Pianotech

  • 1.  Can't or won't.

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 17 days ago

    Can't or won't.

    People basically call you for two reasons. They either want to schedule an appointment or they want to know how much to charge. When people call to schedule an appointment because they've heard of you or feel confident that you'll be able to take care of their piano, they will schedule the appointment and maybe ask you how much you charge, as an afterthought. To them, the amount is not important, because all they want is their piano tuned, and they are willing pay almost anything to get it done, within reason. 

    However, when the first thing a customer asks is your price, most of the time they are price shopping. You might be able to get the appointment if you explain your qualifications, but when they say, "I'll think about it," or give you some other excuse, all they want is the lowest price, and they really don't care about the quality of the work. So unless you're one of the lowest priced piano tuners in your area, you probably won't get the appointment. 

    The same is true for when you recommend repairs or regulations. After you explain what repairs or regulations are needed, when the customer says they can't afford it, it means they want to get the work done, but really don't have the money. But when they say they have to think about it, or use any other excuse, then they would like to get the work done, but for whatever reason, they don't want to spend the money. 

    There is a difference between not being able to afford something and not willing to spend the money. Not being able to afford to get a repair done is a legitimate excuse, and there really is not much you can do to counter that excuse. You might be able to get them to spend the money if the piano isn't playing at all. But when the repairs are superfluous, or the regulation is something that is not absolutely necessary, when there's no money, there's no money.

    On the other hand, when the customer gives you all sorts of excuses, other than cost, why they don't want the repairs and/or regulations done, it means they are not willing to spend the money. For them the piano is not important enough to get the work done. However, and this is important, if you lower the price to entice them to get the work done, or if the customer offers to pay you less than what the work is worth, not only will the customer not appreciate the work you've done, but you'll wind up doing the work at a loss. Not only that, but the customer will be more demanding and expect a lot more than what you originally agreed to do. In the end, you will wish you had stepped away from the job.  

    The bottom line is don't be afraid to charge what you're worth. Don't offer your work for less.  



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    Willem "Wim" Blees, RPT
    St. Augustine, FL 32095
    Tnrwim@aol.com
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  • 2.  RE: Can't or won't.

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 17 days ago

    I have a new policy. If someone calls and asks me my price before anything else, I give them my price, then I offer the phone numbers of a couple other tuners who might charge less. I couldn't do that before now because there weren't enough tuners in my area, and I was actually the cheapest for a while. Now, there are more tuners once again and I'm no longer the cheapest. It's quite freeing to offer to help people find the lowest price because they then feel they don't have to pretend they are doing something else. LOL! 



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    Maggie Jusiel, RPT
    Athens, WV
    (304)952-8615
    mags@timandmaggie.net
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  • 3.  RE: Can't or won't.

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 17 days ago

    I agree with Wim about not devaluing yourself by negotiating down your prices and prefer to make those conversations with price shoppers as brief as possible. To accomplish that, when they ask my price, I simply tell them that if they are shopping for the lowest price, that would not be me. That way, within the first ten seconds of the call they either end it and continue their low-ball hunt (which is fine with me), or they ask me why I charge more. Something like 99% of those that ask this question wind up booking an appointment.

    Alan



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    Alan Eder, RPT
    Herb Alpert School of Music
    California Institute of the Arts
    Valencia, CA
    661.904.6483
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  • 4.  RE: Can't or won't.

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 17 days ago

    I like to say: "if cost is the issue, call 'so and so', he's the cheapest around. I'll give you his number if you want it"...

    Peter Grey Piano Doctor 



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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    (603) 686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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  • 5.  RE: Can't or won't.

    Posted 17 days ago

    I got advise from Gerald Root (RIP 04/03/2013 ...miss you my friend) ... he told me his response was, "I don't know what they're  worth, but I do know what I'm worth"... to me surprise, I have used this a few times and each time I have been pleasantly surprised when they go ahead and book an appointment.  



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    Les Koltvedt
    Marietta GA
    lkpianos@gmail.com
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  • 6.  RE: Can't or won't.

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 16 days ago
    Years ago, Marshall Hawkins reported that he replied to the “How much?” question like this: “Do you want an A, B, or C tuning?” Marshall did “A” tunings and he would recommend the appropriate tuner if the caller replied “B” or “C”.

    Bob Anderson, RPT
    Tucson, AZ




  • 7.  RE: Can't or won't.

