Page 1: Introduction
Customer service can be used to achieve a personal relationship by focusing on meeting needs and requirements. The term can be used to describe the personal relationship that develops between the customer and the company. This relationship will only be achieved by taking the time and the effort to research the customers to find out exactly what their requirements are and then satisfying those requirements.
This case study features the Automobile Association (AA) and shows how, by paying close attention to the service it offers through Personal membership, it has been able to consolidate and enhance its position as the UK’s largest motoring organisation using the skills of the world’s largest patrol force. In particular, the case focuses on the ways in which the AA has created a close personal relationship with its customers, in order to provide services that truly reflect their needs.
“Trust” is a very important part of the relationship the AA has with its members. Stranded motorists are particularly vulnerable and want to know they are being cared for and looked after by an organisation which has their interests at heart. In some ways the relationship is similar to that between a doctor and patient. Motorists want to know that they are in safe hands and that they are being well looked after. The case study reflects this very special relationship; one which will be particularly appreciated by anyone whose family or friends have had a car breakdown at a particularly awkward time.
The AA was founded in 1905 to protect the interest of pioneer motorists and remains a non-profit making mutual benefit organisation, offering a range of products and services. It is a huge business group with 9 million members, more than 12,000 staff and 40 different business activities. AA patrols attend 4.9 million breakdowns per year and the organisation takes and receives 35 million telephone calls each year. There are two main categories of members - personal and business members.
- The 3 million business members are made up of both employees of organisations that take out AA membership for their fleets of vehicles and motor vehicle manufacturers, such as Vauxhall, which includes the benefit of free AA membership to customers buying new cars.
- The remaining 6 million consists of 4.3 million personal members and a further 1.7 million family and related members. The personal members are, in effect, the individuals who have initiated the application for membership. The organisation is currently divided into four major business groups:
- AA Membership and Call Handling
- AA Insurance, Financial Services and Retail (including direct sales)
- AA Commercial Services (including the driving school, publishing and maps, hotel approval scheme, in-car technology and multi-media)
- Cross-business support activities (including a range of important activities such as market research, public relations, print and information technology).
“Courtesy and care” have been the hallmarks of the service given over the years and the AA continues with a commitment to the time-honoured values that have stood it in such good stead.
This case study focuses on the AA’s core business activity, namely providing a personal service to members at the roadside. It shows how the AA has built a range of value-added benefits to this core service, which has supported and enhanced its reputation and quality image.