While the challenges have stayed fairly consistent throughout the years, the nature of how we receive volumes of breakdowns has slowly changed,’ says Neil Wilson, remarking on the nature of Green Flag’s operations today.
‘We used to receive our highest volume of calls and breakdowns in traditional ‘drive times’ between 08:00-10:00 and 16:00-18:00 from Monday to Friday, but this has slowly changed to be flatter throughout the days of the week. Weekends now have similar volumes of calls to weekdays,’ he adds.
‘Advances in technology have made it easier from a customer perspective, particularly with mobile phone capability and the ability of our customers to call and report a breakdown while sat in their car.’
Indeed, having been in the business for over 18 years, Wilson has worked his way up from an advisor within National Breakdown processing breakdown calls to his current management level of the past six years, which has also seen him looking after rescue claims operations for the last three.
On a day-to-day basis this involves forecasting the correct volume of calls that Green Flag receives every 15 minutes throughout the 24 hours and then aligning staff to that volume.
‘Changes in weather are the main driver for any increases or decreases in volume so having the correct weather forecasts are vital to establish an accurate forecast,’ he adds. ‘So ensuring that every breakdown that we deal with is handled within agreed timescales and all customers receive that highest standard of service delivery is of utmost importance.’
Wilson says Green Flag’s control centre communicates to its service providers through internet access services (IAS) which are managed by BT. Here messages are formatted into the application software preferred by each provider.
‘There are currently three systems being used by the Green Flag Service Providers – Garage Manager, Vtrak and Apex. However, there is a recommendation that all service providers use the same system and Apex has been the identified as the preferred system,’ he says. ‘Following a call for help from one of our customers the information can be with one of our garages within seconds. In addition, the information is then sent to the Green Flag technicians so we are able to respond to customers as quickly as possible.’
As more than 90% of its outbound instructions are automated, Green Flag’s call centre is resourced accordingly. However, in the unlikely event of auto dispatch system failure it is required to move to a manual instruction process, which can mean that resources need to be moved away from inbound calls.
‘Thankfully the systems are resilient so the failure rate is very low,’ he adds. ‘Another challenge can be the consistency of MI received by our network as a result of having three different systems in operation. In the future all providers will be on the Apex system, so we will have improved MI capability.’
Within the command centre, Pulse, its in-house-designed web-based system used to process and dispatch incidents, is supported by Oracle. This has been in place for more than 13 years, has a direct feed into the DVLA for accurate vehicle data and is capable of receiving and making automatic transmissions over the internet.
‘We use wireless technology to pass the breakdown incidents into the service providers after we have collected all the required information from the customer,’ adds Wilson. ‘Service providers then use similar technology to pass the incident through to the roadside technicians, while vehicle fleets are monitored and tracked through our independent network.’
Service provider networks dispatch incidents wirelessly to the fleet of vehicles using GPS and although a variety of tracking technology is used in the industry, Navman seems to be the preferred choice, says Wilson.
‘As our instructions are currently to fixed locations our IAS solution means we can instruct to our nearest provider within seconds. This means that our resource can be focused on handling and dealing with our customer’s calls for assistance,’ he adds.
Wilson says that every customer who reports a breakdown also receives a text via their mobile phone to confirm which garage is attending and also giving an estimated time of arrival.
‘We also have a process in place for deaf customers where they can text us their breakdown details and we will respond using text messaging,’ he adds.
From a technical perspective, Wilson says development will come from the smartphone capabilities of being able to identify an exact location, transmit that through to the contact centre and assign a technician to attend the breakdown. Users will then be able to track the assistance vehicle travelling to them on their smartphone. He believes the firm is on course to deliver on its expectation of going live in 2012.
Looking forward, Wilson says Green Flag is developing a fleet managed service where the contact centre will have the functionality to dispatch the most appropriate vehicle to an incident based on factors such as make of vehicle, vehicle fault, number of occupants, location and parts access.
‘Based on the location of both the customer and technician we will use GPS tracking to provide our customer with an expected arrival time,’ he says. ‘We will then automatically update our customer periodically until we arrive on scene. We’ll also then utilise a consistent MI suite to collate real-time MI such as arrival times, repair time and fault codes, which can then be used to help our partnership customers to proactively manage their fleet.’