I had the opportunity to chat with Pierre Davidoff, VP Technology at delivery.com. They focus on truly representing the local businesses within a neighborhood. And it’s not just food, its groceries, wine and spirits, and recently announced cleaners. You’ll see the local businesses in a neighborhood, not just some instance of a big corporate chain. delivery.com has been building this business since 2004 with a focus on US cities, building a truly local presence.
For many small neighborhood businesses, they are simply not online, but do good business through people walking in and over the phone / fax. Yep, fax is not dead for many small businesses; my local take-out place does more lunchtime orders by fax than by phone as all the local businesses place their orders by fax. The delivery.com process is built to reflect the reality of such small businesses. A customer places their order online at delivery.com. The order is faxed to the merchant by delivery.com, and then the merchant is auto-dialed to confirm the order is OK and that it will be ready or delivered on time using the confirmation code on the fax, and hence the credit card payment can be made. The telecoms traffic generated by this process is often about 50 calls per minute and growing fast.
Prior to using Telecom APIs, they had 8 voice servers with primary rate phone network connections, with a roughly equal split between faxing orders and confirming orders via voice / IVR (Interactive Voice Response) with the merchant. They used Asterisk and Dialogic cards, and it required significant support, when problems arose they were dependent on either the Asterisk community or themselves to solve problems. When a line card failed it took time to replace. Their business had reached a size that every minute of lost service resulted in hundreds if not thousands of dollars of lost revenue.
“There’s an unseen cost with open source, specifically, it is support. When you have no support and you’re losing revenue every minute, the value of having the right partner becomes very clear. We needed a network partner with 24 by 7 up-time. For us, the telecom equipment is one several technologies we use to run our business and we needed a partner to provide immediate support should a problem arise. That’s why we decided to use Telecom APIs, and in particular Tropo from Voxeo Labs,” Pierre explained
Pierre looked at what alternatives were available on the market and decided on Tropo because, “Tropo came highly recommended. From a business perspective they provide the lowest total cost of ownership. Tropo just works, and they’re immediately responsive to our questions or suggestions.”
These are common themes I’m seeing from many Telecom API customers. They can focus on the rest of their business as telecoms is not that simple; customers just expect it to work and get frustrated when it does not. This is an important point, telcos talk about the importance of high availability, and it does matter with some services, in particular customers have come to expect voice and SMS to simply work. This makes telecoms hard to do well, and hence why increasingly we see businesses are using Telecom APIs. Pierre refined the point on availability further, “Another important difference for us is Tropo runs on its own cloud, providing the highest control in order to achieve high availability.”
When I discussed how Pierre was expanding upon his success in using Telecom APIs Pierre explained how important SMS is to his business, again provided by Tropo, “Many of these stores are not online, but SMS is amazingly powerful. We can confirm orders not by the fixed phone line in the store, but by SMS to the store owner’s mobile phone. We maintain a ‘connection’ between the customer and the merchant. Say an order is going to be delayed by 10 minutes, the merchant lets us know by SMS and we let the customer know.”
In my experience of ordering for delivery within NYC, there’s often a +30 mins window on the agreed time for many orders. So this ‘connection’ would be invaluable. