Convincing the dispatchers and patrol force about the viability of the new system was the most difficult part of the organisation to bring on board. This was overcome through listening and communicating with the workforce; and making sure they had all the relevant information so as to overcome any ‘fear of the unknown’. This information was in the form of a staff magazine, videos and audiotapes for crews to play while on the road. Managing the change in this way was essential in order to avoid any potential detrimental effect on staff morale and instil confidence too.
AA Help explained Breakdown calls are now made to a single free phone national number and automatically allocated to the next available call handler, so members don’t have to wait for calls to be answered. The system enables the call handler to find the location of the vehicle and verify the caller’s AA membership. The AA help system prompts the call handler to recognise the member’s breakdown problem, deploy a properly equipped patrol vehicle and give an estimated time of arrival (in fact a patrol can be on their way to the member even before the phone call has finished).
The call handler is prompted to ask a number of questions, such as the type of problem, make of car, if the tyre is punctured, whether the car will start, or has broken down on the motorway etc. The answers given help establish the level and kind of breakdown assistance required by the member. Call centre staff access a comprehensive gazetteer and members can tell them where they are (e. g. with local street names and landmarks). Communications between patrols and the operations centre is through Mobile Data Terminals (MDT), showing location, car description, fault, and member contact details.
Codes are entered by the patrols so the system knows what is happening at any one time. Mobile units are tracked by satellite: this data, plus information on current jobs, enables the system to automatically allocate and instruct the most appropriate patrol, via data links to a mobile terminal. If a patrol’s current job starts taking longer than expected the system can alert an alternative unit. Every year out of six million calls for assistance; 80% are dispatched without any manual intervention and 91% are answered within 15 seconds. The Outcome
Today the AA is in as strong a position as it has ever been, coming back from a situation of major turbulence and uncertainty as regards the future of its roadside repair service. The AA Help system has cut the average arrival time for a mobile unit by 30%, from 47 minutes to 33 (an industry record), with a quarter of breakdowns reached within 15 minutes, and 9 out of 10 reached within an hour. The investment in the new call handling and deployment systems and networking (AA Help) has allowed the AA to move from numerous regional call centres dealing with local breakdowns to just four larger call centres taking calls from everywhere.
This has brought staff/property savings of 11m and overall business benefits of over i?? 14m a year. Membership decline has been reversed (even in the face of growing competition), and customer satisfaction has never been higher. The system has been so successful that it has met with interest from other emergency service and motoring associations throughout Europe. Indeed, it has proved to be a major continuing success in innovation.