The advent of digitalization within the auto industry is opening up new opportunities, as changing consumer behavior and their preferences towards customized services push automakers, insurers, dealers and repairers to develop solutions that can increase engagement levels among their customers.
Roadside assistance is one such niche that is now in the midst of digital disruption, as businesses look to provide integrated and robust solutions that deliver real-time event visibility, consistent reporting through the length of transit, and high-quality service in the event of a vehicle breakdown.
FreightWaves discussed these changes with Jeff Blecher, the chief strategy officer at Agero, a leading provider of driver assistance services. He talked about the possibilities of making roadside assistance more seamless and the need to develop services with the customer as their focal point.
Blecher explained that the primary purpose of roadside assistance is to assist people when their vehicle has a mechanical failure – like a flat tire or battery failure – to help them get back on the road and to their destination. In some instances like with transmission failure, assistance might be about towing the vehicle to the nearest garage or repair shop to repair the equipment.
“Services are two-fold. One is about connecting with the roadside assistance network to get people to the spot to solve the problem. It can be about jumpstarting a battery or helping to get a car unlocked or changing a tire,” said Blecher. “The second service is about engaging the towing network when the problem can’t be solved on the side of the road.”
Blecher pointed out that the need for digitalization in this niche is a necessity borne out of consumer expectations. “Consumers are getting used to expedited services, like in the case of Uber, where they could have someone show up quickly and also be able to track the driver on the way to get them. They want full transparency now,” he said.
It is quite evident that to improve client experience, there needs to be real-time transparency with roadside events, which involves the digitalization of the entire value chain. Roadside assistance companies need to pinpoint where their customers are, the experience they are having, and relay that data to a towing or service provider who can then go out to serve them.
For a dealership that is interested in understanding its client experience, digitalization is a savior. They can now gain real-time insights into service providers and get notified when the service providers reach the assistance site and track the movement of the tow truck to their repair facility, which helps them to prepare for the client’s arrival and have a seamless handoff.
“Today, customers expect to have choices – whether it is engaging with someone through chat, mobile app or phone support. Different consumer segments choose to interact in different ways. Roadside assistance services need to operate in an omnichannel environment where we can service the customer the way they want to engage and be able to context switch between those channels as well. Consumers may start in a digital channel but realize that their situation is complex and might want to talk to an agent about it,” said Blecher.
In this context, the seamless migration of information captured through a digital stream into a phone-based process will have to be done without consumers needing to repeat themselves during every interaction.
“When you’re trying to digitalize an entire ecosystem, you’re actually trying to change behavior and how different participants interact. That’s a hard thing to do and thus a challenge,” said Blecher. “Coming up with a plan to digitalize the engagement with all those different types of service providers and understanding the way each of those segments wants to interact with technology is important.”
This effort does take time and effort, but it ultimately boils down to spending time with service providers, understanding their needs, and coming up with a product roadmap that really addresses the key needs of all the different segments within roadside assistance.
“The objective should be about constantly adapting to how consumers want to interact. So we need to look closely at how consumers interact, how they bounce between channels, and improve the product based on that feedback. It’s iterative and an ongoing learning process as you’re never done with improving the consumer experience,” said Blecher.