What women customers ‘auto’ know… and how you can help

Women are beginning to become more savvy about car repair, and those who are prepared can properly combat gender discrimination and negotiate against gender discrimination at the service lane, according to a recent study by the Journal of Marketing Research.

The authors also found that repair shops can tend to quote higher prices to callers who overestimate the general cost of repair, and to women when they explained that they didn’t know much about repair prices.

On the other hand, when the callers mentioned an expected price, even an inaccurate one, those gender differences vanished.

However, the study also found that shops are more likely to drop a price for a woman than a man. So, what can we learn from all of this? Let’s dive in.

The Study

This study used mystery shoppers, each of whom contacted one of 2,778 repair shops looking for a quote to fix a leaking radiator on a 2003 Toyota Camry.

Each called used one of three prepared scripts in which they gave some clues about their overall knowledge:

  • The “informed” callers’ script knew the average market price for this repair, about $365);
  • The “uninformed” callers’ script states that they have no idea what the price should be; and
  • A “misinformed” script which mentioned an expected price of $510, which is of course a good bit higher than market average.

In a second half, the study ascertained how willing these shops would be to negotiate the price after providing a quote that was higher than expected.

Immediately after getting the quote, some of the study’s participants asked if the shops would be willing to match a published price online.

On the whole, gender differences were apparent in the study.

Women who were uninformed tended to be quoted prices about $20 higher than uninformed males, while informed callers showed no gender gap in quoted prices.

A Chivalric Twist?

In addition to being quoted more than men when presenting as uninformed (and misinformed), women who responded to a quote asking for a price reduction were successful about 10% more often than men, and were able to reduce about 13% off their bill.

However, on the whole shops were quite reluctant to reduce their quoted prices at all, regardless of gender, with about 75% of these requests being flatly denied.

It’s an interesting turn of the story to realize that while they are quoted higher prices, women tended to be more likely to negotiate a price reduction.

It isn’t clear why, but the study’s author speculates that this could be linked to something called the “chivalry effect,” in which men are more likely to respond positively when a woman asks for help.

Lessons to Be Learned

So, what can we learn from this study, and how can you better help your female customers be in the know?

Well, one way is to recognize that women are educating themselves about how much car repairs should cost.

When a woman calls your shop asking for a repair quote, a good practice is to assume that she has already researched the average market price for this repair, even if she doesn’t mention it, and even if she explains that she is uninformed.

Remember, the gender divide vanished among informed customers, so beginning with the assumption that your customers know what their repairs should cost before quoting them can help to eliminate any latent bias that may not even be conscious.

As more and more resources (including AskPatty.com) are available on the internet for women to research the fair market prices for their auto repairs, this is becoming a safer assumption every day.

Remember – women talk about their retail experiences, and a woman who knows (or learns) she’s being quoted a higher price than a male will not remain silent about it for long!

Jody DeVere, CEO of AskPatty.com, is an authority on marketing to women, as well as an automotive journalist, car-care expert and safety spokesperson for the industry. You can reach her at jdevere@askpatty.com.