Turning Customer Experience to 11 in the Towing and Roadside Industry

How insurers, fleets, and OEMs can transition their roadside assistance programs from underperforming loss-leaders to brand building retention and loyalty engines. As the legendary lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) once said about his amplifier in the iconic movie ‘This is Spinal Tap’: “What we do, is if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do? We put it up to eleven – one louder.” 

Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel in the movie Spinal Tap

As entrepreneurs that came of age during the era of elite customer-experience-giants like Zappos, Southwest, and Nordstrom, we set out to take that customer-centric philosophy to a towing and roadside assistance industry that had rarely – if ever – made the customer its top priority.

Why was it that customers demanded and deserved a terrific experience when shopping for shoes, clothing or flying to the next state, but were vulnerably left to wait sometimes hours on the side of the road when in need of roadside assistance? By never implementing any serious background check programs, how did this industry’s incumbents not make the safety and security of its customers its top priority for so many decades (present-day included)? And how could this industry expect to squeeze every last penny of margin out of the towing and roadside professionals (true American heroes) and then demand they provide a great customer experience?

It was all a terrible recipe that damaged the industry’s reputation and prompted us at HONK to use technology and operational innovation to do everything differently – and better. We wanted to turn it up to eleven and sustain (nod to the guitarists out there). Here’s how we did it. 

Create an Unexpectedly Great Customer Experience

Exceptional customer experience is not a nice-to-have for insurers, fleets and OEMs – it’s a must-have that equates to (huge) dollars and cents generated from increased retention and loyalty. At HONK we utilize NPS as our north star to ensure that everything we do increases the brand affinity of our client’s roadside assistance programs. 

The keys to creating a world-class experience (excluding the service provider performance) are user-friendly technology, speed of service, and solid communication. At HONK we’ve built an omnichannel engagement platform that allows customers to utilize technology at their own level of comfort. Customers can interact with HONK entirely by telephone, completely through a digital channel or some hybrid of the two.

If you’re not already, then it’s important to think about ‘total experience times’ rather than simply ‘ETAs’. From the customer’s perspective, they care about every moment that passes from the time they make their situation known to the time they are safely at their destination. At HONK, we utilize innovation groups to optimize every second of the customer journey and iterate quickly to lower total experience times.

Lastly, it’s so crucial to communicate effectively with customers at every step of the process. Gone should be the days where customers are left ‘in the dark’ about the status of their service. At HONK, we rely on extensive GPS tracking technology coupled with AI as our front-line communication engine to ensure that customers are always aware of their service status. And where tech might be unable to empathize appropriately, we augment our technology with a human workforce that can close communication loops where necessary. 

Ensure Customer Safety

While it would seem to go without saying (trust me, it doesn’t in this industry), there is nothing more important than ensuring your customers are being serviced by safe, professional and background-checked operators. For decades, industry incumbents believed they could simply background check the owner of a towing company and that would ensure the actual tow operator they sent out would be safe. Hardly! It’s imperative that all drivers go through a rigorous safety screening process, and at HONK, we put our money where our mouth is by paying for a background check for any operator wishing to be a part of our network. 

Going a step further, it’s essential to implement continuous improvement methodology into your service provider quality assessment. By doing so, you reward your best-performing operators who consistently elevate the customer experience. At HONK, we use machine learning and algorithms that use hundreds of data points accumulated through previous services (customer rating, punctuality, adherence to policy, etc.) to assess which service provider will be dispatched on any given job. 

Treat your Service Providers Like You Do Your Customers

While customer safety is a must and an optimized customer experience is essential for a high performing program, perhaps nothing is more important than treating your service provider network with respect. They put their lives on the line every single day and after all, it is they who will have the most significant impact on your customer’s satisfaction with your roadside assistance program. 

First, it’s imperative that providers are paid a fair rate for their services. Second, they deserve to be paid immediately upon completion of service. And finally, it’s important to simplify their lives (both dispatchers and operators) to every extent possible. At HONK, we’ve built digital tools within our Dispatcher/Operator app to do everything from additional requests, to GOA requests, to cancellations and service detail changes. Making theirs lives easier makes everyone’s lives easier.

Turning Your Roadside Assistance Program Into A Key Brand Builder

It is widely understood that towing and roadside assistance incidents are oftentimes the most frequent touchpoints that insurers, fleets, and OEMs have with their customers. And yet for decades, companies simply tolerated an inferior customer service experience and found themselves in the costly cycle of customer attrition and customer acquisition. But over the last six years, this new approach to customer experience – coupled with innovative companies who presciently saw the retention opportunity that it presented – has garnered NPS scores in the 80s and 90s, total experience times of 30 minutes or less, complaint percentages at a fraction of a percent and an ability to excel during turbulent times like those we face today.

When Tufnel was asked by the documentarian: “Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number?”, Tufnel paused a few moments and simply said: “These go to eleven”. Even if the towing and roadside industry were at ten today (which it most definitely is not), it wouldn’t be enough. 

There is too much at stake for insurers, fleets and OEMs not to demand an amazing customer experience at this most vulnerable and frequent customer touchpoint. Find a way to get it to eleven – sustain – and let your brand be the rockstar.

To learn how HONK can turn your roadside assistance program into a key brand builder, visit our Industry Solutions page.