This article originally appeared in the Sept. issue of CUSTOMER magazine.
Agero is a company with three lines of business: roadside assistance, claims management services for auto insurance carriers, and connected vehicle services for automobile manufacturers. The company operates six driver assistance response centers.
Robert Camacho, vice president of contact center operations, is in charge of those Agero centers. He has nearly 20 years of experience in contact center operations, workforce and financial/performance management experience, having joined Agero in September 2000, after serving eight years with Convergys (News - Alert).
CUSTOMER recently spoke with Camacho about Agero, where customer care and the customer experience are, and where they’re going.
He says that, without question, the continuing explosion in consumer adoption of mobile devices, the growth of mobile data messaging and location-based services, and the expanding capabilities of smartphones and applications have completely changed the way Agero does business.
“Our contact centers today sit at the convergence of these technologies,” he said. “They now interact with vehicle owners who are continually connected (inside and outside the vehicle), through multiple interfaces beyond voice calls: web portals, smartphone and tablet apps, social media, e-mail, direct mail, SMS messaging and interactive voice recognition systems.”
Just a decade ago, the focus of Agero’s roadside assistance was to expedite dispatch, he says.
“Today, we have to customize the dispatch,” he explained. “For example, we have to now be prepared to service electric vehicles and enable customers, through a variety of wireless devices, to monitor the progress of a dispatch, allowing them to keep informed as an estimated time of arrival. A decade ago, connected vehicle centers simply responded to GPS-based alerts to help locate stolen or crashed vehicles. Today, the same centers are expected to download information to vehicle navigation screens, transcribe audio wave files into automated messages, and alert 911 centers when in-vehicle crash sensors indicate a high potential for severe injuries.”
But Camacho says the communications trends that have most dramatically impacted Agero’s operations are the increasing role and quality enhancement of in-vehicle speech/voice technologies and the growing importance of data. That means it’s no longer necessary for a call center agent to interact directly with a customer to receive service.
However, when calls do require direct agent involvement, an agent enters the dialogue with much more machine-to-machine data about the customer, vehicle and incident.
“In some instances involving difficult route guidance or text-to-voice requests, call center agents may actually intervene in automated calls seamlessly to the driver and help to transcribe phrases or accents, ensuring an accurate automated response,” he said.
In fact, information- or convenience-oriented requests far exceed those involving the need for emergency assistance, which Camacho says is “no doubt a reflection of consumers’ always-connected lifestyles being brought into the car.”
As a result, Agero now has to meet consumer expectations to have information provided to them anytime and anywhere, while simultaneously providing that information in a manner that doesn’t distract the driver.
“So, interacting with the customer today is not only about the quality and timing of the response, but also the duration, frequency, interruptability, and importance of the response in relationship to the primary task of driving,” he said.
While many businesses over the years have offshored their customer service, Camacho says after studying that possibility, Agero opted to continue investing in response centers in the U.S. and Canada to better serve motorists in both countries.
“Our decision reflects an operating philosophy that primarily measures the effectiveness of our contact centers by customer satisfaction levels, not solely on costs,” he said. “So many of our calls – whether they involve emergencies or routing assistance – involve a general familiarity of local geography, and that’s difficult to train to overseas agents. We’ve opted instead to locate centers throughout our service area – near Dallas, near Boston, in Tucson, in Sault Ste. Marie in Canada, and in Sebring in central Florida. We have also recently announced we are opening our newest center later this year in Clarksville, Tenn.”
“Our business isn’t about logging requests over the phone and funneling them to another department for resolution,” he added. “Rather, we have to provide a user experience that is commensurate with brand expectations – with automotive brands, reliability is paramount. With connected vehicle services, the driver expects the contact to be on the same level as having a co-pilot in the front passenger’s seat.”
Edited by Braden Becker