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Getting home after car breaks down...

Blog car breaks down.png

In multipe Forrester reports, analyst Joana van den Brink-Quintanilha, indicates that successfully mapping the CX ecosystem requires insights outside the company. It isn't always easy for companies to get that outside-in view. But hey, I'm here to help! With this post I want to do just that for the CX professionals of car assistance companies: Giving them one outside-in view of their company.


The summer holiday season is coming to an end. Most people took some time off and have spent time with their family. Just getting disconnected and completely relaxed. In Europe, we like to spend our vacation at the Mediterranean Sea. Together with my wonderful wife and 3 year old son, I drove to sunny Spain. We had a great vacation, but it was overshadowed with 2 car breakdowns!


The first time was on our way to Spain. The communication with Car Assistance Company didn't go smoothly, but the record time service made me a forgiving man. We were back on our way to Spain in about 2 hours.


Getting home was a different story. On our way back to Belgium our car broke down again. If you really wanna know, it is a 2013 Volvo V70.  It took 30 telephone calls and conversations with 15 different persons of 7 different organisations to get home. And as a bonus, I got a sales pitch thrown in my face by a taxi driver when I only needed some empathy. At the time I went through the roof. Today it is a funny story.


Clearly, the Car Assistance Company didn't map out the customer journey and didn't spend a moment to make their ecosystem visible to identify less ideal journeys. The ecosytem of a car assistance company is huge. It involves car towing companies, garages, car rental companies, car rental branches, taxi drivers, insurance agents and in France even the Gendarmerie.


I understand you can't control the whole ecosystem, but the call center should be under the full control of the Car Assistance Company. It took the garage 2 minutes to identify the cause of the breakdown and 20 minutes to come to the conclusion that the one little part my car needed wasn't available for another 4 days. It took me 4 hours and 15 calls to get the Car Assistance Company start thinking in solutions.


What strikes me most is that they had scheduled a call with the garage 5 hours after my arrival to get a report of the head technician of the garage. First of all, it took me 2 hours to figure that out. And despite my pressure and the escalation via the insurance agent, it took 4 hours to get the Car Assistance Company call for the report. It's kinda funny that I had to tell the head technician what to say, because in the meantime my Volvo problem was no longer on top of his mind.


During the 15 calls I had to make with the call center of the Car Assistance Company, I spoke with 6 different persons. I had to explain my situation over and over again. It took about 10 calls before one of the agents, Marc, proposed to always ask for him. It increased the efficiency and lowered my frustration. I didn't care that I had to wait 5 minutes for Marc. He knows me and he knows my situation. That was more important to me.

I like to be informed and I wouldn't have made the many calls to the call center if they had given me relevant and correct updates via the channel of my choice. That could have been through SMS, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or even via Twitter direct messages. In my opinion less expensive options than a call center agent. I have to admit that some of the companies in the ecosystem did some effort to send me text messages. Only that, they were badly timed and some of them even contained incorrect information.
After 2 boring hours in a garage without any useful information, I got a text saying that "The breakdown service will be on the spot in 45 minutes to tow your car". I was driving for about 2 hours with the replacement car I got in Mirecourt in France when the next text came in: "Your replacement vehicle is available for pick-up at Zaventem Brussels Airport. DO NOT REPLY!". And the third one I got when I was almost home: "We confirm that a rental car has been reserverd for you". Actually I got 2 different texts, one in French, one in Dutch.
Marc gave me the feeling that he knew me and the situation I was in. I'm conviced, it is possible to provide a similar experience without the need of a call agent, but with good communication software that is capable of communicating in context of the customer at the most appropriate time with correct information.
A lot of organisations have intiatives rolled out to make them more customer-centric. Customer journey maps helps organisations to make their customer interactions more visible and transparent to identify less ideal journeys. I really hope that car assistance companies read this carefully and start thinking about the customer journey and the related ecosystem to greatly improve the experience for the next time my car breaks down.