Toyota Connected improves emergency response experience with Twilio Flex

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez November 24, 2022 Audio mode
Summary:
Toyota Connected implemented Twilio Flex in its contact center to help ensure its customers can get the right help and safety support when they need it.

An image of a Toyota car driving down a road
(Image by Johnnys_pic from Pixabay )

Toyota Connected has updated its contact center systems with the implementation of Twilio Flex, which has resulted in improved call routing, faster response times and a better experience for both its customers and employees. 

Toyota Connected is one of the world’s leading in-vehicle emergency and security platforms. It is currently providing services to 5.5 million vehicles and recently received its 3 millionth call to its contact center. Twilio’s Flex is a cloud-based platform-as-a-service that adds a highly programmable contact center application infrastructure on top of Twilio’s existing set of cloud-based communications service API infrastructure. 

Isaac Broyles, Managing Engineer at Toyota Connected, was speaking at Twilio’s recent customer event, where he explained the role that the contact center plays in supporting Toyota and Lexus drivers that sign up to Toyota’s Connected Drive Link. He said: 

One of the biggest things, since we handle emergency and security functions, is we have an industry leading uptime of four nines. So we want 99.99% uptime at our call center. That's one of the things that made it so critical for us in picking the solution that would fit for our Drive Link service platform. 

Toyota Connected’s primary aim is to improve the safety of driving for customers. For example, it includes an automatic collision feature, where if a driver is in a severe accident where the airbags are deployed, or a severe bumper impact is detected, an automatic call will be made via the vehicle’s speakers to the contact center, with emergency response specialists on hand. 

Using the data from the vehicle from such an event, Toyota can then immediately dispatch, if needed, fire, policy, or ambulance services to the driver’s location using the nearest 911 operator. 

Subscribers also have an SOS button in their vehicles, which is similar to the emergency impact service, but provides a manual option for a driver to get connected to the contact center to request emergency assistance. 

Equally, even if it’s not an emergency, drivers have the option to get roadside assistance and bypass the call center completely - getting transferred to the best roadside vendor. 

Toyota Connected also provides stolen vehicle locators, which have a high success rate in the US, as well as direction assistance. On the latter service, Toyota Connected still sees this as a safety option for drivers, who are able to call through to agents in the call center, providing the location or site they need to get to, which is then communicated by the agent to the in-vehicle navigation system. This can all be done hands free, in vehicle. 

On opting for Twilio Flex, Boyles said: 

So when we were looking at contact center solutions, we had really big criteria. One of the things we really wanted to get out of it was having some kind of managed service provider that was going to own this solution for us, who we could ask to make changes. But we wanted the ability to really quickly iterate on things. Toyota Connected has a really agile culture and we want to be able to quickly iterate and add new features as we go. 

We really wanted something that our team owned and not something where we would need outside help to make changes in the future. That was one big thing that Flex offered for us. 

We also really had our eyes on some of these automation capabilities that we thought were really becoming hot and really usable to us, for some of our features. 

The last one is ownership of the entire user experience. Because we do have some of these really custom user flows and use cases, where on the one hand you've got emergency calls where we need to get you potentially patched into 911 as quickly as we can. And on the other hand we have destination assistance where we need to be able to search your map for points of interest in your area and find restaurants and things like that. 

So we wanted to be able to customize the user experience and have a contact center that we could customize to fit whatever call type comes in. That was something we really loved about Flex. Not only is it customizable, but this is using a technology that all of our developers can use. 

An improved experience

With the adoption of Flex, Toyota Connected needed the platform to cater to quite a complex call center set up. Boyles said: 

Anytime one of these calls or events comes from the vehicle, we get to two things happening in parallel. Let's say an accident happens, right? We immediately get a data packet from the vehicle telling us: accident at this location and here's some of the attributes of the vehicle. And then we also get a voice call coming into the call center. Well, we need to marry up those two pieces of information for the agents, so that they see some of those things on the screen. 

To achieve this, Boyles explained:

To accomplish that, we have a programmable voice in the middle that reaches back to our TSP API and provides the context of that incoming call. This lets us make routing decisions at that time. We need to get that to our agents on the highest priority and answer that call as quickly as they can. 

Let's say the customer presses the SOS button and asks for just roadside help, right? Well in that case, we don't need to tie up our call center agents, we know they need roadside, so let's transfer them directly to roadside. And we can transmit that data the roadside provider needs as well, to help the customer as quickly as they can.

Boyles said that Twilio’s architecture allowed it to establish these complex scenarios and also meant that the team could deploy and manage the APIs, without making changes to Twilio itself. Toyota is able to quickly iterate and test features before they go live, giving the team the ability to do things its “own way”. Boyles said: 

We wanted to automate as much of the configuration of our contact center as we could. Twilio makes this easy. They've got an SDK and APIs for everything. 

Flexing its muscles 

Boyles said that one of the things that surprised him about the benefits of adopting Twilio Flex was the speed at which things improved, particularly as it relates to response times. He said: 

We always kind of struggled with this on our legacy solution, and it was largely a black box to us. So I just chalked it up to ‘it’s a legacy solution, maybe the plugins are not optimized’. But the moment we switched over to Twilio using our own API's, things were just a lot snappier, as far as the routing decisions we needed to make and stuff like that. 

One of our important SLOs is that 90% of our emergency calls get answered by one of our agents within 10 seconds. We've actually met and exceeded that SLO every month since launch. 

Equally, the team has been pleased with how it is able to develop and innovate on top of the platform. Boyles said: 

Also, the constant iteration. I pulled a report out of our releases repository and I saw that we've shipped changes, small things here and there, at a rate of about one time per week. So it's really cool to see that iteration in action, and a constant feedback loop from our operations team to our engineering team to get things in to help our agents. 

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