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In­no­va­tion nec­es­sary to over­come chal­lenges

Finweek English Edition - - Focus On -

FEAR OF CRIME has en­sured road­side as­sis­tance pro­grammes are a core com­po­nent of any mo­tor main­te­nance plan or mo­tor in­sur­ance pol­icy. While a main­te­nance plan tends to be a sec­ondary is­sue when buy­ing a ve­hi­cle the road­side as­sis­tance as­pect of a plan sim­i­larly tends to be sec­ondary – so chances are it gets lit­tle at­ten­tion un­til your wife’s car has bro­ken down on a lonely road with the kids in the back seat.

For­tu­nately, the two ma­jor providers of road­side as­sis­tance – the Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion (AA) and EuropAs­sis­tance – have ne­go­ti­ated with most of South Africa’s mo­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers/deal­ers that one or other of their prod­ucts is now an in­te­gral part of most ve­hi­cle plans.

How­ever, road­side as­sis­tance plans tend to cover a wide spec­trum from very lim­ited as­sis­tance through to the full Monty. In this era of vi­o­lent and anony­mous crime if you use a car you want it work­ing 24/7. And when it won’t start you want ac­cess to a 24-hour phone num­ber and back up. Com­pound­ing the anx­i­ety of be­ing alone on the road is the fact that traf­fic con­ges­tion of­ten means as­sis­tance doesn’t ar­rive quickly enough. Road­side as­sis­tance com­pa­nies have to in­no­vate to over­come such chal­lenges.

Karen Bryden, MD of the AA, says it’s cur­rently pi­lot­ing a more mo­bile re­sponse by mo­tor­bike in se­cu­rity “hot spots” as well as gen­er­ally on free­ways. “It’s a so­lu­tion we’re eval­u­at­ing and so far it’s prov­ing quite pro­duc­tive. It ob­vi­ously car­ries a smaller range of tools but it’s suf­fi­ciently well equipped to re­solve most ba­sic faults,” she says.

If a ve­hi­cle breaks down in a se­cu­rity hot

spot, or if the caller sim­ply ex­presses con­cern for his safety, the AA has es­tab­lished a re­la­tion­ship with one of the ma­jor se­cu­rity firms to im­me­di­ately sup­ply an armed guard un­til the AA’s on-call me­chanic ar­rives.

EuropAs­sis­tance pro­vides a sin­gle call cen­tre for all emer­gency needs, from log­ging a break­down to call­ing med­i­cal care or po­lice, as well as pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity for the in­di­vid­ual while the car is towed to a work­shop.

Rouxle van Molen­dorff, EuropAs­sis­tance COO, de­scribes it as a one-call-does-it-all ser­vice – but has taken it much fur­ther to pre-emp­tive safety. “If peo­ple are con­cerned about a trip – par­tic­u­larly sin­gle fe­males, older peo­ple or those car­ry­ing chil­dren – we have a ser­vice whereby we call them at pre­de­ter­mined in­ter­vals of, say, half an hour, or even ev­ery 15 min­utes for shorter though vul­ner­a­ble trips if the mo­torist sees a high risk of break­down. If there’s no an­swer we then take agreed ac­tion, such as re­port­ing it to a re­ferred con­tact num­ber,” she says.

This rel­a­tively new busi­ness is grow­ing by 2%/month and 25% over the past year – de­spite record fuel prices and a con­sumer slow­down, which might have been ex­pected to have an im­pact on trav­el­ling and hol­i­days.

How­ever, Van Molen­dorff says the in­crease in busi­ness may be at­trib­ut­able to grow­ing aware­ness of the prod­uct and the fact road­side as­sis­tance is be­ing in­cluded in more ve­hi­cle plans, as well as com­pletely un­re­lated prod­ucts by re­tail­ers which of­fer it as a value-add to loy­alty schemes.

She of­fers the same ex­pla­na­tion for EuropAs­sis­tance see­ing an in­crease in re­ported crime com­pared to de­clin­ing fig­ures re­ported by the po­lice. In­dica­tive of the greater so­phis­ti­ca­tion of mod­ern cars, Van Molen­dorff says there’s been an in­crease from 6% to 11% in the num­ber of cars that a lock­smith can’t open when the driver has locked the keys inside. Those have to be towed. “That’s all the more rea­son why mo­torists want a sin­gle com­pany that ties to­gether ev­ery­thing for the in­di­vid­ual.”

Bryden says the onus is on the mo­torist to check what ben­e­fits they have, as the AA alone sells a wide range of ben­e­fits, with med­i­cal, le­gal and map­ping ser­vices as add-ons.

Some prod­ucts of­fer both paramedics on call and dial-up nurses, who pro­vide coun­selling in the case of hi­jack­ings.

A one-call-does-it-all ser­vice. Rouxle van Molen­dorff

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