The winner of the Customer Service Award is the AA. The company impressed the judges with its ongoing commitment to “going above and beyond” for its customers, together with its continual development of customer offerings in the face of increased competition. 

The pandemic, and in particular the initial lockdown, raised unforeseen challenges for the UK’s motorists. Explaining how the company went above and beyond customer expectations, AA representative Aimee Postle says: “Not just our customers, but also those who weren’t members of the AA needed our support during the coronavirus pandemic. This included supporting manufacturers by extending their warranty breakdown cover if it was due to expire during lockdown, and carrying out vehicle repairs for customers while dealerships were closed. Importantly, the AA played a role in keeping the country’s key workers moving. More than 7,500 NHS workers were rescued as part of a free breakdown offer, while around 200 AA personnel joined the London Ambulance Service and others around the country to provide 24/7 coverage maintaining ambulance fleets, commissioning additional vehicles, and providing emergency repairs.” 

Postle highlights the customer-centric nature of the business: “Every investment and every innovation is centred on improving our customers’ experience, and customer service goes hand in hand with this. That is why it is critical we ensure the business has the right balance between investment in products and investment in processes. This is what sets us apart from the crowd.” Recent product introductions and improvements include the EV Support service, an end-to-end Accident Management service, the award-winning Rescue Tracker, and the Free-Wheeling Hub. 

With many new van drivers on the road this year, the AA has, under the AA DriveTech banner (a provider of driver training and risk solutions to businesses), been training those who have been employed to fulfil the increased demand for home delivery services.

The AA claims to be at the forefront of industry research, sharing it with its clients through reports and events. With fleet operators in mind the organisation produces an annual Operational Fleet Report in partnership with Rivus, which for 2019-2020 looked in-depth at the opinions of fleets on the adoption of electric and alternatively fuelled vehicles. For a broader reach, it also runs monthly Populus driver polls, which it says is the largest dedicated driving opinion panel in Europe.

Postle summarises the company’s values: “We care about our customers and really do put customer service at the heart of everything we do. We invest and innovate to achieve an outstanding level of customer service, and this sets the business apart.” 

Amanda Smutek, aftersales manager – national accounts, Arval UK was quoted as saying that, after the appointment of the AA as Arval’s breakdown partner last year, it had been incredibly impressed with the service received: “Throughout the implementation process, the AA team demonstrated flexibility and commitment to meeting our very specific requirements. The transition was well managed, and we’ve seen a positive impact on service and driver experience, a key principle for our brands.”

Highly Commended: Northgate

Awarded the Highly Commended prize in this category is vehicle hire company Northgate, which has a fleet of over 50,000 vehicles, 67 branches, and 39 years of experience. 

Responding to the challenges raised by the pandemic, and in particular the fact that many of its customers were unable to operate, the company worked with 833 clients operating 7,900 vans, offering deferred payments or waivers depending on their needs. Northgate’s front-line ‘one stop shop’ Customer Support Centre has been successfully operating remotely, with 80% of staff being able to fulfil their roles. In addition, a customer satisfaction survey taken in early 2020 showed a ‘global satisfaction’ score of 84%. 

Continually developing its portfolio of products aimed at satisfying customers’ changing needs and adding value to its entire customer proposition, there have been recent additions and improvements to existing services, such as accident management, telematics, vehicle inspection software, and driver risk management.