At the start of December, my wife, Charlie’s car insurance was due for renewal. We were with the RAC, and had been for a number of years. I was about to do a compare the market, but an email came through from them offering free breakdown cover if we renewed directly with them. Whilst we had breakdown cover through our packaged bank account, they tend to use local garages rather than the big breakdown experts so, with the price being reasonably close, we decided to renew with the RAC, for the peace of mind of having the expert breakdown cover too.
About 3 weeks after we renewed the inevitable happened. One cold and wet December afternoon, Charlie pulled out of the petrol station, the car grumbled, all lights on and cut out. She managed to steer the car to the edge of the road – one of the main A roads leading out of Chester – but it was on a double yellow line and partially blocking a driveway.
But what peace of mind, we had RAC cover!
Of course, she expected the wait to be longer – we appreciated that they were no doubt having staffing issues due to Covid, but she finally got through to an excellent customer service operator who did a good job of calming her and reassuring her. She said that the wait could be up to 3 hours, and because of that, if she was happy to, Charlie could leave the key with the car and get a taxi or train home. She did just that, as she had to collect the children, with full peace of mind that the car would be brought home later that evening.
With the kids in bed (around 7), we checked outside – no car. We called – and waited – again. It would be another 3 hours, by this point taking us to around 10.30.
You know what’s coming next.
A final call at 10.30 and the car still hadn’t been collected. We were assured it would be collected overnight and were promised that it would be outside our house.
It was at this point that our peace of mind was really starting to slip. It had now been 7.5 hours since we’d first reported the breakdown, and the car was on double yellows on a really busy road.
However, at that time of night, there really was nothing to be done but to try and get to sleep and see what the morning brought.
6.30, first up, and I headed outside in hope rather than expectation. You guessed it, no car. Charlie got straight onto them, lots more apologies but no explanations, and were once again promised that it would be on the first transporter of the day, and they usually started collecting between 7.30 and 8, so it would be with us by 9.
9am came and went.
Yet another call and we eventually found out that because the driver was not with the car, the RAC rescuer had decided to leave the car and prioritise other jobs. Despite the call, the handler told us to leave the car and it was explicitly written on the notes.
By midday, we had lost our sense of humour.
I then called our bank and got them to put us in touch with a local breakdown company. They then headed to the scene and 2 hours later the car was back with us.
We never ever heard from the RAC again. Maybe it’s still in the system, and one one day they’ll head to Chester to try and collect the car? Who knows!!
The RAC state that they’re ‘driven by a mission to deliver complete peace of mind for our customers'. The call handlers we spoke to did a great job of trying to do this, but there felt like a complete disconnect between customer services, despatch and the drivers on the ground. Somewhere along the lines, communication was completely lost.
We all know that nothing infuriates people more than broken promises, and when a 3-hour expectation is communicated, it needs to be delivered.
Like most people, we were happy to cut the RAC some serious slack because of Covid challenges, but a little more honesty and a little better working efficiency would have gone a long way to delivering that peace of mind that their mission demands.