By Tim Gearey
Well they say “variety is the spice of life” and that’s certainly true in agency life!
I’m lucky to work with some brilliant brands across many industries at Prova. Every day is certainly very different. The AA is one of our clients that I have the good fortune to work with. A truly iconic brand, you’d struggle to find anyone who doesn’t know the AA and their famous yellow vans. So, when I was asked if I wanted to go out on patrol, I literally jumped at the chance.
After completing the health and safety paperwork, I was invited to spend the day on patrol with Mark (aka Barny) in the Gloucestershire area. With the shift starting at 08:00, Mark handed me an official AA branded hi-vis jacket on arrival, and, looking the part, we were ready to start helping Britain’s stranded motorists. It proved to be a fascinating experience into how the AA helps its members.
A trained mechanic by trade, Mark has worked for the AA for 14 years. There’s not much that he hasn’t seen during his career and still every day produces challenges that tests Mark’s expertise. Thankfully, Mark’s AA van is crammed with all sorts of gadgets to tackle motoring issues and, usually, he is able to fix most problems at the roadside. However, if he can’t fix it, then he knows a man who can…well a garage or workshop…who will help get the AA member back on the road!
Mark’s day starts the minute he climbs into the van. The AA has invested heavily into technology to manage and direct patrols to members during the day, with Mark’s appointments automatically lined-up for him. Details of appointments are shown on a portable tablet, showing where the member lives, what membership type they have and the nature of the problem. The system then calculates the best route to the member too. Pretty clever stuff!
Arriving at our first appointment, we are greeted by a member suffering from a flat tyre on her drive… I never realised just how many people suffer from flat tyres or dead batteries until my patrol day! Within ten minutes, Mark has taken off the flat, replaced it with a space saver (which apparently can do a million miles but only at a maximum of 50 mph!) and he’s done. Job completed, Mark then gets his next appointment automatically from the system – this time it looks like a flat battery from the brief description. Tyre and battery problems pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day. We tackled five tyre and five battery problems during the day as well as timing belt issues, steering problems and leaking water pipes. Some of the batteries simply needed a bit of juice to re-charge them, whilst others were as dead as a dodo.
Mark is one of the thousands of front-line patrols who act as great brand ambassadors for the AA. What really struck me though was that members were delighted to see Mark turn up in his yellow van. Breakdowns can be very distressing and Mark’s calm manner soon put people at ease. The automated appointment system was very interesting and a couple of times we were diverted on route to a call as another van was nearer. The whole system is geared to reduce the amount of time members spend off the road and it seems to work very effectively.
I spoke to Mark about the growing number of hybrids and electric vehicles on the UK roads and he informed me that he’d already had training to handle problems with these so members who own these cars can rest assured they are in safe hands.
What I took out of the day was how much technology supports these lovely guys in their yellow vans and how you’ve got to be good at problem solving to get the job done. My wife and I have been AA members for as long as we can remember. It’s very reassuring to know that when you do put the call into the AA, there are highly skilled people like Mark who will sort you out and get you back on the road and once more be extremely lovely in doing so!