National Motor Club Gains Insight Across the Company

National Motor Club

Matt Krzysiak, COO

National Motor Club is a leading nationwide provider of emergency roadside assistance and other travel related services. Headquartered in Irving, Texas, the company serves hundreds of thousands of members throughout the United States. Tableau interviewed COO Matt Krzysiak at the 2010 Tableau Customer Conference. ”There are cases where we have reduced costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of the information we gained out of Tableau,” said Matt.

Tableau: Can you start by giving us a quick overview of how National Motor Club uses Tableau?
   
Matt: We use Tableau in many different ways to help us position our products in the marketplace, reduce costs, look at expenses, look for trends and outliers – we use it all over.
   
Tableau: Tell me about a particular scenario where you use Tableau. What type of analysis are you doing and what type of data are you looking at?
   
Matt: We provide a lot of roadside assistance dispatches, everything from tows to fuel deliveries, tire changes and so on. We look for parts of the country where we have a larger concentration of events than other spots. Tableau, with its mapping features and some of the other features, has allowed us to quickly identify the areas where we have the most dispatches. Then we can focus our attention in “hot spots” and look for the appropriate dispatchers and service providers to try to reduce our costs.
   
Tableau: So, you’ve actually reduced your costs as a result of Tableau analysis?
   
Matt: Absolutely. We've been able to not only reduce costs, but also deliver better service. By identifying these high volume areas, we can target specific new service providers that have better capabilities. They deliver better service to members' needs on the side of the road.
   
Tableau: How many people at National Motor Club use Tableau? What types of people are using it?
   
Matt: We have about 10 desktop users, and we have a server implementation with about 50 licenses. Our owner, Jeff Jensen, is on Tableau every day. I use it myself. Our management staff uses Tableau. Our employees use it. We use it all across the board.

We often use it for direct analysis when we're trying to answer a particular question. We will get very focused on answering that question using the product. We’ll develop visualizations that answer simple questions.

At an executive and management level, we use it more in an exploratory fashion. We don't really know what questions we're trying to answer or what information we're seeking, so we take advantage of the drag-and-drop, point-and-click. We're able to go down a path where one piece of information in the data leads us to another, which leads us to another, and we're able to get to a new result very quickly.

Tableau: You also integrate all of your call center data with Tableau?
   
Matt: Yes, we extract data out of our phone switch every 15 minutes and put it in a repository. We’ve built a whole suite of reports and analysis around our call center data. We take specific published workbooks, put them out on our Tableau server, and everybody in the call center, from employees that are on the floor to line managers and department managers can get in and actually see data in real time.
   
Tableau: How did you first get involved in Tableau?
   
Matt: My boss, Jeff Jensen, the owner of the company is kind of a data junkie like I am, so he brought the tool to us. We looked at it and did a couple things with it, and before long we realized that hey, this is pretty easy. We’re able to get answers with information that we couldn’t find before. Soon it started to take off and become part of our culture. It became the tool of choice anytime that we were doing any type of analysis. And from that point it spread through the whole entire organization.
   
Tableau: How did you do analysis before Tableau? And what benefits have you seen by using Tableau?
   
Matt: We used to do analysis the old fashioned way. We would ask the IT department for information, and they would give us results, usually through customer queries. We actually tried to use other tools like Business Objects, and we even went down the path of developing a bunch of cubes. But we found that to be very restrictive.

For the direct type of analysis when you're answering a specific question, those tools satisfied that need. But when it got to the exploratory type of work where we were trying to find the information about our data that we just didn't know, the previous products didn't allow us to do that.

Tableau: What about the time it takes to get a question answered in Tableau, versus using one of your previous tools?
   
Matt: With our previous tools trying to get an answer was a very iterative process that took lots of time. We would ask IT or an analyst for information, wait for the results, and look at the results. Then, it was “I want to change this, I want to look at that, that leads me to another question,” and we were back in that same loop again. What used to take us hours, or days, or even weeks, now in Tableau with drag-and-drop features we can just rip through that stuff very quickly.
   
Tableau: What's the size of the data you work with?
   
Matt: Our largest data set has about 70 million rows. Generally speaking we're working with data sets with hundreds of thousands or just a few million. We use SQL server as the back end database throughout our organization, and we lay Tableau on top of that. It seems to work very well for us.
   
Tableau: If you were talking with another company, what advice would you give them to become successful with Tableau?
   
Matt: Well, I think that in order for Tableau to be a success, you've got to make it part of your everyday routine. Tableau is our data analysis tool, and we use it for everything. Many of our presentations are no longer done on paper or PowerPoint; they're now done in Tableau. And we have a very fact-based decision making process. Without facts we can't make what we feel are appropriate decisions.

So, I’d say just take Tableau and integrate it into the day-to-day operation, so it becomes another tool, just like so many of the other tools you would use, your Outlook, Word, Excel, or anything else.

Tableau: Have you done any work to quantify the ROI you’re getting with Tableau?
   
Matt: It's difficult to put a specific dollar amount on ROI, but I do know that there are cases where we have reduced costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of the information we gained out of Tableau.

We've used it to analyze the behavior of our members and our clients. We've used it to better understand the distribution of work that we do around the country. We implemented a whole new sales compensation program, and we were able to use Tableau to do some very sophisticated “what if” types of analysis. We could change certain variables in data and then watch the ripple effect through the way we compensate sales people.

We also just went through an enterprise implementation of a membership management software. During that process we went through several months worth of data conversion, and would run cycles on a nightly and weekly basis. We used Tableau as the analysis tool to analyze whether the data was clean. We were able to find outliers and look for data conversion issues, immediately pinpoint those, and get them right into the next cycle.

Tableau: Do you see expanding use of Tableau throughout your organization?
   
Matt: Yes, we have more and more people that are getting proficient with Tableau every day. We're looking for different ways to integrate it. I think the next big area that has opportunity for us is in our sales and marketing data, as well as our financial information. I envision a time when we'll be able to take Tableau and put it on our financial statements. We’ll be able to dissect all of our financial information the same way that we do all of our other membership data or our claims data.
   
Tableau: Any final thoughts about using Tableau?
   
Matt: I think that for companies like ours, and our in particular, Tableau has been a game changer. It has changed the way that we approach finding information. We no longer have to rely on other departments and other individuals to get information. Now, we can put data in a particular spot and put Tableau in the hands of the people that know the business the best, who know the information the best, who have the ability to take that information and make decisions and make the business better.