Blog (Bruce Howes): A Tale Of Two Customers

Or sometimes we need to take care of customers... before taking care of their cars.

Bruce Howes

Noontime, I’m manning my desk, the SAs are at lunch, and Julie, aka “Our Awesome CRM Julie” brings an elderly woman into my office. She says she’s not from the area, is here to help clean out her sister’s house, who recently passed away. She’s never been to us, “but heard about us,” and seems somewhat distraught. It’s now 12:15.

I ask her how we can help, and she relates her story about her sister, and she’s worried as a “light is on in her car.” I explain that the team is at lunch, but I’d be happy to walk out and check it out for her.

I do, she moves slowly, hesitantly, somewhat confused.

She relates that she doesn’t want to drive to the VW dealer, who is about an hour away.

Find a Check Engine light on in her 10-year-old Jetta.

Invite her back inside, she’s at a the counter, telling me she feels weak and “needs to eat something.” Struck me she might be diabetic by her presentation, so I ask if she’s OK, and if she’s a diabetic. She seems taken that I am concerned, and relates that she’s emotionally overtaken with her sister’s death and cleaning out the house, and just wants some place to eat and rest.

Julie fixes her up with water, coffee (five creams and lots of sugars she requests), and helps her with some food she’s got in her car.

Lunch over, Rick very patiently explains our process to her, takes care of her and her car, gets it inside for the 10 Minute No Wrench Check (sound familiar), which leads to a L1 Diagnosis and an Oil Change.

While she’s waiting, an Acura customer who needed an unscheduled “Oil Change” is also in the lobby, glad I said “Yes, come right in,” and they talk. He tells her great things about us, easing her mind.

Rick does our “Show and Tell”, finds considerable immediate and safety work needed, exhaust, two O2 sensors, and others, and gives her the grace on some work she can defer to the future.

She says yes, pays a deposit, is put in a AMC loaner car, and is on her way. Boom.

Three things:

1) Sometimes we have to take care of people, before we can take care of their cars.

2) Saying “Yes” to the unscheduled oil change brought a customer endorsement, and peace of mind to a nervous, and emotionally drained woman.

3) I’m proud of my team for recognizing and taking care of ALL our customer needs.

End of story.

– Bruce

Bruce J. Howes is owner of Atlantic Motorcar Services, Wicasset, Maine. He also works in emergency medicine as a second career, and is a nationally registered Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (A-EMT). He serves as a board member at the Maine Maritime Museum, and various local nonprofit organizations. His shop’s website,, has been selected by AutoInc. magazine as a Top 10 Website on three different occasions. He can be reached at