Meet Charlie24, roadside assistance made simple
Interview by Stephen Evans
Formal motoring or insurance roadside assistance organisations have traditionally been the only solution for drivers seeking to avoid being stranded after a breakdown. This car assistance business is ripe for digital disruption, and Lux Future Lab-based Charlie24 is on the case.
Traditional roadside assistance comes with the disadvantages of a yearly subscription needing to be paid, and relying on a call centre to put motorists in touch with towing services and mechanics. However change is coming.
Much in the way Uber connects lift sharing clients and service providers directly via an app and platform, Charlie24 is doing the same for breakdown car recovery services. It is also adding new business solutions for clients including innovative loyalty programmes, reduced costs and streamlined operations.
Disrupting the assistance car market
“Our platform allows drivers to order immediate roadside assistance from any device from a network of local professionals at a clear price communicated upfront”
explained Tommaso Lemessi, co-founder and General Manager of Charlie24.
At the moment motorists around Europe pay up to €100 or more a year to roadside assistance organisations, but they rarely use the service. This is bad value when on average a car breaks down only once every five years. However, with Charlie24 the customer only pays for the services they need when they need them without any upfront payment or yearly fee.
Moreover, this option brings similar or better levels of service than legacy assistance organisations.
“After a few clicks on your smartphone, you are connected directly with the local towing company service that will help you. There’s no need to pass through a call centre with inevitable minutes spent hanging on the line listening to Mozart”
said Tommaso. The service is available 24/7.
In Belgium (where they launched their service) and Luxembourg Charlie24 has engaged a network of local roadside assistance operators. They are very keen to join this new initiative which brings them in direct contact with the final customer. Charlie24 conducts background checks on all service providers to ensure quality and reliability. Clients also give their direct feedback to Charlie24 with a star rating system and comments. “We have received many positive reviews on Google and Facebook from our customers, with price, speed, ease of use, and quality of service rated highly compared to legacy assistance companies,” said Tommaso.
Faster, easier and cheaper
Charlie24 makes it particularly easy for clients as there is no need to download an app. The service is accessible directly from the web, with clients indicating whether they have a basic problem that could be fixed on the spot (flat tyre, flat battery, lost key, out of fuel, wrong fuel, etc.) or whether the car needs to be towed away to a specified garage for more extensive work. Using the web can also be more efficient and accurate than going through a call centre. Clients GPS-linked phones indicate the exact location, as drivers often don’t know precisely where they are when they break down.
Once a service provider is identified, clients are informed and a price quoted for the service. They can then pay with credit card, debit card, PayPal, bank apps, and more, or they can ask a friend to pay on their behalf. Then, just as with ride hailing services, they can watch their service provider’s progress on a map with a continually updated estimated time of arrival.
Targeting the B2B market
Charlie24’s pilot phase began in Brussels about two years ago, before they moved to Luxembourg and into the Lux Future Lab on 1st October 2018. Today, in Belgium where they are reaching about 40-50 new clients per day using search engine optimisation and acquisition, and this means they have completed the final step of their proof of concept. They have been in Luxembourg for a few months and have plans for expansion in selected countries.
However, this B2C work is not their ultimate goal. They have begun the next phase of their development. Many breakdown assistance specialists are seeking greater efficiency and the chance to create innovative loyalty programmes. After establishing the technology and processes in Belgium, they are moving to build relationships with partners. To help support their expansion they are reviewing the opportunity of receiving venture capital funding.
Loving Lux and the Lux Future Lab.
“We moved to Luxembourg because it’s a great place to have a hub”
“It’s easy to set up a business here, venture capital investors know Luxembourg and like it, plus it has advantages such as the multilingual environment”
And there’s no better place to be in Luxembourg for a start-up than the Lux Future Lab.
“It’s a great location to come and work and meet investors and clients, plus we can tap into their wide network of contacts. And their financial and business consulting advice is beneficial”
“We also like them because there was clear intention to support us from the start, and they said ‘yes’ to us straight away”
he added with a smile.