AAA Mid-Atlantic Chairman and CEO Talks Business
Please give us a snapshot of what your business does.
AAA Mid-Atlantic provides roadside assistance, automotive, travel, insurance and financial services and serves as an advocate for motoring and traffic safety. AAA’s focus is on high- quality service and members’ safety, security and peace of mind. We are in the rescue business, so there’s an emotional tie. Everyone has a story.
What’s the most important piece of what you do and why?
AAA has been rescuing people at the roadside as the first and best provider of emergency roadside assistance with safety as the top priority. AAA Mid-Atlantic extends its roadside assistance to stranded bicyclists. AAA roadside assistance providers meet stringent customer-service standards and background checks.
Experience and relationships matter. First and foremost is quality service, which members have come to expect. Our average response time to stranded motorists is 36 minutes, and 89 percent of members rate themselves as “totally satisfied.” Two-thirds of calls come during rush hours with most in three congested mid-Atlantic metropolitan areas: Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.
Our research shows that when people are in stranded and distress, they usually want to talk to a human being and so we focus on maintaining that human connection while also providing service information in the channels in which members prefer: smartphones, apps, tablets, the Internet and in person. Members can save more than the cost of annual membership by using their discounts on shopping and attractions, travel planning, financial services and auto and home insurance options.
What are some of the unique challenges in your industry?
AAA members span all generations including teenagers, millennials, gen X, baby boomers and seniors, meaning we are continually innovating to meet the changing needs of members. Long-standing paper TripTiks and maps have given way to mobile applications. When roadside assistance delivery vehicles are en route, stranded members can watch their progress via their mobile devices. When we come out for roadside assistance, our folks are asking, “Do you have kids, do you need a rental car?” We’re asking how we can solve your life issues, not just your mechanical issues.
Since we are not in just one industry, our challenge is to proactively refine our product offerings, embrace innovation and tie it all together for our members in a way that makes a AAA membership indispensable. No one has the breadth of services we do. We constantly measure ourselves against companies that provide similar services.
What is the most effective marketing strategy that you use?
Trust and value. Each member represents a unique relationship so our strategic marketing wraps the entire AAA value proposition into a holistic message about the value of membership and trust in the brand. We are the motorist’s best friend and advocate.
What’s up next for AAA Mid-Atlantic?
AAA Mid-Atlantic is forging forward a dynamic growth path with expanded services for members with trusted auto repair for members and non-members in one-stop shopping for all AAA services at Car Care Insurance Travel Centers. Every time we’ve opened one of these, folks are saying “I love the fact that I’m not going to get pressured.” The first Delaware Car Care Insurance Travel Center opens in Dover later this year and a second will locate in the Wilmington area. AAA Mid-Atlantic has opened 24 such Centers in the last four years and 16 more are planned to open within the next two years.
Something you didn’t know
The Delaware Motor Club began with a handful of members wanting to make the novel activity of automobile driving safe by improving roads and laws designed for travel by horse and buggy. In fact, in 1913, AAA road motorcycle patrolmen were called “Good Samaritans of the Highway.” Annual membership dues in Delaware were $10 until 1973. The Delaware Motor Club eventually became the Delaware Division of the Keystone Automobile Club which merged with the Automobile Club of Maryland in 1990, changing its name to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Things to know about AAA Mid-Atlantic
Location: 1 River Place, Wilmington, Del.
Phone: (302) 299-4000
Employees: Over 820 in Delaware, 2,900 total
Members: In Delaware, 140,000 members. Mid-Atlantic region, 4 million members
Financials: Privately held not-for-profit
- Bernhard M. Koch, CEO and Chairman of the Board
- Diane Remy, Executive Vice President, Products, Services and Distribution
- Michael Sumsky, Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer
- Gary Marini, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer
- Nick Eppinger, Senior Vice President, Insurance and Membership
- Debra King, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer
Product or Service: AAA Mid-Atlantic has its corporate headquarters in Wilmington and serves nearly 4 million members in Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia, with automotive, travel, personal insurance and financial services through more than 60 retail stores, Car Care Insurance Travel Centers, regional operations centers and at AAA.com.