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 17 days ago

    I've said for years now that people always spend money on the things that are important to them. If the piano is important to someone, they will find a way to spend the money on it. If it's not important to them, there's nothing you can do that will make it a priority. Once I made my peace with that, there was a noticeable positive difference in the amount of stress and guilt I felt regarding my business and charging a fair amount. 



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    Benjamin Sanchez, RPT
    Piano Technician / Artisan
    (256) 947-9999
    www.professional-piano-services.com
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  • 8.  RE: Can't or won't.

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 17 days ago

    Benjamin, 

    Yes, I agree. 

    Peter Grey Piano Doctor 



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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    (603) 686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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  • 9.  RE: Can't or won't.

    Posted 16 days ago

    I've always found the game of dealing with the price shoppers to be fun. Isaac Sadigursky would use humor to deal with them and I try to follow in his lead. One thing he would do when somebody would ask for a discount is to offer them 49 cents off. His delivery and lead up to the discount would create a hilarious reaction and create immediate affinity with the client. My other mentor would use the same tactics of humor and he amassed a huge clientele as well. 

    There are other ways than being prideful and dismissive to deal with the price shoppers. Throwing them away as if they don't matter to you is a guaranteed way to shrink a business. They are human beings with fears and skepticism. When I treat them as a human I earn their respect and business. 



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    Tim Michaels
    pianotechtim@gmail.com
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  • 10.  RE: Can't or won't.

    Member
    Posted 16 days ago

    I was given profound advice by my mentor, Sheldon Smith, in 1972, not so much about tuning fees but about larger jobs.

    "Always estimate high and then don't worry about the time." 

    Serves me well.



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    Jason Kanter
    Lynnwood WA
    (425) 830-1561
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  • 11.  RE: Can't or won't.

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago

    Really nice response, Tim. Interesting discussion, Wim. I've enjoyed reading everyone's responses.

    A major way to avoid price shoppers is to have prices clearly stated on a website. Most people who contact us have been on our site and have seen what our services and fees are. I'm also fortunate that my spouse is my business partner and handles the scheduling and customer service for us. It's easier for her to promote me than for me to promote myself.

    The longer I am in this business, the more skeptical I become of the "tune and run" philosophy that seems prevalent in our industry. A once-a-year tuning that doesn't include any other work is a waste of money, in my opinion. There's more of an argument to be made for quarterly tuning. Pianos around here almost always sound much better at the anniversary of the last tuning than if you are seeing it off-season.

    For this reason, I tell clients that even though a fine tuning does not last a year, it may recover to a great extent by the anniversary of the tuning, giving me more time to maintain the whole instrument. This is why I love my once-a-year clients. 

    Occasionally, I come across pianos I tuned many years ago that are still at pitch and sound reasonably good. On the other hand, I see pianos that I tuned 4 months ago, and they can be surprisingly off. The state in which we find pianos is highly variable, and the individual needs of the piano and client also vary substantially.

    A formulaic "they just hired me to tune" approach provides limited value for clients and limited satisfaction for the technician.

    It is more effective to charge for a set amount of time. Our basic service gives me 1.5 - 2 hours to do what I can to make the piano more pleasurable. If I come to a piano that I serviced exactly a year ago, I can often get by with a touch-up tuning and spend the rest of the time keeping the piano hammers well-shaped and voiced, keeping the action well-regulated, maintaining proper friction, etc. After a few years of this type of work, it is sometimes challenging to find things to improve. You might spend an hour working on half-pedaling on a console piano. We should always be practicing our craft with every opportunity.

    Even though our rates may seem high compared to "just a tuning," I'm often surprised how often people who appear to be of limited means hire us. For some, piano service is going to be an every-once-in-a-while affair. If they found the piano for free, they are often willing to spend a little extra money to get the piano serviced.

    Lastly, in regard to rates, I highly recommend the slow and steady, rule-based approach that mostly takes the emotions out of it. The rule is this: If we service 500 pianos in a year, the market is telling us we can raise our rates by around 10 percent. Personally, I don't want to service more than 500, so I set that as my limit. I've been amazed that every year we hit the target. I assume we will plateau at some point, but it hasn't happened yet. 

    The reality is we don't know what we are worth - only the market knows. 

    To some people, a piano has negative value; to others, the piano is their lifeline. Who are we to judge?"



     




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    Ryan Sowers RPT
    Olympia WA
    (360) 480-5648
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