Service Excellence Awards 2005: Winner - Retail & Consumer Services - RAC PLC, Roadside

Every seven seconds, somebody calls the RAC. They are usually in distress, stranded at the side of the road and worried about completing their journey. 'When you have broken down, your life stops,' says the organisation's operations director, Nigel Paget. 'Our priority is to get the right person there quickly.'

RAC Roadside is the UK's second-largest roadside assistance organisation, with 8 million members, but its commitment to providing the very best service - in handling breakdown calls, dispatch to the scene, speedy diagnosis and repairs - is second to none.

Breakdown calls are received at contact centres in Walsall, Manchester and Glasgow, then distributed to 1,500 patrols around the country. This is supported by a state-of-the-art, £7 million Intelligent Computer Aided Dispatch (iCAD) system. From the time a motorist calls the RAC to the moment they continue their journey takes an average of just 64 minutes.

Good service in this context means many things: identifying swiftly where the motorist is; providing a reliable estimate of the patrol's arrival time (achieved 86% of the time); and having the technical expertise to diagnose just about any problem.

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