Call centre ineptitude from RAC and AA negates good advertising

For many years I have sat opposite brand managers asking us to deliver more sales, conversions and the ‘right kind of customer’. This was often in the face of poor offers in market from those same Brand managers. The privilege of being the client, when asked how competitive a product is for say insurance or mortgages, the answer being, very uncompetitive, but don’t let that stop you. This is daily life for many agency performance planners in the business and is what makes performance remuneration so tricky.

But lets say the offer is good, lets say the creative is great, acquisition is still difficult and customers are hard won. So I want to understand why businesses allow thousands of call centre people to allow potential customers walk with no attempt to keep them or common sense.

I want to talk about my experience with break down cover. Three players in this space. RAC, AA and Green Flag. It is a battle royal and I have worked with two of those three so know how difficult it is to keep up acquisition at a good cost.

So this weekend my son got in my car and turned on the radio and left it like that for 24hours so that the battery became dead, dead, dead. So dead I could not even get under the bonnet to charge the battery(electric switch). So I call the RAC who I have been a customer with for around 7 years. It turns out that my cover did not auto renew because my debit card had changed at the same time I moved home and my address was not updated. This actually is a side issue but they had my number – no text or message to alert me?

Instead the lovely lady on the phone tells me I can renew but I have a surcharge based on my ‘usage’ last year ie called them twice AND a £70 extra charge for sending someone out at the same time. So I said ‘thank you RAC, its been good but you are now losing a customer.’ Again a side issue but there was no attempt to keep me, no discussion, no sweetener, just a ‘OK thanks.’ What a shame. How much media to now replace me?

So I go online to AA and start to book with them, all going well until I click the button ‘are you in a breakdown situation?’ The AA then add £130 pounds to the booking. Angry but in need of support I call the AA to proudly tell them I am leaving the RAC after all these years and I am ready to book for a year upfront for two people, £150 of cover and could they see clear to not adding the charge. No chance. In fact the guy sounded like he enjoyed saying no. And here lies the issue. Their rules suggest that I become a bad customer if I claim the minute I join, but what about if I stay for 7 years, and I would, that’s a minimum 1000 pounds they lost and the opportunity to cross sell, to try and gain £130. It is crazy.

The banks will negotiate overdraft fees, the insurance companies offer discounts but clearly that has not reached the breakdown companies. Worst still is the complete and obvious lack of flexibility, training and initiative that the bosses provide for call centre workers.

Well RAC and AA. I managed to get the bonnet open, and charged the car and now I am going to book with Green Flag and all for £70. Don’t come asking your planner to increase sales when your call centres and commercial practises are so flawed.

Naked Wines – A master class in CRM and customer relations


Have you heard of Naked Wines? Do you like wine? Then you should check it out In our industry we talk a lot about customer engagement and CRM / social media usage and often talk about AMEX or Starbucks as the benchmark. There is one company that in my experience has blown them all away, I mean really stand out and that is Naked Wines.

Basically Naked Wines invests in new wine makers, start ups of the wine industry and you are encouraged to invest, the investment is small scale, could be £20 a month for example. This money is then ploughed back into the start ups via your purchases. As you purchase you receive 33% cash back to spend again. There is then an amazing site that allows you to rate and share and see what others are drinking, liking etc. When you do buy some wine, it comes with a personalised message from the wine maker on the label which is a nice touch.

As with Amazon they keep track of what you like and don’t like and make suggestions for you etc for future purchases. This is all good but it is not all of this that has taken me, it has been the amazing contact strategy.

After a few standard emails from them telling me what money I have in the account I then receive an email entitled ‘FW That thing I was telling you about’ you open it up to find Naked Wines have forwarded an email from a winemaker offering a chance to Angel investors to buy a one off. Naked Wine email starts with ‘this is what I love about my job’. It is all a fantastic tone, it draws you in.

As it happens I did not take this offer and a little while later I receive an email entitled ‘Have I offended you?’ This is the text:

Dear Marco

I am baffled.

Every month I tell you about the free bottle of wine that you have earned..and every month you ignore it. It is not a trick, it is your reward for being a loyal investor.

If you are too busy to faff about mixing a case to get your free bottle then I have a solution. (goes on to explain solution)

If there is some other problem then please tell me by hitting reply.

This is an engaging, refreshing and actually quite to the point as an opening approach and had me already more engaged in something I was partially committed to. They continue with a number of contact emails and most are ignored, not out of dissatisfaction, more time, busy life etc and I think that is where I genuinely respect this company – they worked that out!

Every so often though after a period of time, they come back to grab your attention, I liked ‘warning do not open before Christmas’ when you open there is a selection of wines with the warning that they may attract unwelcome relatives. As you read further it continues to push the message – avoid this offer – all the way through, it’s nice, a change of pace from the usual CRM messaging.

To my amazement I then actually got a call from someone to have a chat with me about my wine preferences and what I would be interested in the future, a website that calls you? As it happens I did not have time and so…

Along came the next hook email – ‘I am feeling VERY guilty…’ the opening line is brilliant ‘We’ve got your money AND your wine. That is not good! We owe you £80 of wine and I am losing sleep over it’ then comes the genius and ties back to what I said earlier, they know I have not got loads of time for deliberation so they make it easy.

‘I’ve tried to call you several times, but you are a very hard person to get hold of, so I have a no nonsense proposal for you’ They go on ‘Give me one chance to put a selection of wines together and if you like them you have had some great wine and I get a clean conscience. If not a full refund.’ What did I need to do to get this arranged? Hit reply and say YES! That’s it. There is the beauty of it. Let us do the work and just say yes, show us some faith. I did. On the delivery confirmation email they then propose another way I could work with them that gets me the best wines and with the least hassle until I decide to invest more time in it.

Underpinning this amazing contact strategy is an awesome service. Order before 3pm for next day delivery, follow up emails, great website full of information and social engagement and more. Why have I felt like writing about this company, well because so much time is spent writing off email strategies instead focusing on social media etc etc. I don’t think it is true, it is just not done well. Naked Wines is the best experience I have had with a business bar none and should be a benchmark for all. And at the end of it all as I reviewed the emails they sent me I saw that I had bought a fair amount of wine and I would say 90% of that has come from the email nudges!

Well done Naked Wines and every one else take a good look and learn something.