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VW Credit Inc. Streamlines Customer Service Using Alexa Skill Built on AWS

2022

As the finance company for Volkswagen Group of America, VW Credit Inc. was looking to improve the customer experience when its service hotline saw increased wait times during the COVID-19 pandemic. When it reviewed a proposal to provide customer account access using Alexa, a cloud-based voice service from Amazon, the entity initiated a project on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to connect its systems to the service.

VW Credit Inc. built an Alexa skill for its Audi Financial Services and Volkswagen Credit customers using AWS serverless technology powered by AWS Lambda, a serverless compute service that lets developers run code without provisioning or managing servers. Using this solution, Volkswagen customers can seamlessly manage their accounts without needing to call or go online, saving time and effort.
VW Credit Inc.
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AWS services provide great user interfaces, are very reliable, and have a lot of potential for automation.”

Thiemo Belmega
Senior Software Engineer for the Innovation Lab,
VW Credit Inc.

Creating Innovative Customer Experiences on AWS

Volkswagen Group of America is the North American subsidiary of Volkswagen Group, a German automobile manufacturer. Volkswagen Group oversees 12 global brands, including Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Porsche, and Ducati motorcycles. In the United States, VW Credit Inc. acts as the captive finance company for three of these brands: Ducati, Audi, and Volkswagen. VW Credit Inc. helps customers seamlessly finance their vehicles and administers leases and loans for 1.2 million Volkswagen, Audi, and Ducati customers. It also offers online portals and a call center, which customers use to pay their bills, check their balances, initiate end-of-lease proceedings, and perform other critical account functions.

As part of its customer-centric approach to automotive financing, VW Credit Inc. wanted to reduce the manual effort required to access the online portal and the high call volumes and long wait times that its call center experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company realized that it could streamline account access for customers and reduce the burden on its team using voice-activated technology. “We wanted to provide an alternative channel for customers to manage their accounts using an Alexa skill,” says Thiemo Belmega, senior software engineer for the Innovation Lab at VW Credit Inc. “After linking their account, a customer could use their voice and their Alexa device to perform the exact same functions that they would do online or over the phone.”

VW Credit Inc. began to develop its Alexa skill in May 2020. When it initiated the project, the company was already using the AWS-powered Managed Platform Service built by its parent company, Volkswagen Financial Services AG, to develop its solutions. “AWS services provide great user interfaces, are very reliable, and have a lot of potential for automation,” says Belmega. The company used AWS serverless infrastructure to build two identical Alexa skills: the Volkswagen Credit Alexa Skill for its Volkswagen brand customers and the Audi Financial Services Alexa Skill for its Audi brand customers.

Using AWS Serverless Technology to Build Alexa Skills

Launched in March 2021, the Alexa skill created by VW Credit Inc. is powered by AWS Lambda functions written on Node.js, an open-source backend JavaScript runtime environment that completes JavaScript outside of a web browser. The solution lets customers manage their loans and leases using the Alexa app or an Alexa-compatible device. “Through the Alexa skill, customers can seamlessly access their accounts without having to log in to the portals,” says Tina Unterlaender, senior director of product management and innovation for the Innovation Lab at VW Credit Inc. “They are able to perform all the functions that they can on a portal and ask nearly any question related to their account.”

Working with a two-person team that had no prior experience with voice services, VW Credit Inc. was able to launch most of the Alexa skill’s features in only 6 months. The team achieved the AWS Certification of AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Specialty to support the solution’s development. “The AWS team was very helpful and supportive throughout the certification process,” says Belmega. The VW Credit Inc. team was able to develop and refine the Alexa skill quickly using AWS services; using legacy systems, it would have taken at least 3 weeks to write, test, and deploy changes to its production environment. But on AWS, the team can implement a live update in only 30 minutes.

Although the majority of the development was simple for the team, VW Credit Inc. encountered challenges when trying to link existing customer accounts to Alexa. The team was able to devise an innovative solution to this challenge using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. VW Credit Inc. built an application on React, an open-source front-end JavaScript library, and placed it in an Amazon S3 bucket. The application is distributed to customers using Amazon CloudFront, a fast content delivery network service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs. Through the front-end interface, customers can connect their Volkswagen Credit and Audi Financial Services accounts to Alexa using their phones or computers. “Our account linking flow was an outstanding solution,” says Belmega.

Using the linking functionality developed by VW Credit Inc., customers only need to link their accounts to the Alexa skill once. This saves significant time for the customer in comparison to repeated online portal clicks and lengthy call center waiting times. And because customers can perform commands and ask questions relating to their financing, lease, or credit vocally, they can complete tasks and receive answers much faster than they could online or over the phone.

As of July 2021, over 1,000 Volkswagen Credit and Audi Financial Services customers use the Alexa skill to access their account information. In October 2021, the Innovation Lab team will hand the project to its Digital team for ongoing support and further improvements. “Once the Digital team owns the skill, they will decide whether to add new features or integrate the skill with other Volkswagen brands,” says Unterlaender. The company also plans to increase awareness of the solution with marketing initiatives. For example, it plans to implement pilot programs in car dealerships so that customers can interact with the skill in person.

Expanding Voice Control Experiences

By building its Alexa skill using AWS Lambda and other serverless tools, VW Credit Inc. reduced the time and manual effort necessary for customers to access their account information and helped its team provide customer benefits more quickly. As the skill continues to be adopted across its customer base, the demand on VW Credit Inc.’s call center will decrease, easing operators’ workloads.

In the future, the company plans to connect its solution to Alexa skills built for Volkswagen and Audi cars, so customers can manage financial services and control their vehicles in one place. Using its Alexa skill, VW Credit Inc. can alleviate the burden on its support services and further improve the experiences of its customers.

About VW Credit Inc.

VW Credit Inc. is the captive financing company for three of Volkswagen Group of America’s eight brands. It services loans and leases to approximately 1.2 million Volkswagen, Audi, and Ducati customers in the United States.

Benefits of AWS

  • Streamlines account access for over 1,000 Volkswagen and Audi customers
  • Reduces manual effort for customers
  • Reduces burden on call center operators
  • Decreased time to build and make changes to solution
  • Reduces infrastructure management required by developers

AWS Services Used

AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers, creating workload-aware cluster scaling logic, maintaining event integrations, or managing runtimes. With Lambda, you can run code for virtually any type of application or backend service - all with zero administration.

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Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service offering industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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Amazon CloudFront

Amazon CloudFront is a fast content delivery network (CDN) service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to customers globally with low latency, high transfer speeds, all within a developer-friendly environment.

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