2020 – a year of roadside volatility and adaptation

2020 was a year like no other for the roadside assistance industry. As COVID-19 hit, Digicall Assist responded rapidly to adjust to keep Australians safe and moving. Here we take a look back at 2020’s changes in call and case volumes.

2020 call and case volumes

Overall for all of our clients, 2020 saw around a 20% decrease in roadside assistance job volumes, driven by much of Australia being in isolation. The biggest impact was seen during March to June 2020.

We were able to service all customers, however the restrictions in place meant that a number of things needed to change, such as customers not being able to travel with a tow truck after their vehicle had been picked up.

We worked closely with the various State governments to ensure that we could continue to provide service. Initial indications were that most people travelling frequently were those working in emergency service and frontline positions, so it was critical that we could operate and keep these people moving.

During this time another change was the dramatic shift in the predictability of our call volumes. Usual peak hour times disappeared, and we needed to adapt our rostering and staff coverage. This was not without its challenges and we did this whilst also transitioning our team to work from home – at its peak 95% of team members were working at home. The majority are now back in the office.

Once lockdowns started to ease, we then encountered another dramatic shift in case volumes, with high incidents of battery failures in vehicles that had been stationery for months, or had mainly just been driven short distances. Battery-related events are always high, however the amount of battery cases we managed at this time dwarfed all other case types.

Predictability disappeared

One of the key learnings that we found during 2020 was that it was predictably unpredictable.

Nothing highlights this better than our preparation for the Christmas period. Every insight told us that we were going to have an incredibly busy December and January. People would be travelling domestically only, bumper to bumper traffic would cause engine issues, vehicles would run out of fuel. Then Sydney’s Northern Beaches cluster turned people’s plans on their head, borders slammed shut again and more restrictions were enforced.

2021 thus far

Since mid-February we have seen our case volumes return to pre-Covid levels. With Australia largely now on top of the pandemic and vaccinations starting to roll out, we expect that’s where the volume will stay.

Anecdotally the roads are much busier, and this is due in part to State Governments actively pushing for people to return to the office to bolster the economy. That’s combined with social distancing requirements still in force on public transport, leading to more people driving to the office instead.

Call peak times continue to remain quite unpredictable, however we expect that the case volumes will now stabilise.