Lucien Liz-Lepiorz

design & develop

Rescuing Alamo

Every year, Allstate dispatches over 2 million branded and white-label rescues across the United States and Canada. 7 million phone calls are handled by hundreds of Rescue Associates, who each use two dispatching applications. Alamo’s onboarding to the newer of these two, Omni, shaved over 40% of call time and dramatically reduced complexity across the roadside ecosystem.

MMA takes two weeks to learn

MMA takes two weeks to learn

Omni can be mastered in three hours

Omni can be mastered in three hours

After two years of product design and development, Omni had yet to onboard Alamo Rent a Car, one of the last flagship partners still using MMA. Once their spot on the roadmap came up, the team met with internal relationship managers to scope out the development effort.

This discovery session resulted in a series of index cards that recorded potential changes to Omni. Soft services such as tire changes and jumpstarts wouldn’t be an issue, but all signs indicated that tows were a black box of complexity.

To get to the bottom of this, four developers, two designers, and a technical product manager flew to Largo, Florida. A dozen highly-trained RAs handle Alamo calls out of Largo, and observing them would unlock the mysteries of rental car tows.

preparing concepts for the trip

preparing concepts for the trip

driving across Tampa Bay

driving across Tampa Bay

first night in Florida

first night in Florida

At the call center, Omni listened to live calls and witnessed the RAs use MMA, Alamo’s internal Odyssey and NatRes systems, a manual call logger, and a massive Excel spreadsheet. Average call times exceeded 15 minutes: a stark contrast to Omni’s nine-minute average.

call center environment

call center environment

a customer needs a new vehicle

a customer needs a new vehicle

multiple systems in use

multiple systems in use

Rachael Forster, my design pair, and I conducted individual research sessions with prototypes for Alamo soft services.

Omni brings a few smiles

Omni brings a few smiles

This feedback would inform our two major towing explorations: a flow that determined tow type through a series of questions, and one that required the user to make their own decision.

After returning to Chicago, the designers scheduled eight more in-depth interviews and usability tests with RAs. While the questions-based model maintained design purity, the user-selectable dropdown fit with Alamo’s vernacular and resulted in faster completion times.

probing questions

dropdown selection

RAs showed particular enthusiasm for the automated drive-in vehicle exchange: a process that they had relied on Excel for, and one that consumed upwards of two minutes.

completed drive-in exchange

completed drive-in exchange

In the final, dropdown-based design, each tow type contained specific probing questions, and the rescue map adjusted to fit the situation. Two-way tows, an operation unique to Alamo, consisted of one tow for the disabled vehicle, and another for the replacement.

one-way tow probing questions

one-way tow probing questions

customer ride-along locations

customer ride-along locations

requesting a replacement vehicle

requesting a replacement vehicle

completed two-way tow

completed two-way tow

Onboarding an entire roadside partner allowed me to witness the complexities of legacy software firsthand. Weekly stakeholder check-ins finessed my interpersonal skills, and our constant user interviews brought countless moments of empathy and joy.

One major regret is our continuation of the two-way tow model: third-party software used by tow shops does not handle these elegantly. Did we over-optimize the call center experience at the expense of provider reliability? Would the simplicity of two separate tows have made up for the cost of retraining RAs and reorganizing the business?

you’re in good hands

you’re in good hands

Final accountabilities included user research, stakeholder alignment, user experience direction, feature prioritization, and developer support.