks of dirt from the tools sliding in and out of the door cavity. All you have to do is look before you dive in to avoid potential trouble.
Seldom does anyone give up on car openings. If the person before you did give up, they often left the job due to hearing or feeling themselves knock a linkage off, or even worse, knocking the linkages off all doors. The customer may later look to you for the repair costs if you neglect to take the proper steps to avoid such a situation.
If there are smudges and streaks found at the door assigned by your manual, then look to open the opposite side door if that door hadn’t also been attempted. Most often that opposite door will be the drivers door.
Opening the opposite door is often more difficult with added risks. One main concern is being forced to insert tools within a door cavity which has yet to be tested. The opposite door is seldom researched, therefore you are experimenting when forced to the other side of the car. The instructions will become some what reversed, but still manageable to follow.
The drivers door latch is often different and more costly to repair if things go wrong. Also, if you are forced to the drivers door and you end up disabling that door, the driver would then have to enter the car from other doors until repairs are made. This is the primary reason I first look to the passenger side doors for opening solutions.
If you find no available doors with which your manual says to open, a damage release form must be signed before continuing the job. There is a box on the release form covering previous opening attempts. Be sure to give one of the carbonless copies to the customer as there is nothing better than the signed paper to remind them you are not responsible for what ever the other guy did before he fled.
If you arrive to find the manual lock linkages are knocked off at all doors, there is a sure way to open most any vehicle, if you have the correct tools and knowledge.
- Extra long curved forceps.
- A reliable door cavity light with a long wand that feeds down into the door cavity.
- A Z-Tool with the mini box hooks in good condition. Good condition meaning sharp edges inside the hooks. By-the way, file the sharp edges inside the hooks once in a while. The sharper they are the better they grip.
How this last ditch opening works: All cars with a linkage connected to the key cylinder can be opened. The trick is to disconnect that linkage by surgery or by force. You will know you have a hold of the key cylinder linkage by placing your finger over the face of the lock as you move the linkage with the Z-Tool. The vibration and movement of the plug is very confirming on most lock systems.
First grab onto the key cylinder linkage with the Z-Tool and do not let go. Using the forceps and door cavity inspection light, disconnect the linkage clip which holds the linkage to the tail of the lock. After the clip is disconnected simply push down or pull up on the linkage with your Z-Tool to open.
If you have no forceps, the Z-Tool can grab the linkage and with brute force break the connector clip free (if made of plastic). Most are the plastic type. Some are steel which are pushed free with light pressure in the right spot. Keep your bind on the linkage as it breaks free so not to drop it. Again, simply push it down or pull it up to open.
Both surgery and breaking free methods will require the door panel to be removed as the manual lock linkage was disabled in the first place. Some panels are quite difficult to remove without causing further damage to the panel itself. No reason to offer your hourly rate to repair all doors unless you have a stock of all types of clips. Our opinion is to let the customer take the car to their local dealership who know their door panels and the tricks to remove them best.
Flat bar tools are almost always the cause of this situation. It used to happen all the time, but today very few people use flat bar tools.
Beware of window tinting film:
If your manual only gives you one choice to open a vehicle by using the Under-the-window tool and the vehicle has after market window tint, there is a chance it can become scarred or torn in the opening process. The models that have curved glass is most at risk, due to the tool sliding along the inside of the glass. There is a box on the Authorization/Damage release form to cover this situation. Explain the potential problem to the customer and have them sign the release form before you start the opening procedure.