Priceline Optimizes Customer Service during 3x Call Increase Using Amazon Connect
Global travel company Priceline experienced a three-times increase in call volume at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As thousands of travelers flooded the customer contact center to cancel or rebook their itineraries, wait times to speak to an agent became excessively long. For a traditional contact center, this would have been an insurmountable challenge, but because Priceline had already used Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create a modern cloud contact center solution using Amazon Connect—a simple-to-use omnichannel cloud contact center—the company was prepared. Priceline was able to handle the spike in demand by rerouting calls and quickly implementing new features to reduce backlogs. The solution also enabled Priceline’s agents to work safely from home without sacrificing quality customer service and positioned Priceline to continue to provide exceptional service in the long run.
Not once have we asked ourselves, ‘Can our contact center infrastructure handle this?’ We know that using Amazon Connect enables us to provide enhanced customer service.”
Senior Director of Contact Center Technology, Priceline
Seeking a More Efficient Solution
Priceline is part of Booking Holdings, a global leader in online travel. As Priceline expanded and evolved, it became clear that its hardwired on-premises telephony system was not flexible enough to meet the company’s needs. Priceline ran its interactive voice response itself and contracted with business process outsourcing companies to provide contact center agents across five different call distributors. “Our previous contact center was stretched across multiple systems, which meant we needed an entire team just to distribute traffic,” says Jennifer Featherling, senior director of contact center technology at Priceline. “We were unable to quickly pivot, and changes could take weeks, meaning we needed a road map for even the slightest adjustments.”
In April 2019, Priceline began taking calls in its modern contact center solution based around the Amazon Connect service, which provides one set of tools for routing, task management, real-time and historical analytics, and intuitive management.
Responding Quickly to Crises Using Amazon Connect
The new infrastructure enabled Priceline to provide more efficient customer service by optimizing its menu options and automating callback queues to cut back on wait time. Had Priceline still been operating on an on-premises system, the customer care center would have shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and in-office operations ceased. On-premises contact centers require hardware configuration and licenses to scale to meet demand. Making updates to interactive voice response and routing could take months and multiple vendor interactions. And agents would have had to stay in the office to answer calls, jeopardizing their safety.
But using the cloud-based Amazon Connect, Priceline could shift to working remotely without impacting agents’ abilities to address customers’ needs efficiently—even with the spike in volume. “It enabled us to respond more quickly than ever,” says Featherling. “Over 1,000 agents could work from home and continue using Amazon Connect—all they needed were a laptop and a headset. And we could introduce queued callbacks for our customers.” With only 20 minutes of work, Priceline could prioritize customers who were supposed to travel sooner while offering those with further-out travel dates an automated path to resolving their issues.
The ease of implementation enabled Priceline to stay ahead of an influx of calls during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to enable the agency to help customers navigate unforeseen circumstances—such as the February 2021 snowstorm that left much of Texas without power. “Between snowstorms, hurricanes, and other regular events not related to the COVID-19 pandemic, we can easily make adjustments when needed to quickly address widespread travel interruptions,” says Featherling.
Optimizing Costs and the Customer Experience
Amazon Connect enables Priceline to better predict customer needs and adjust and adapt to provide enhanced customer service. Surveys reveal Priceline customers’ preference for the efficiency of the callback queue, insisting Priceline keep it even when the agency isn’t experiencing excessive wait times. And its optimized interactive voice response menu has made it simpler for customers to communicate exactly what they want to do quickly and efficiently.
Changes to that menu are now as simple as typing a message into Amazon Polly—a service that turns text into lifelike speech, available to Amazon Connect users. Removing the need for a developer to implement these day-to-day changes has enabled Priceline developers to focus on the bigger picture, Featherling says. “It frees them to focus on innovating—on how to improve the life of the traveler and of the agent.”
The consumption-based pricing model for AWS solutions enables Priceline to optimize costs by paying only for what it uses. “The pay-as-you-go model lets us scale up when we’re seeing higher volume and scale back down when the volume is less,” says Featherling.
Moving Forward on AWS
Moving forward, Priceline is expanding its use of AWS to include an interactive chat agent that makes it simple to monitor and use AWS resources in Slack channels and Amazon Chime chat rooms. Priceline will also be deploying chat for agent-to-agent interactions. This service enables agents to meet customers’ needs without transferring them to other agents for different tasks, such as pricing or rebooking. Instead of tying up two agents on one call, one agent could reach out to the other by chat for the information they need.
Priceline is also exploring features such as Contact Lens for Amazon Connect, which would enable the company to better understand the sentiment and trends of customer conversations to identify crucial feedback. Through the service’s real-time capabilities, supervisors can deliver proactive assistance to agents while calls are in progress, further improving customer service.
Migrating to Amazon Connect enabled Priceline to function efficiently despite facing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Automated functions have freed up Priceline’s developers to innovate in response to an ever-changing world. “We spend a lot of time providing service for our customers,” says Featherling. “And not once have we asked ourselves, ‘Can our contact center infrastructure handle this?’ We know that using Amazon Connect enables us to provide enhanced customer service.”
Learn more about Modern Contact Center Solutions on AWS: aws.amazon.com/travel-and-hospitality/modern-contact-center/.
Priceline, part of Booking Holdings, is a global provider of online travel. Based in the United States, its mission is to be the best travel dealmaker in the world to enable travelers to be there for the moments that matter. For Priceline, every trip is a big deal.
Benefits of AWS
- Scaled to handle 3x increase in daily call volume
- Reduced hold times with automation
- Reduced call handle time and backlogs
- Enabled simple use and adjustment in minutes
- Optimized menu options to help customers faster
- Enabled 1,000+ agents to work remotely overnight
- Freed up developers to focus on innovation
- Decreased costs with consumption-based pricing
AWS Services Used
Amazon Connect is an easy to use omnichannel cloud contact center that helps you provide superior customer service at a lower cost.
Contact Lens for Amazon Connect
Contact Lens for Amazon Connect, a feature of Amazon Connect, enables you to better understand the sentiment and trends of customer conversations to identify crucial company and product feedback.
Amazon Polly is a service that turns text into lifelike speech, allowing you to create applications that talk, and build entirely new categories of speech-enabled products.
Amazon Chime is a communications service that lets you meet, chat, and place business calls inside and outside your organization, all using a single application.
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