Welcome to The New Stack Makers: Scaling New Heights, a series of interviews, conducted by Scalyr CEO Christine Heckart, that cover the challenges engineering managers have faced when scaling architectures to support the demands of the business.
Roadside service. The car breaks down, the driver makes a call, an agent answers and help is on the way.
Turn to the past few years and the agent is no longer central to the experience. The app is the roadside assistant. The change in the market has turned a company like Agero from a B2B company into one that deals directly with the consumer.
Bernie Gracy is chief digital officer for Agero, a white label roadside assistance platform that provides support for 12 million roadside events per year.
Agero built its business on empathy as a foundation for its service. Its agents are tasked with getting travelers through often stressful experiences. Moving to a digital experience put a load on the platform that could not be sustained.
“And as we deployed this, and we’re all excited, we were doing this within a somewhat limited budget,” Gracy said. “That platform went down and went down hard. And it was not built out with sufficient monitoring and redundancy.”
Digital services have to run at-scale and be highly reliable while running 24 hours, seven days a week. Gracy and his team learned that you have to go through the valley of failure in order to succeed.
From the start, agents would have all the information about the customer. But agents did not trust the service to get all the pertinent data that they needed to help the customer, such as the color of the car, so the service provider could more easily find the customer on the side of the road. As a result, agents asked customers to provide the information that they already had submitted when using the app.
Many IT companies are on a journey like Agero, a 50-year-old company that was the kind of place that emptied at 5 p.m. when people still went to the office.
But now the clock speed of the company has changed, Gracy said. And it means its front-line workers have had to develop. However, the transformation has made Gracy’s team a group that is consulted for their expertise.
“Our expertise is now being leveraged by our clients to say ‘you’ve done amazing, how can you advise us on our mobile application strategies and how we do intake,'” Gracy said. “So we’re now acting as consultants and my product people to their product people.”
An engineering team is built on the success of what the business is seeking to accomplish. For Agero, it has meant a journey from personal roadside care by empathetic agents to a digital experience people can trust. The difference has been in virtualizing what the consumer is going through so they can get the help they need without having to talk to an agent. How to do that is about building teams, fostering communications with a network of partners, and managing a platform resilient enough to be available all the time.