People who talk about the 'good old days' always remember an earlier time when things were better. It appears that we have been in a good old days lull for the last decade and people will have to look far back into the twentieth century to find memories of good economic times.
One example of the economic slide has been the change in business dealings. Twenty years ago, business was often transacted with a handshake. I remember one of our commercial customers who simply requested that a locksmith must be at his building within one hour after he called. Cost was not an object. This company expected good service at any price.
Today every customer, whether commercial or residential, is shopping for a price. Small job or large, they all want to know a cost before proceeding. At one time a ballpark estimate over the phone was acceptable. Now many customers are asking for a written quote.
Another change in locksmithing is the kind of jobs we do. Twenty years ago, most standard locksmith invoices were under $100. Deadbolt installations, lockouts, car key fitting and combination changes all usually fit into this pricing area. Today with security products such as transponder car keys and access control systems more in demand, $100 jobs have become extinct because of the higher cost products now available.
As cost of jobs increase, it is understandable that customers will begin to shop for the best price. Personal relationships disappear between locksmith and former customers when the customer asks for a price first. All that matters is what you can do for them now.
Unless some variables are written in, a quote is the defined price you agree to charge the customer for a given job. When someone asks for a written quote, you can almost be sure that some other companies are also bidding on the same job. Experience is the best teacher when it comes to writing the perfect quote, which provides a margin of profit while still being less costly than the competitors.
You should not expect to win more than 10 to 20 percent of your quotes. There are always other companies that -- for one reason or another -- will underbid a job just to get the work. For the forseeable future, writing quotes will continue to be a daily habit for most locksmiths.