When nine motor clubs formed the American Automobile Association (AAA) in 1902 to serve 1,500 drivers, its founders could not have predicted the legacy that would unfold throughout the following century—or the technology it would one day harness to serve its 58 million members throughout North America.
In the United States, 25 percent of households hold at least one AAA membership. The Auto Club Group (ACG)—the second largest club in the AAA Federation—is accelerating its next push for growth to ensure AAA will remain at the forefront of on-the-go services for the next hundred years.
“We embrace the history of our brand because it has paved the way for the strong sense of loyalty among our members,” says Shohreh Abedi, ACG’s executive vice president, chief operations and technology officer. “AAA has a legacy of being a highly respected, experiential brand that has been trusted to provide peace of mind by generations of American families. Because of our history and reputation, we do not have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising to create brand awareness, like other companies in the marketplace.”
Abedi arrived at ACG in 2016. Her arrival marked the turning point of ACG’s transformation into a customer-focused powerhouse in the digital ecosystem. Recognizing this digital revolution as critical to the health of the company’s future, the IT team supporting Abedi has rallied to transform the business and enhance member experience. Empowered by her take-charge spirit, Abedi’s team is developing high-tech platforms to empower services to members and cater to their communication preferences.
“We are in an age of consumerization, where people are constantly connected and want a variety of options. It’s
important that ACG considers the different ways our members prefer to communicate and to give them those options, which is exactly what my team is working to achieve,” Abedi says. “My own family is a good example of the variety of ways consumers want to communicate. For example, you have my teenage son who wants to do everything immediately with self-service options online. Then, you have my seventy-five-year-old father on the opposite side of the spectrum who enjoys speaking with a call center representative, usually starting with a conversation about the weather.”
To enable this transformation, Abedi calls upon her wealth of knowledge gained from more than twenty-five years at innovative companies. She has worked in a variety of industries, including financial services, healthcare, retail, defense, technology, and management-consulting services. Her experience with organizations of varying span, scale, and size has given her a unique perspective to impact business strategy, company growth, innovation, customer experience, and operational excellence.
Of all her experience, Abedi cites her consulting work as the most influential piece in her background.
“Those twelve years in consulting exposed me to different companies, systems, cultures, and industries,” Abedi says. “You flex a lot of different muscles when you’re called upon to find a solution for a company—and then execute it. It’s like going from fire to fire, challenge to challenge. You must rely on your skills, relationship influencing, and ability to navigate without having direct authority.”
In her role at ACG, Abedi is mobilizing and automating all organizations within her lines of responsibility, which includes marketing, emergency road service, travel agency sales, cybersecurity, data insights, and processing.
“ACG needed to evolve its technology and bring features to fingertips,” Abedi says. “You can’t rely on the same things and stay relevant.”
Abedi is providing those choices by augmenting roadside assistance with state-of-the-art technology. The overall goal is to create seamless and secure access from any device so members can connect with customer service. For example, the AAA mobile app enables users to map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA digital assistance for all sorts of vehicles, from bikes to cars. The latter in particular came in handy for Midwest members during snow storms last January, according to Abedi.
“During these storms, many people were stuck on the roads, and the human call center model would not sustain the surge in the amount of calls,” Abedi explains. “Our use of speech recognition artificial intelligence allowed members to have a conversation with a virtual agent to schedule and confirm an arrival time for roadside service.”
The AAA mobile app enables geolocation and text notifications of service truck arrival time with a one-touch click. Abedi’s team is also working on chatbots and digital capabilities to monitor vehicle safety and car trouble. For example, the member will be notified when it’s time to replace their battery, and the system will provide automatic scheduling for the replacement delivery.
Another initiative that excites Abedi is the company’s partnership with Amazon Alexa and Google Home. ACG has produced skills adopted by the virtual assistants that allow members to access the vast library of AAA services.
“You can request Alexa to ask AAA for the best Italian restaurants in your area, and Alexa will share listings by accessing the AAA rating system and offer to make reservations via Open Table,” Abedi says. “Or if you get locked out of your car, you can ask Alexa to send help. You can even access your AAA insurance information and request a new card.”
The ease and flexibility of serving customers anytime and anywhere is how Abedi says ACG will continue to increase and satisfy its membership base. Her team evaluates metrics of user downloads and utilization to monitor the effectiveness of their products and services.
Embedding technology into the lives of consumers reflects the emerging IT trajectory in every industry. While AAA published its first road maps in 1905, Abedi is creating road maps of her own to chart the future of the organization and increase its digital capabilities. One of the first things Abedi did when she joined ACG was restructure the IT organization. She transformed IT from a fragmented department to a cohesive group that has a horizontal, shared-services model. She has positioned the leaders of each group as relationship managers, similar to a consulting model.
Up next on Abedi’s roadmap to modernize ACG’s IT infrastructure and legacy applications are membership products and services; policies and products for property and auto insurance; and the digital transformation of emergency roadside assistance (ERS) eco-system. Another issue on her radar is fortifying cybersecurity by creating preventative action plans for potential cybersecurity attacks.
As AAA memberships continue to be passed down from generation to generation, members both young and old demand a very different member experience. In just two years with ACG, Abedi has cemented her leadership team, sharpened her area’s focus, and paved the way for the next hundred years of success.
Photos: Gillian Fry
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Capgemini congratulates Shohreh Abedi and is proud to be The Auto Club Group’s strategic partner and system integrator, leading their enterprise-wide digital and core transformation programs that are focused on offering innovative tools and a seamless omni-channel experience to their members, agents and partners, and on improving speed-to-market, service, operations and expense.