Leading Through Change

AAA Carolinas Gets Back To Basics in a Time of Need

There's one mission — do good. Read how AAA Carolinas launched a large-scale customer outreach program.

This blog is part 1 of our 5 part series in which Salesforce’s Global Innovation evangelist Brian Solis speaks with our customers about how they’ve transformed to adapt to change since COVID-19 hit in March.

In times of disruption, traditional business playbooks often get thrown out the window. There are few, if any, checklists, best practices, or case studies to follow when no one has experience in responding effectively to something so incomparable. Leaders have no choice but to learn as they go, to write the playbook based on real-time, data-driven insights, testing and learning, and successes and failures. The best advice in the absence of direction is to get back to business basics and the core mission that started it all.

Getting back to basics is precisely what the AAA Carolinas team did following the sudden disruption brought on by COVID-19.

In the first episode of “Resiliency in Service,” Chris Doyle, chief marketing officer of AAA Carolinas, joined me for a conversation about being proactive to build customer relationships in these volatile times. 

Like businesses everywhere, AAA Carolinas necessitated a huge shift in work overnight.

“We all remember March 13th in our organization because it’s the day everything stopped, and we all had to take a pause,” Doyle recanted.

That’s when AAA Carolinas leadership decided to get back to basics. The organization took a step back to remember its core mission and the promise it made to always be there for members in times of need. This reflection led to a complete pivot in day-to-day-operations, giving a new sense of purpose to the hundreds of workers who were now working from home in just five days.

The team embarked on a large-scale, member outreach program to let members know that roadside assistance was still available, encourage clients not to travel and to follow government and health guidelines, and check-in on their wellbeing. The goal wasn’t to sell a product or service or inform a member about a specific benefit. Instead, the employee mission was “to do good.”

Member retention is our number one metric. Our renewal rates are at all-time highs.

Chris Doyle | CMO of AAA Carolinas

With more than 2.2 million customers, AAA prioritized members who were potentially more at risk or in need based on travel preferences and demographics.

AAA directed its call centers to conduct calls that were genuine in their intent, inquiring “if there was anything AAA could do for them” and also taking the opportunity to “thank them for their membership.” Doyle shared examples of how the AAA team followed through on its promise. In several cases, representatives delivered essential items to members who said, “You know what? I could use toilet paper!” All of this was done at no charge, in appreciation for being a AAA member.

“We saw this as a [AAA] benefit that our members could use at this time,” recalled Doyle.

A natural next question is to then ask about ROI and specific measures used to validate the performance of such a unique program. But instead of focusing on traditional KPIs such as number of new contracts, dollar value, qualified leads, average time for conversion, the AAA Carolinas team focused on CPIs or customer-centered performance indicators where a return on relationships would equate to high satisfaction and loyalty.

More so, this program also had an impact on employee experiences, making employees feel like they were making a difference. As a result, member numbers, overall satisfaction, and company loyalty are up with AAA Carolinas despite this pandemic.

“It’s all about loyalty — that’s the most important currency,” Doyle proudly stated. “Member retention is our number one metric. Our renewal rates are at all-time highs. Members value the peace of mind that AAA provides.”

In its sincere effort to check-in with members, AAA Carolinas’ customer base grew because at the heart of their service is people helping people. That’s a powerful example of getting back to basics, putting the customer’s wellbeing at the center of everything.

In closing, Doyle shared three pieces of advice to help executives prioritize resilience in service and promote customer wellness and loyalty.

  1. Your organization must be nimble. Technology and customer-centricity can help organizations pivot quickly and with purpose.
  2. Tone matters. You are not a commercial that only talks about products and services. Place people’s wellbeing front and center.
  3. Make customer experience a value proposition. Experience is the connective tissue that ties everything together.

By taking a human-centered approach, one focused on customer wellbeing and human-centered membership value, AAA Carolinas is leading through change and exemplifying resilience in service.

Interested in how to manage change in your organization? Read “The Service Leader’s Guide to Resiliency” to uncover best practices on how to empower your team and center around your customer today while building a resilient service organization to handle the challenges of tomorrow.

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