When it comes to deciding what types of products an agent should represent, one of the key factors is determining whether it will appeal to the end-user. Part of that is including those products that are always of interest to car buyers; one of those is roadside assistance.
But for an agent, how do you determine which of the products out there you should offer? All of the options offer the same basic premise, but with several differences that help to set them apart - both for you, the agent, for your dealer clients and for the end-users. In talking to some of the providers, one interesting thing popped out: This is not a "tech light" product category. Across the board, roadside assistance providers have embraced new technologies, such as GPS positioning and full-featured mobile apps that allow a customer to direct and control the experience.
"The technology used greatly increases the response time for our roadside plan," said Jack Haworth, CEO, Triumph Consulting Services. "There is a smartphone app called Roadside Dispatch that uses GPS technology to get the quickest and closest assistance available."
Allstate Roadside Services' April Eaton, corporate relations manager, agreed, noting, "Advancing new technology to enhance the roadside experience has been the cornerstone of our Reinventing Roadside philosophy. We introduced Assistance-On-the-Go in 2009 with the release of the industry’s first auto OEM branded mobile application for roadside assistance. This program was created to capitalize on the rapid advancements of mobile technology and enthusiastic adoption of smart phones for the advantage of the companies we work with."
However, as great as all the technology is, another thing they could all agree on was that it doesn't replace the human element. "At the end of the day, we have learned it doesn’t replace a phone call from a live person saying, 'has our towing provider arrived' because every second feels like an hour to someone on the side of the road in adverse weather or traffic conditions," said Thomas Boughton, president, Driven Solutions. "The personal touch wins every time — no matter how much technology we add, that touch point with the customer is key to managing the process."
"While we realize the importance of technology, we don’t lose site of the fact that when people are in a stressful situation – like on the shoulder of a busy highway with a flat tire – it is the human voice on the line offering assistance that our customers remember," agreed Matt Krzysiak, CEO, National Motor Club. "We look for ways technology can enhance our level of service while still maintaining our commitment to high-touch service."Looking to the Future
So where is the roadside assistance category going then? That's anyone's guess, but there are some sure bets. "Our products will continue to change and mold to their evolving environment. More specifically speaking, through constant technological advancements our product will become more efficient and cost-effective," said Kevin NeSmith, director of client services, Road America.
Specifically, more automation in the product itself, allowing the customer to get service faster and/or efficiently will ultimately benefit agents selling those products, as customers will be more likely to purchase them, increasing profit margins for both the agents and dealers. "In the immediate future, the process of providing programs and executing a claim or emergency roadside service will become more streamlined due to the advances in Web-based technology. Our call center computer will be able to link with the vehicle, diagnose and provide location and mechanical cause of the breakdown with one phone call. In the next five to 10 years, the car will call and arrange service without any action by the driver," predicted Scott Grove, president, Auto Road Services Inc.