A Service Call fee is a bill for the expense associated with the time and travel to diagnose, inspect and provide expert recommendations for a home's heating or air conditioning system by a certified professional technician.
Most companies who provide home services charge a flat rate called a "diagnostic fee" or "service fee" before they start the actual repair. This fee can be frustrating for some customers because they feel that the technician hasn't actually done any work towards the repair – they've simply diagnosed the problem. These customers believe that the diagnostic fee is just a way for the service company to make more money – but that couldn't be further from the truth. Here's what you should know about diagnostic fees:
A DIAGNOSIS HAS HIDDEN COSTS
In actuality, most service companies don't make any money off the initial service call and diagnosis. In fact, sometimes the costs of doing business are actually much higher than the diagnostic fee. You may be wondering, "What costs? They haven't done anything!" There are actually several expenses to the service company for each call they make – even if no work is actually done. These costs are often "hidden" from the customer.
Each service technician is paid by the company for their time. Though it may only take five or 10 minutes to diagnosis your problem, the technician likely spent a good deal of time on your call before they arrived at your home. It takes time for them to grab tools and materials, dispatch, drive to your home, log information about your visit and then drive back to the company. On average, a typical diagnostic call (including time spent before and after the actual diagnosis) can take upwards of an hour or more of the technician's time. Please also remember that, though the technician may only spend 10 minutes diagnosing a problem at your home, they can easily spend an hour or more diagnosing more complicated problems at other homes, on top of the time spent driving and logging information about the call. The diagnostic fee is a flat rate, so the company doesn't charge more when the diagnosis takes longer than normal.
The vehicles used by the company also have expenses. These expenses are considered part of the cost of service calls because the vehicles are necessary to carry tools and other items for each technician. Vehicle expenses include things like fuel, maintenance and repairs on the vehicles, lease or loan payments, insurance and vehicle depreciation (wear and tear). These expenses may not seem like much per call, but they quickly add up, and the company must have income to cover the expenses.
DIAGNOSING IS A SKILL
Aside from the costs associated with a diagnostic service visit, companies also charge a fee because the diagnosis itself requires skill. It may take only 10 or 15 minutes for a trained technician to diagnosis the problem, but that's simply because they have the skills necessary to troubleshoot and recognize the issue. Oftentimes, homeowners schedule a service visit because they lack these skills and need assistance. In short, a diagnosis is a service, just like any other service.
While it may be frustrating to pay a service fee before a problem is actually fixed, it's a necessary part of the home services industry. You'll also find that diagnostic fees are common in other industries, such as IT and computer repair, automotive repair, etc. It's a necessary part of doing business that's meant to cover the company's time, labor and overhead expenses. Even on the quickest service calls, the fee barely covers these expenses; when a diagnosis takes longer than average, the expenses are often far greater than the actual fee charged.