Services such as HomeAway and Airbnb have transformed the travel industry by giving people the option to book private homes instead of traditional hotels. RedAwning has taken this trend a step further by providing complete, hotel-style services and solutions at diverse vacation properties and destinations. In doing so, it has become the world’s leading single supplier of vacation rental properties to consumers and major booking platforms. All properties feature instant reservations by credit card, no security deposits, standardized contracts, and live reservations staff who are available 24 hours a day. The company provides access to a network of more than 140,000 rentals worldwide.
The company’s contact center is the heart of its guest services operation, but it’s traditional phone-based solution was not able to meet its growing needs. “We were locked into proprietary hardware and paying for an expensive service that was not particularly robust,” says Tim Choate, CEO and founder of RedAwning. “We didn’t have the features such as call monitoring and tracking that we needed to drive efficiency, and our agents were tied down to a very limited number of locations.”
Those are a few of the reasons that RedAwning moved to Amazon Connect, a self-service, contact center service that runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Based on the same contact center technology used by Amazon customer service associates around the world to power millions of customer conversations, Amazon Connect enables RedAwning to deliver better customer service at lower cost
Using Amazon Connect, RedAwning has gained major new capabilities—including easy-to-deploy virtual agents powered by artificial intelligence—while cutting costs by 80 percent compared to its previous contact center solution. RedAwning pays by the minute for usage and has no infrastructure to manage, enabling it to scale without adding staff or incurring capital costs. Given that RedAwning has tripled in size annually since its founding, these benefits are critically important to its business success.
RedAwning found Amazon Connect surprisingly simple to use. The self-service graphical interface makes it easy for nontechnical users to design contact flows, manage agents, and track performance metrics. “I set up our first iteration of Amazon Connect myself, and I’m not a technical expert,” says Choate. “We had better capabilities at lower cost from day one—and our customer service team was very happy with all the new features.”
RedAwning finds it easy to use other AWS services to augment its Amazon Connect solution. For example, it uses AWS Lambda serverless computing to automatically look up customers in its customer relationship management database, match them to reservations, and use the information to direct calls appropriately. Using the automatic call-back feature, customers can be contacted by customer service agents at a time that’s convenient for them rather than having to wait on hold. “Using Amazon Connect greatly reduces wait times and call times for guests and property managers alike while also reducing the burden on our customer service team,” says Choate.
The company recognized the potential of using virtual intelligent agents to provide a better customer experience. Amazon Connect is designed to make creating and deploying virtual agents easy. It is seamlessly integrated with Amazon Lex, which provides automatic speech recognition and natural-language understanding to build engaging user experiences and lifelike interactions, as well as Amazon Polly, which uses advanced deep-learning technologies to synthesize lifelike speech.
RedAwning moved quickly to capitalize on these capabilities once it moved to Amazon Connect, creating its own voice-based intelligent assistant named Scarlett, which can converse naturally with guests and property managers. “Using Amazon Connect with Amazon Lex, it was easy to build an intelligent virtual agent to answer calls, match guests with their reservations, and engage naturally with users,” says Choate. “Scarlett can resolve the issues that guests most frequently call about, which allows us to easily scale our operations.”
Scarlett immediately solved a major customer service challenge. Previously, guests would call RedAwning to make a cancellation, wait on hold to talk to an agent, and then be told they had to cancel through the platform on which the reservation was originally booked. “It was frustrating for customers, and for our agents who had to deal with this situation dozens of times a day,” says Choate. “With Amazon Connect, Scarlett can tell guests exactly where and how to cancel based on their reservation information. Amazon Lex delivers the natural-language understanding to interpret the customer’s request. Now, the process takes less than a minute and no agent is required. Guests are happier, and our service professionals can focus on calls where their expertise is truly needed.”
Because the solution is cloud-based and does not rely on proprietary hardware, RedAwning is now able to put agents in more locations as the company expands. Agents can share customers’ conversation histories, so they have the right context on every call. The company can locate service professionals in areas where there is less competition for the relevant skills, reducing cost and improving quality.
Using Amazon Connect, RedAwning also now has the ability to collect metrics that are relevant to service quality, such as call length and hold times. “We have the metrics we need to continuously improve performance, support effective training, and ensure we are retaining the best people,” says Choate. “We can also record calls to more easily resolve disputes over chargebacks and rental terms.” As RedAwning continues to grow, Amazon Connect is helping it bring an easy, seamless vacation rental experience to more people around the globe.