Andrew Albrechtsen wins "Powering Up Customer Service" Twilio Developer Contest

Andrewalbrechtsen1Our latest netbook contest category wrapped up last Sunday and we’re happy to announce that Andrew Albrechtsen of Photography Avenue has won for his “Powering up Customer Service” entry.

Andrew is currently an Information Systems major (and photography minor) at Long Island University’s C.W. Post campus. He has been building websites since he was in middle school, and more recently has been trying to build his brand as a nature photographer and web developer with his website Photography Avenue.

Looking for an easy way to provide his customers better service, Andrew turned to Twilio. Andrew describes his contest entry:

Until now, our customer service approach was email-based, and while it did work, it was missing that personal touch customers look for. Thanks to Twilio, we’ve enabled our web applications to interact with incoming calls, place outgoing ones, and send and receive SMS messages on the fly, vastly improving our customer service abilities.

By calling us at (631) 647-0909, customers can track order statuses, enable or disable SMS notifications, and be connected to customer service. What sets our approach apart from other tracking systems is our ability to automatically look up the most recent order associated with the caller’s phone number. This way, customers wishing to track their order on-the-go don’t need to have their 10-digit order number on hand to be able to keep tabs on it.

Customers calling us also have the option to be connected to customer service. Instead of simply transferring the caller to another phone number, we’ve built a custom call queue application that shows a customer service operator all calls waiting for service, along with their respective order and/or account numbers. An operator can then click on any call in the queue to connect the caller to them and the customer’s order and/or account information is automatically displayed on the screen without any extra effort. If a call is not connected to an agent within thirty seconds, the caller will be asked to either request a callback or leave a voice message. Callback requests are also shown in the queue and an operator can place the call with a single click.

PhototographyavenuePhotography Avenue account holders can opt to receive SMS notifications with order status updates. A customer might want to disable these for whatever reason, and alternatively to sending “STOP” to our Twilio number, they can disable them with a call as well. Our application will automatically check to see if the caller is an account holder and ask for the account’s zip code to disable SMS notifications if they’re signed up. If the account isn’t signed up for SMS notifications, the caller can opt out by entering the account’s zip code as well. Should the caller’s phone number not be associated with any account, they will be prompted to create one on our website.

Instead of calling us to track an order, some customers might prefer to send an SMS. Our application will respond with order status information if it receives an SMS message containing the word “order” followed by a 10-digit order number. We realize that it’s not realistic to expect customers to remember a 10-digit number, so if the requesting phone number is listed on an account, an SMS request containing the word “track” will result in a reply with tracking information for the last order placed using the account.

Like tracking an order over the phone, there is an option to speak with someone about the order. An SMS reply of the number 1 will initiate an outgoing call to to the sender with their order and/or account information already in the queue.

What was it like working with Twilio? Andrew explains:

I stumbled upon Twilio several months ago through a press release about the company receiving a new round of funding, and was extremely intrigued by its feature set and dead-simple API. Being a college student on a budget, the free $30 developer credit spurred me to sign up and within minutes I had a test application running. It’s very important for a developer (at least for myself, anyway) to be able to test an API within a few minutes to get a feel for it and make sure everything’s working right. Every time I’ve contacted Twilio, I’ve received a prompt and friendly response! Even when I posted a thread about a bug on the support forum, it was fixed immediately and I was notified that it had been. Integrating with Twilio has been an absolute pleasure, and I’d love to possibly intern or work for the company in the future.

The app was built using PHP and MySQL. I also think it’s really great that now everyone — not just large businesses — can now build fully interactive phone and SMS systems. I think it really adds a layer of credibility when a website can not only list a telephone number, but also offer a powerful and professional phone application as well.

Congratulations Andrew on your winning entry! Your netbook is on the way :)

New Contest Category: OpenVBX Plugins

Twilio Netbook ContestTo celebrate yesterday’s OpenVBX launch, this week’s contest category is OpenVBX plugins. If you’re unfamiliar with OpenVBX start by learning more about the open source project or check out the Plugin API documentation. The OpenVBX plugins contest ends June 27th at 11:59PM PST. Read more about this week’s contest.