Cloud Services / Microservices / Contributed

Case Study: How Roadside Assistance Company Agero Elastically Scaled into the Cloud

20 Sep 2019 10:00am, by and

Bernie Gracy, Chief Digital Officer at Agero
As Chief Digital Officer, Bernie's 30 years of technology experience, energy and insight are helping Agero drive new product/platform introduction, client delivery, and the establishment of new software-enabled business models. Bernie holds seven patents, with others pending and is familiar with all aspects of technology development, architecture, infrastructure, and innovation for a rapidly evolving ecosystem powered by digital, mobile, the cloud, location-based services, and IoT.

For many customer service and contact center businesses, an unexpected and massive influx of inquiries or requests, such as those caused by weather events, can wreak havoc on operational processes and IT infrastructure. These issues can make it difficult for associates to get to work, lead to long call wait times and cause slow-downs that negatively impact customer experiences.

At Agero, a white label provider of roadside assistance and driver safety services for auto insurers and automakers that responds to more than 12 million events a year, these snowstorm and cold snap service spikes were a frequent occurrence.

Recognizing these volume patterns may not be anomalies and are likely to only increase in frequency due to climate change, and understanding the consequences of weather-related service issues in the life safety industry can be dire, Agero underwent a massive IT and business transformation to become more nimble during these events. The goal: improve on the company’s already high quality 24×7 service delivery.

Historically an on-prem company with a legacy platform and processes, Agero recently built and implemented a digital capabilities and operations roadmap that harnessed an enterprise-wide cloud migration. Through this, Agero added resiliency to its architecture; integrated automation and digital intake processes to elastically scale during high volume times; expanded network infrastructure to increase capacity; and harnessed new operations management processes to better manage service levels and staffing. This move fueled newer and more robust capabilities that empowered the contact centers, supported consumer needs and addressed client goals.

Digital Transformation Process

Cloud

The migration process began with a 16-week development program where existing Agero technology and tooling was documented and teams interviewed on process and operation. A full plan including architecture, databases and security was built. The internal team was grown and reskilled organically to leverage deep historical and institutional knowledge, which enabled quicker turnaround time.

More than 2,000 devices in two data centers, along with 200 application servers and 75 additional Oracle and SQL database servers, including a .NET development stack, were moved to the AWS cloud. Many existing applications were re-architected into microservice APIs using AWS Lambda. Within the cloud, containers were used to spin up and test applications with a blue/green deployment approach. Multiple AWS regions and availability zones were deployed to increase failover resiliency, creating high-level availability, redundancy and rapid scaling.

Automation

The cloud transformation supported significant investments in automation to streamline operations and drive efficiencies. This included integration of contact center technologies with an existing and optimized eDispatch platform to enable agent-less dispatching capabilities, freeing time for agents to speak with more customers. Mobile API integrations and an on-demand interactive web app were developed to provide digital service request options to customers and enable routing of more emergent situations directly to the contact center associate, allowing them to spend more of their time on critical needs cases that require the extra touch and empathy they are trained to deliver.

Infrastructure

Agero’s duplicate service regions provided greater stability of voice and data transfer to and from call centers for better availability, capacity, connection and call quality. All data routing became seamless. Infrastructure teams invested in hardline back-up systems and made updates to diverse fiber phone lines, session board controllers and software-defined networking protocols.

The cloud also powered better monitoring across the entire phone system, with visibility into every real-time call to ensure quality. A synthetic testing platform was integrated into the web-based service request channels and a reliability and operations center was deployed to review and update releases for the application stack and all core infrastructure in real-time, 24×7.

Operations Management

Through the cloud, Agero has been better able to prep contact center operations and staffing for certain situations, such as severe weather events. Simulated event testing has enabled the team to understand how and when to use certain tools and protocols and ensure they are working as needed. The team has also leveraged new forecasting to proactively anticipate demand surges and get the right associates to the right spots throughout call centers.

Enabling Innovation and New Digital Capabilities

George Horvat, Chief Operations Officer at Agero
George Horvat, chief operating officer, is responsible for Agero's network and contact center functions, allowing the company to more effectively deliver a comprehensive, streamlined, and differentiated roadside experience for drivers in their moments of need. George brings over 25 years of Fortune 500 experience as a results-driven executive in manufacturing, quality, and maintenance.

Today, Agero is nimbler than ever. The company has improved overall service levels, providing more uptime, reliability and consistency. Cloud has also allowed Agero to implement new digital experiences for clients.

Since migrating, Agero is delivering more seamless care to customers. Hold times in call centers have gone down, lines have more capacity for open calls and queuing, and automation has reduced live call needs overall. Systems have greater stability and resiliency and are much less affected by outages, which happen more rarely and are less severe. There is also greater flexibility in how calls are routed, aligning call volume to the right support. Further, IT staff can make updates and releases more quickly, allowing them to focus on more valuable projects than server maintenance and updates.

As an example, during the polar vortex and Winter Storm Jayden earlier this year, Agero saw roadside case volumes increase by hundreds of percentage points. In Minnesota alone, volume between January 30 and 31 increased by 1,000% and the average single-day dispatch volume nationwide grew by 30-50% in a 24-hour period. Agero call centers seamlessly handled this significant intake volume through a combination of hands-on agent-led calls, automated dispatches and entirely digital, fully touchless service requests, helping more drivers, more quickly.

The transformation has also enabled Agero to serve clients better as they undergo their own evolution, helping them respond to disruption through digitally-enabled technologies that strengthen their businesses and create stronger, lasting connections with customers. The company has bolstered its communication and service request capabilities beyond connected car and voice channels, designing and launching digital architectures that give consumers the flexibility to choose which medium is most convenient for them.

Agero also introduced a machine learning-based event monitoring model, an add-on to core roadside programs, that leverages historical and real-time data to proactively anticipate risks to service, such as tow delays, and alert associates to intervene. Monitoring millions of events on an annual basis, the model has significantly reduced consumer complaints relayed to delays.

Conclusion

The migration to the cloud allowed Agero to improve network performance, add redundancy to its systems for enhanced availability, and automatically scale to meet any demand, especially when call volumes spike. Ultimately, it has made the company increasingly nimble in providing high-quality service to millions of drivers 365 days a year. Across the board, everyone has won — the customer, the call center agents and the client.

Feature Image by Randy Rodriguez from Pixabay

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