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On-Demand Services Promise Major Changes in Towing Industry, with Urgent.ly Leading the Way

Urgent.ly is a leader in what’s fast becoming known as the “on-demand economy,” where products and services speed to the customer rather than the other way around. For consumers it simply means when they need something, they expect an app on their phone will give it to them – now. For service providers it means more demand, potentially a great deal more.

“This is not just about offering to fill unused inventory of towing and roadside services via the terrific use of the latest technology,” said Chris Spanos, cofounder and CEO of Urgent.ly, a startup that launched in early 2014 and has since partnered with MapQuest and others to provide on-demand roadside assistance to thousands of customers nationwide. “It’s also about offering companies higher rates and bigger payouts.”

Credit location-based technology that can detect and project the exact location of a smartphone; blame it on Uber, the car service that allows anyone with a phone to tap a few buttons and watch as a driver speeds to pick them up. Either way,
the cat is out of the bag on the “I need it now!” reality.

“We saw this percolating a couple years ago and looked for areas consumers were being underserved,” said Spanos, CEO of Urgent.ly.

Urgent.ly co-founder, Chairman and CTO Surendra Goels agreed, saying, “It was clear to us, based on personal experience and our research, that roadside assistance was something ‘broken’ from the consumer’s perspective and also provided towing companies little return.”

The Urgent.ly approach from the beginning was to offer high margins for drivers and super-fast service to customers, while also giving them the ability to watch on their phone as help arrived. Urgent.ly uses customer iPhone and Android applications, as well as the Web.

“No more calling a roadside club’s 800 number and waiting around, hoping help will arrive soon,”Spanos said. “The world was and is moving away from those scenarios, leaning instead on a customer/location-centric approach.”

This location-centric focus is expressed through a pair of free smartphone applications — one for roadside assistance drivers and one for consumers.

“These apps allow for an automatic call and response, where a consumer can select the service she needs from a simple menu, then watch as the request is sent to Urgent.ly’s nationwide network of service companies — an algorithm determines criteria for who would receive the request,” said Rick Robinson, Urgent.ly’s co-founder and head of product. “Those nearby roadside and towing
providers in our network then receive and instant alert on their phones, allowing them to accept or reject the request — first driver to accept the job request gets it. It’s very democratic.”

Urgent.ly also allows customers to assure loved-ones will never be left stranded. With its FamilyView feature, Urgent.ly encourages free account holders to sign up family members from inside the app.

“This empowers, for instance, a father to sign up his daughter and when she requests help using the app, dad is alerted and can watch on his phone’s map as a service provider arrives,” said Spanos, who previously ran AOL’s Local division and held leadership positions at several startups. “We believe this to be another key differentiator of our service, an unmatched sense of security to friends and family.”

Urgent.ly started in the Washington, DC, region and launched nationally in November 2014, following a deal to provide MapQuest’s millions of customer’s roadside assistance.

“We continue to look for more opportunities to partner and provide even more customers the kind of instant services we’re offering today,” said Ric Fleisher, cofounder and head of business development.

“And that goes for our service partners in particular,” said Travis Keyser, Urgent.ly’s National Director of Service Network Operations. “We are working hard day and night to reach more roadside assistance companies both large and small, so they can take advantage of our superior rates and the convenience that comes from job requests that are geographically nearby.”

Servicers interested in signing up for free to immediately start receiving job requests via their phones (or via Urgent.ly’s integrated dispatch systems) should point their Web browser at http://signup.urgent.ly