The 47-year-old has been with Opel since 1995. Long before she became Technical Program Manager responsible for preliminary testing customer experience and technical coordination of launch events, Patricia Ladewig-Riebler began her career as a project engineer in Rüsselsheim. “I wanted to work with my hands.” Today she works in Global Connected Customer Experience and makes sure that the things other people do with their hands work properly.
Bernadette Holzer and her husband were involved in a very unusual accident. Their Chevrolet Equinox crashed into a black bear on a country road in Pennsylvania. The couple was lucky to walk away without any injuries, but their Chevy suffered $10,000 worth of damage to its front end. The bear was uninjured too, disappearing back into the forest in a flash after the collision. “After the crash, an OnStar advisor contacted us in the car and asked us if everything was okay. It’s very comforting to know that we have such a high level of service right in the car,” says Bernadette.
Seven million OnStar customers around the world feel the same way, and that number is set to rise. Drivers in Europe have been able to use Opel OnStar since August. Patricia Ladewig-Riebler admits that she doesn’t think black bears pose much of a danger to drivers here. “Even so, there are a lot of other dangers waiting for drivers in Europe.” Her team at Opel can also expect to face some challenges.
CONTINUOUSLY REFINED OVER 19 YEARS
Ladewig-Riebler’s colleagues spent months traveling across Europe ensuring that OnStar provides customers in each one of the continent’s 13 markets with a good experience when service is required and in an emergency. In doing so, the experts assessed whether Opel OnStar functions the same way in the Insignia as it does in the Astra. “In Europe, we benefit from the fact that the system has been continuously developed and refined for 19 years, both in terms of technology and service,” says Ladewig-Riebler. In the early days, OnStar only reported when the airbags deployed. Today, OnStar opens the car door via smartphone app or the remote access by OnStar advisor; it communicates where the vehicle is located, loads navigation destinations into the infotainment system, and sends the owner e-mails containing important operating data, from tire pressure to the engine right through to coolant levels. If needed, the passengers receive 24-hour breakdown and emergency service from a friendly advisor.
THE HEIST FAMILY GO ON A ROAD TRIP
Three wild kids, two working parents, one hectic household: Meet the Heists from Michigan in the United States. When Greg and Jill began thinking about taking a vacation, the question of whether to fly or to drive came up almost immediately. After weighing up safety, comfort, and financial factors, they came to a decision: “The price of plane tickets for five people was just way out of our budget,” says Jill. The Heists opted to take a two-and-a-half week road trip across the western United States in their GMC Acadia Denali. They wanted to enjoy the beautiful nature of lakes and forests and the Rocky Mountains in Montana. They spent their nights on campsites. “We felt comfortable taking this adventure because our car has OnStar,” says Greg. “Our trip took us to some places where cell phones and conventional navigation devices don’t have network coverage, but we always had a connection to the outside world thanks to OnStar. It was really important for us to know we could call for help in an emergency.” The Heists are already planning their next road trip.
Sixty OnStar Advisors provide assistance from the Vauxhall Head Office in the London borough of Luton in the U.K. Each advisor speaks at least two languages, with many even speaking four. The European team received training to complete its task to act as a guardian angel by OnStar experts from North America and Canadian Emergency Advisor Bryan Anta, who shared his experiences on the job.
ASSISTANCE IN EVERY DAY LIFE
Ladewig-Riebler asked around at GM in advance and listened in on numerous OnStar calls in order to know what was in store for employees in Luton before the OnStar test phase in Europe. “For example, I was listening in when a desperate woman called because she couldn’t find the entrance of a medical office,” explains the technology and IT expert. She had the address, but the entrance was difficult to find. The OnStar customer pushed the blue button, not the red emergency button, but she was very nervous. “I was impressed by how cool and calm the advisor remained the entire time. Eventually, she was able to provide precise information on which side of the building the medical center’s entrance is.” In the end, the caller did find it. “OnStar supports drivers in mastering everyday driving situations,” says Ladewig-Riebler.
There are seven million customers all over the world. Opel expects to add another million customers in the first year in Europe.
HOLZER AND THE BLACK BEAR ON NORTH 62
When danger reared its ugly head, Bernadette Holzer and her husband remained calm. “It all happened so fast. We just didn’t have time to panic,” recalls the senior citizen from the town of Tionesta in Pennsylvania in the northeast of the United States. The danger came in the form of a black bear emerging from the forest and straight into the path of Holzer’s Chevrolet Equinox. The crash was unavoidable. Holzer and her husband were not injured in the incident, but their Chevrolet Equinox suffered $10,000 worth of damage and the entire front end had to be replaced. “We were beside ourselves after the accident,” says Holzer. “That’s why it was good that the crash prompted OnStar to switch to emergency mode and an OnStar advisor contacted us.” The advisor asked if all of the vehicle occupants were okay and inquired about the details of the crash. He reassured the Holzers and kept them talking until an ambulance arrived on North 62. “Before the accident, we thought OnStar was just a reliable route planner that also let us know if our tire pressure was too low or if we were running low on gas,” explains Bernadette. “After our encounter with the bear, we were very happy to get to know the other side of OnStar. Having an accident expert contact you and ask if everything is okay is very reassuring.”
The advisors are able to provide assistance because they have all of the relevant information on their computer screens in front of them thanks to the data read out from the Opel vehicle. This includes the customer’s location and the direction they are driving in. If the car breaks down, the OnStar Advisor in Luton can find out why, where it is, and then notify the breakdown assistance service accordingly. The vehicle is located using GPS and the advisors communicate using 4G/LTE, one of the fastest mobile Internet connections there is.
FROM PERSON TO PERSON
The person behind the headset is key. The advisor follows a formal protocol, but also responds individually to each customer. “A personal relationship evolves between the advisor and the driver,” explains Ladewig-Riebler. She knows many of the advisors very well and is regularly on site with her team in Luton to provide feedback and offer suggestions for improvement. “In an emergency, I know that the team here in Europe would be able to find the right words if there was ever a collision with a bear.”
Last update November 2015