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Have you fastened your seat belt?

My experience and learnings from spending 6 months working inside the UK's biggest breakdown cover provider, The AA.

As you leave the AA’s head office in Basingstoke there’s a display of vintage signs, street furniture and patrol vehicles that span more than 100 years of the company’s history. Amongst the bikes, phone booths and archive photos, this sign stood out.

It couldn’t have been a more appropriate start to what would be a rewarding six months spent on secondment with the AA’s UX team, working more closely with a client than ever before.

Without going deep into product specifics (we’re sworn to secrecy and they know where we live) this blog takes a look at our learnings from the experience and what we look to achieve with our clients when we work so closely together.

Shipping great products.

A couple of days in whilst onboarding into the brand, the team pointed out that the AA was independently voted the most trusted brand in the UK. The message was clear. We can’t mess this up. With a potential 13 million sets of eyes on what we’d be shipping, we knew our output had to be outstanding from the offset.

That’s a challenge we always try to rise to at 383. Adding genuine utility and improving the customer experience — doing the right thing — is why we exist. It’s exciting to partner with clients who share the same ambition and when we align like this, we can truly get the best from one another. With sleeves rolled up, we set about the task of making some great products happen.

So what does this look like?

Designing for the long haul.

The focus for our work with the AA — and something we try to achieve for all our clients — is designing products that persist. Those that are useful right now and will remain relevant in the long term.

Practically, this means tuning into customers and stakeholders to understand and forecast their needs. By pairing user frictions with business strategy, we can be sure that what we design sits in the sweet spot of where both are headed.

Throughout the project we were able to connect with customers and staff directly, both at dedicated user tests and by listening in at call centres. The learnings from these sessions fed into pre-launch product iterations and allowed us to add ideas to the icebox for future releases. This meant that future relevancy was baked into the products we worked on from the very beginning.

Moving the needle.

It’s important that anything we design has an impact for our clients. Our work with the AA was no different. A large part of our focus for the six months was to help launch their new ‘report a Breakdown’ journey. This was designed to reduce the load on call centres, speed up response times for members and increase the accuracy of reports for engineers. All ultimately improving the customer experience and reducing overheads.

Beyond the immediate audience, bespoke, branded versions of the platform were designed to be integrated into third-party apps. With scalability in mind from the start, the experience could add extra value for partners like banks and car brands, giving them another compelling reason to choose the AA as a B2B service provider.

Creating the energy.

We know that the c-suite is almost always short on time, and never short of things to look at. By bringing new customer journeys to life in simple, step-by-step, visual explainers, we were able to quickly demonstrate the benefits in the right level of detail. Internal teams pitch for resources and budget in the same way agencies pitch for work, and this approach helped secure buy-in from the very top of the business.

On top of internal pitch decks, we also created clickable prototypes to demo new ideas. Understanding a product happens much more immediately when it’s in a stakeholder’s hand, especially when compared to digesting a deck. This meant quick conversations could happen in the corridor, rather than the conference room.

These prototypes helped both internal and B2B teams sell-in new ideas to their budget holders and prospects, generating excitement and anticipation around what could be delivered.

Because of this interactive and visual approach to our outputs, many were shared between teams and ‘went viral’ inside the organisation. Gaining visibility throughout the highest levels of the business for key projects.

The lesson learned here is that being optimistic and adding excitement to a project attracts the energy to move it forward through a business. Large organisations are notorious for moving slowly, but people migrate around smart and interesting ideas to create the momentum that gets things delivered. We were very lucky that the AA’s CX team understood this and knew exactly where to spread our outputs to have the biggest impression.

Not forgetting the front line.

No matter how good the products a business creates, if there isn’t internal buy-in and an understanding of how to communicate out to customers, there won’t be an impact.

To wrap up what we created, we delivered an internal campaign to broadcast the AA’s digital experiences across the wider business.

We animated a video that showcased the company’s platforms and their features, why they matter to customers and how to talk about the benefits. This played on screens around the AA’s call centres where we also installed a physical ‘break out’ space to raise awareness as staff grabbed lunch or a coffee.

It was great to hear about the enthusiastic response from curious call centre staff and encouraging to see it serve as a provocation for them to up-feed ideas for the future of digital for the AA. It allowed the team another opportunity to tap into those most closely connected to customers and gather insight that otherwise could have gone unheard.

Leaving on a high.

We’re delighted that our work helped the AA win the 2018 UXUK award for ‘Report a Breakdown’ in the category ‘Best Effect on Business Goals’, with the final product launching early this year.

It was a great experience to work with such a friendly and talented UX team and we’re excited to continue supporting the AA in delivering their future roadmap. Focussing on improving the digital experience of AA members across the entire customer lifecycle.

If you want to know more about the time I spent there, or if you’re considering either doing it yourself or having someone join your team in this way, drop me an email to, always happy to chat.

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