Welcome to the second blog post of the Twilio Flex Developer Spotlight series. This time, we are featuring a team of developers at U-Haul. This post is based on my experience attending a Twilio hackathon at U-Haul headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona in May 2019.
When you think of U-Haul, you most likely think of DIY moving trucks, trailers, and storage boxes. But did you know that U-Haul employs a team of software developers that build and maintain many of their software applications?
The development team at U-Haul have built their technology stack including their own customer relationship management, billing, payment and web chat systems. They standardized on a premise-based voice contact center solution years ago for their contact center agents. And since the business is seasonal, they have maintained a hardware footprint capable of supporting up to twice the number of full-time agents during peak season.
U-Haul Company’s interest in moving to the cloud, and to Twilio Flex as a contact center platform, was driven by (i) desire to scale more economically for seasonal agents, (ii) to overcome the limitations of their aging, homegrown chat platform and (iii) to allow their developers to build new experiences for customers including virtual assistants, identity management and push notifications. Overall, U-Haul wanted more control for their developers to collaborate with line-of-business leaders to design, prototype and deploy new customer experiences as demands change.
In December of 2018, U-Haul introduced Twilio Flex chat as a proof of concept. It began small, with chat limited to internal communication between agents and their supervisors. Three months later, chat on uhaul.com/contact was used for customers to communicate with centralized contact center agent teams. And currently, in pilot, U-Haul allows customers to chat directly with local offices using the mobile app. So if you ever forget your sunglasses in the truck, local U-Haul team members can help get those back quickly. Sure, voice remains an option, but U-Haul is responding to changing customer demands--on their timetable and without dependency on vendor certified professional services.
The new Twilio Flex chat platform was a big upgrade from their former system given chat SDKs for iOS and Android, a programmable agent UI, better reporting, queuing and task disposition. In fact, queue wait times went down significantly since launch. It’s still early days to gauge full impact, but initial results show it to be significant.
Improved queue wait times are not the only success story here, though. U-Haul Company’s work to redefine the contact center experience through close collaboration of their developers with line-of-business leaders is the real success story. Last month, I had the privilege of attending a hackathon at U-Haul headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. They packed a room with developers, had Twilions on hand to help out, and began building prototypes that included virtual assistants, verification using multi-factor authentication, and push notifications. One developer remarked on the post-event evaluation form: “Honestly fun to look into new tech. It’s kind of rare and exciting to have a quick start ... and to find out how easy the new tech is to implement.” The day concluded with demos and, of course, a happy hour.
U-Haul is not just looking to do more of the same rote contact center work with central contact center agents fielding voice and chat inquiries. They are out to change the way agents work and to open up new ways for customers to engage to drive higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
U-Haul is more than just a moving and self-storage company. They are innovators who are passionate about building convenient customer experiences with software. As Twilio, we are honored to be their platform of choice and part of their journey.