Accidents in a self-driven world: Who is liable

An accident has the potential to sour any drive whether it be an outstation get away with friends or a night out on the town with family

Updated: Sep 7, 2018 06:12:40 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

The self drive industry has grown by leaps and bounds in India in the last few years. However, there are still certain parts of the product experience that have the potential to induce anxiety.

Most individuals who opt for a self drive vehicle tend to be less frequent drivers, a common concern what happens in the event of an accident. Understandably, this is the most frightening outcome of a self drive experience.

An accident has the potential to sour any drive, whether it is an outstation get away with friends or a night out on the town with family. The best way to avoid an accident will always be to use abundance of caution on the roads. That said, sometimes even the most cautious drivers can meet with an accident, given the frenetic circumstances on Indian roads.

In the face of this reality, self drive companies go to great lengths to ensure an extremely smooth process in the event that the customer meets with an accident.

Here are some best practices companies can follow:

Customer is King
Leaving aside minor dents and scratches on the car, timely customer assistance should be the most important focus for a company. The customer should be reassured that they will have your support every step of the way. This point simply cannot be overstated as the anxiety levels after an accident are the highest.

Once the customer has informed the company about an accident, immediate action is absolutely essential. First step would be to inform road-side assistance, right up to notifying local emergency support, if required. This means, ensuring ambulances and local police is informed and rushes to the spot to help with any ground formalities, if needed.

Turn Around Time (TAT) 
A clear Turn Around Time (TAT) should be given to the customer so that he can be put at ease straight away. Without this simple yet critical action, the experience can really go sideways in a jiffy. Above all, the company must work tirelessly to streamline communication across multiple stakeholders and remain the primary contact point for the customer. It can quickly become a sub-optimal experience if the customer begins managing communication streams without the broader context. This can lead to partial information sharing, leading to slower response times and a poor quality experience from different stakeholders.

A strong process only gets you so far when dealing with an accident. Without question, high empathy quotient is the most necessary skill to excel in this support function. It goes a long way in putting the customer at ease.

Limited (Customer) Liability
Throughout the accident process, the company must always remind the customer that his/her liability is limited. In the event of an unfortunate accident, doing this would relieve the customer from any anxiety about his financial or legal liabilities. Most self drive companies cap the customer liability at Rs 10,000, with the remainder of the repair cost covered by the insurer.

This provides a mental and financial safety net for the customer, something that’s quite non-trivial when it comes to the perceived ease of use of the service. Companies always aim to create a product that fosters maximum return customers, and by ring fencing customer obligations in the event of an accident, loyalty is created.

When handling an accident, a self drive company faces two very real outcomes: either the experience can be quite poor for the customer, thus spreading brutally negative word of mouth or the experience can be remarkably positive where the customer raves about the support and understanding shown by the company at the time of accident.

The author is a Co-founder of Zoomcar.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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