An emergency on the part of some motorist does not and should not constitute an emergency at your automotive service facility.
This emergency, whether real or perceived, is wholly owned by the motorist—not you and your repair shop.
At the risk of sounding like an automotive heretic, the “emergency” actually is the property, burden and responsibility of the vehicle owner. However, the cold reality is that many motorists have an extraordinary talent for transferring responsibility of their vehicles to others. Namely, they pass it to the staff of the nearest automotive service facility. The hapless motorist chose this site because it's the nearest facility into which he or she could coax the ailing vehicle.
My own shop experience—not to mention years of experience visiting tire dealers and service shops—has cemented the belief that many people are fooled by the motorist's little charade. Typically, auto service personnel are kindly folks known for two traits: They aim to please; they aim to fix what's wrong.
These two admirable characteristics prompt them to receive an automotive emergency with open arms. But all too often, doing this disrupts schedules and creates extra, needless stress for technicians and possibly parts suppliers, too.
Yes, the techs may address the emergency and get the vehicle on its way. Then they never see or hear from that motorist again. Afterward, there are no surprise baseball tickets or complimentary deliveries of do¬nuts or pizza—that ingrate customer is long gone.
The hard reality is that some vehicle owners truly appreciate your efforts—countless others do not. I observed this many times when I worked in traditional service stations in the late 1960s. The situation's true today and shouldn't surprise anyone at the service counter or in the bays.
Let's consider two sides of the issue. Cars and trucks are man-made machines. These mechanical marvels can and do break down without warning. There is such a thing as bad luck with a breakdown. Sometimes even a well-maintained vehicle breaks down.
Suppose your dealership or service shop handles an emergency breakdown promptly and satisfactorily. If so, the action may earn you a new customer as well as new referrals. In this digital age of instant information, the person may laud you and your staff on social media. (Mentally highlight words such as may, maybe, could. You know, you could win the lottery, too.)
The other side of the coin is that so many of these “rolling wounded” vehicles have been badly neglected. Regardless of the particular sob story the driver plies, he or she has been warned—probably repeatedly—about essential vehicle maintenance.
When the stuff dripping from the failed radiator resembles reddish or brown mud, you can guess how much maintenance the cooling system received. What can you conclude when the transmission fluid looks and smells like tar instead of normal ATF?
Likely, you already have a schedule of normal customers who are supporting your business right now. Likely, they've supported your dealership or shop in the past. Attempting to squeeze Mr. or Ms. Emergency into the schedule is risky business. All too often, I've observed that doing this upsets everyone who's most important to you (your staff and existing customers). The only person the extra effort pleases is the potentially ungrateful stranger with the neglected vehicle.
I'm not urging readers to be heartless to motorists in need. I'm not saying you can't convert these people into regular customers. But I am stressing that the customers with vehicles already on the schedule are your top priority. Your first concern is and always should be meeting their expectations first. (Hopefully you'll exceed their expectations.)
Once your staff has handled its top priority competently, then you can look at that smoking heap of neglect that just trailed muddy coolant across your freshly resurfaced parking lot.