Unipet’s new auto app

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BitDepth#972 for January 20, 2015

Shevvon Ramroop of Alliance Software introduces the new Petrocard app from Unipet at the Radisson Hotel last week. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.
Shevvon Ramroop of Alliance Software introduces the new Petrocard app from Unipet at the Radisson Hotel last week. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Last week, Unipet launched a new combination of a gas card and app for its customers.

I’ll be straight up front with this. I’ve been a Unipet customer for more than a decade, driving straight past an NP franchise that’s much closer to me because of the convenience of their on-pump payment system.

So I had high hopes that the company might be able to leverage that clear sense of customer convenience into the digital realm.

The gas card has its roots in an existing fleet card system for business customers that allows corporate clients to monitor spending on gas purchases for company vehicles.

The consumer card brings the convenience of being able to fuel at a Unipet pump without using cash or a credit card to any customer, while adding useful features that leverage the new app and a still undefined point system of rewards.

The company has also announced a partnership with Sagicor insurance which gives Sagicor General’s motor vehicle customers, on renewal of their polices, a complimentary Unipet gas card. New customers will get a 10 per cent discount on their motor vehicle policies.

The mobile app, developed by Alliance Software and Technology Systems Limited, is the result of a collaboration between the eight-year-old Prism Technologies, Business Communication Systems Limited, Hypertech Caribbean Limited, Prism Services Limited, Ansatz Solutions and Jules IT System.

Unfortunately, the resulting software, available for Android and iOS smartphones, is something of a disappointment.

For one thing, it’s as ugly as darkest sin.

The only visible graphic is a stretched logo that acts as a background for what is, essentially, a series of forms.

Non-Unipet functionality is limited to recording information about your vehicle, though there’s a useful list of emergency numbers and reminders about readily forgettable things like your driver’s license and auto insurance expiry dates.

When you use the card to pay for gas, the app prompts you to record your gas mileage for calculating your gas efficiency and for travel records.

Unfortunately, it’s just a digital notebook and doesn’t seem to have any user facing calculating capabilities.

The process for a new user is straightforward, if a little convoluted and tiresome at the start. You create an account at the Petrocard site, which provides with an activation code, which you can print to take with you to your preferred Unipet franchise.

It’s a bit of a pain for everyone involved, but from that point on, the card and app can work seamlessly together. You can’t use the card directly on the pump, but you can charge a pump with it via the cashier, and your purchase gets recorded instantly on the Unipet app.

It’s a good idea and a decent, if stuttering start on integrating mobile technology with Unipet’s business, but Unipet’s executives needed to articulate a long term strategy that suggests that this was an iterative project and not a done deal.

But slower more deliberate approaches to extended software development and systems testing tends to be characterised by soft launches and extended beta testing, not speeches and advertising campaigns.

There’s a lot to fix here and it all needs to get done quickly and deliberately if it’s to meet the expectations of the users that Unipet hopes to capture.

As it stands, the company won’t be getting any customers via serendipity, because you can’t even launch the app to use its logging features without activating it with Unipet.

As designed, the Petrocard app exists as an adjunct to the gas card programme and cannot, on its own, lead to any customer engagement.

If you search for the app on any of the stores using the word Unipet, you won’t find anything, which is simply surreal from a branding perspective, let alone supporting a basic search taxonomy.

I’d like to think that these were just oversights, but Unipet managed to host a big launch event at the Radisson Hotel without bothering to mention which platforms the app was available for or where it could be found.

The app and gas card system probably won’t be for everyone, but for families with multiple vehicles or small businesses, it offers a way to manage and monitor multiple gas accounts with little fuss after setup.

Unipet might begin to resolve most of these problems by doing what they did to win my loyalty as a regular customer in the first place.

That would mean thinking through the Petrocard app and its implementation process from the perspective of making the experience as seamless and non-invasive for the customer as possible while offering real rewards for trying something new.

Unfortunately, it’s still some distance from that ideal.