Alan Quayle
Alan Quayle has 22 years of experience in the telecommunication industry, focused on developing profitable new businesses in service providers,...
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Alan Quayle | July 09, 2012 |


Web APIs are Transforming Enterprise Communications and Collaboration

Web APIs are Transforming Enterprise Communications and Collaboration With maturing business processes and technologies, companies are able to be more agile with customer contact and other systems by using Web APIs.

Case Studies
We'll now examine a few case studies of enterprises successfully consuming APIs for communications and collaboration.

Hulu: Build Your Own Call Center with Voice APIs
Hulu helps people find and enjoy premium video content when, where and how they want it. They offer content from over 260 content companies, including ABC, Comedy Central, Fox, NBC Universal, MTV, Miramax, and VH-1. While preparing to launch Hulu Plus, a premium subscription service, the customer support team needed a contact center solution that could scale reliably with the tremendous growth they were expecting in the Hulu Plus service. Hulu decided to build their own call center using communication APIs provided by Twilio.

When customers call Hulu's toll free support number, provisioned through Twilio, they are routed to an available customer support person. Hulu implemented Twilio's APIs in its internal systems so customer support is able to immediately see all relevant customer information in their browser, allowing them to provide an efficient and personalized customer experience.

If all customer support agents are busy, estimated wait times and queue positions are communicated to the caller, again using APIs. Music from popular shows on Hulu is played while callers wait, providing a unique experience. Callers have the option to press "1" at any time to schedule a call back. In this scenario, Hulu's internal systems will detect when an agent becomes available, and then automatically dial back the caller.

Being able to dial the caller back is an important feature. Long queue times result in a high rate of abandoned calls, repeat call attempts, customer dissatisfaction and increased telecom costs. The system of placing callers "on hold" is an unfortunate remnant of the way the phone system was designed decades ago. It is a very poor use of resources: the caller pays for his phone time while the company pays to keep a line open.

Virtual queuing is the concept of getting the company to call the customer back when the next agent is available. Despite its obvious appeal, virtual queuing is uncommon. There have been solutions on the market for years but their deployment has been hampered by the fact that they require integration with the call center, which is costly and time consuming. Using APIs, Hulu was able to implement virtual queuing in a few lines of code.

All of these workflows were created with the Twilio API by Hulu's development team. From the PLAY object, which enables custom audio to be played for users, to the DIAL object, which enables Hulu to programmatically dial back users when needed, Hulu was able to leverage their existing Web skills to build the solution. Also, because Twilio tracks rich metadata for each call that flows through the system, Hulu is able to track all the critical metrics for their customer support team, from total calls, average call time, and distribution of calls.

"The succinct REST-based API was familiar territory for our web developers, which helped up us get our prototype launched in one day, and into full production shortly thereafter", stated Scott Post, Hulu Software Developer.

Home Retail Group: Improve Customer Contact Efficiency with SMS APIs
Home Retail Group is a leading UK home and general merchandise retailer whose brands include Argos, Homebase and Habitat. The Group's Customer and Financial Services organization handles 10 million inbound calls a year and 2 million order and delivery e-mail inquiries. It employs 1,800 staff across three contact centers. They implemented interactive voice messaging and text (SMS) messaging from VoiceSage. This technology enables the Home Retail Group to pre-empt routine customer order and delivery queries with proactive outbound messages.

The Home Retail Group deployed interactive voice messaging and SMS text messaging technology in its telebooking facility using APIs. Traditionally, agents would call customers to confirm order delivery dates and times. Using a dialer, agents were typically achieving only a 30-40% success rate in getting through to people.

Within four weeks of using VoiceSage's solutions to automate its customer contact communications by sending a combination of text messages and pre-recorded voice messages, Home Retail Group was achieving the same number of customer contacts per hour as they did through their dialer system. Now, they have a significantly higher hit rate and have reduced the amount of their agents' time that is tied up in delivery contact activities. Telephony costs have significantly decreased too, as 60% of contacts are now being made via SMS.

Intuit Prevents Fraud with Voice and SMS APIs
Intuit provides payroll services for over 1 million small businesses. As a payroll provider, Intuit stores sensitive information. They wanted to implement an additional layer of security to protect their customers' sensitive data. To address this need, Intuit used Twilio's phone call and text messaging APIs to provide another layer of protection.

When an online user attempts to change sensitive data, Intuit sends a verification code to the user's phone, via phone call or SMS, to provide out-of-band identity verification. By proving that the online user is in possession of their phone, Intuit thwarts would-be identity thieves, with minimal inconvenience to legitimate customers.

For Intuit, Twilio proved to be the fastest way to move their new security feature to the cloud. "Using Twilio, we built both phone call and text-messaging features with just one API and one vendor, which saves time and money. Twilio was the most cost-efficient option, moving from idea to production with no up-front capital expenses," stated Ariege Misherghi, Product Manager at Intuit Online Payroll.

Knowing that onerous security features can be a stumbling block for users, the experience for Intuit's customers was paramount. Intuit built the initial proof-of-concept in one afternoon. They then rapidly moved to usability testing and deployment to an initial set of pilot users. "Given the urgency around changing payroll information for employees before a payroll run, it was very important to find a low-impact solution. We got great feedback from initial customers," Misherghi said. With that feedback, Intuit made the decision to deploy the solution to their entire Intuit Online Payroll user-base.


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