The first motor club dates back to 1902 when there were only about 23,000 cars in operation in the United States. Barely in its infancy, the automobile was more novelty than utility. Their owners, mostly men, gathered together in what started as social clubs. A place where they could go and brag about their cutting edge internal combustion machines. These first cars were less dependent than any horse and many proud owners feared being stranded. Thus the motor club was invented. What once was a place to talk and drink with your buddies was now something entirely different. Not just a social group anymore, these gatherings turned into a support system to help stranded motorists
Over the years these clubs have transformed into more sophisticated businesses. As they’ve morphed from “Good Samaritan” to more corporate in nature they’ve worked hard to maintain an image that symbolizes safety and security on the roads. But while purporting themselves to be a safe-guard against rogue, price-gouging towers, they continue to partner with them. Those same towers the clubs claim to be a guard against on their face, are the ones they’re calling to provide services. Long ago, when the clubs were coming up, the scales were more or less balanced. Clubs needed towers and compensated them well. Now with the increase in the numbers of towers on the roads (tow-preneurs), the clubs have changed the way they do business. This parasitic relationship continues to pit the clubs and towers as adversaries.
With little regard for the needs of those who do the work, motor clubs feeling the pinch of competition amongst themselves, pit competing towing companies against one another—driving rates to the basement.
But rather than go off on another tangent describing my disdain for all that’s wrong with the clubs, we’re going to take a look at a handful of those I consider to be the best, and compare.
What I’ve done is taken all the information from my towing business…(Yes I use my numbers, sales were in excess of $1.1 million for 2014) and compile the results into a table that compares the clubs against one another. The rating system I’m using is 1 through 6. 1 is the worst rating a club can get and 6 is the best. The totals row allows you to compare.
When comparing rates I’m taking the dollars received and dividing it by the number of services provided to get an average rate. Rather than breaking it down by towing and other services, I’ve taken all the money my company received in 2014, from each of these particular motor clubs, and divided it by the number of services provided during that same period.
Rate Increase Consequence
The rate increase consequence is by no means scientific. It measures the consequences I’ve encountered when attempting to get more money from each club. The consequences range from no consequences at all, receiving a measure of warning from the field rep, and being placed on a DNC list (Do Not Call). Of course some clubs will go to the extent of ignoring your new rates for months. They’ll continue to pay your old rates but I address that in the Payment Accuracy column.
To have the club’s calls digitally dispatched is an added benefit but it may not be a big deal for all towers. My rating here is on how well they do the job of digitally dispatching when it is available. Some with the lower numbers may use just a phone call followed up by an email.
This rating is on how well the club’s live dispatcher does when providing information about a call. For instance I gave All State a 2 because of their automated system. Everyone who’s had to endure one of these calls while another line is ringing will understand why. Also many times the live dispatcher will not be the same person who spoke to the stranded motorist and there will be certain details that are left out. A big one is: what’s wrong with the vehicle.
This one has to do with the proper information being given. The clubs cover only a certain amount of money for each call and getting more money out of them, if the information is not correct, can be quite difficult. For instance, a club’s dispatcher may say that a motorist is 4 miles away from a certain intersection but when all is said and done they’re actually 8 miles further. If this isn’t remedied while the call is in progress you’ll have a hard time getting your money later on.
Payment convenience has to do with how easy it is to get paid by the clubs. How and how often do they pay? Do they direct deposit the money into your account, send a check weekly or monthly? And do they provide an accurate accounting of which invoices were paid? I include the purchase order number to each invoice so when I receive payment I can look up what purchase orders are being paid. Some clubs include my invoice number on the paystub, I like this. It makes it easy to determine which invoices were paid in full or which ones I need to challenge.
Payment accuracy refers to a clubs history of accurately paying invoices in full. Many times what I submit isn’t paid in full the first time and I’ll need to twist a few arms in order to get all I’m due. The number I use here is a composite of all those instances with each club.
Whenever there are inaccuracies in payments you need to have the ability to remedy the situation. Unfortunately high quality support is lacking for many of the clubs. To get your money you’re required to prove your case. But the time they have available for you to do so is limited. For instance All State’s billing support by telephone is only open Monday through Friday 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm and you can only discuss 5 purchase orders at a time. Otherwise you can email them.
I don’t know about you but I love having the ability to speak to a representative of the company I’m working for. It gives us both the opportunity to hash out problems and find solutions. And when there are issues that arise, such as damages, having a guy or gal in your corner who’ll listen is priceless. The motor clubs with the lower scores are those whom I’ve never met or spoken to. To AAA’s benefit, theirs is the only one I’ve met in person.
Loyalty & Service Rewards
When rating loyalty I’m looking at a club’s willingness to use a company exclusively. And if no exclusive agreement is offered do they offer a Primary Service Provider status? I know it’s hard to get an exclusive agreement from many of the clubs and handling the glut of calls due to bad weather can be especially difficult if you’re a small company, but being exclusive is still something you should look for. Having an exclusive agreement or being the Primary Provider is good for all involved. It motivates the tower to do more, the club can have peace of mind knowing that they’ve got someone in their corner, and the motorist receives higher quality service quicker than expected. Service rewards are monetary in nature and come from providing quick quality service and are usually only afforded to those with Primary Service Provider Status.
Well that’s how it all shakes out for me for 2014. It looks like AAA is still the best motor club. Of course different clubs may rate substantially different from region to region so take a look at who you work for and let me know who you like best, and of course who you don’t like.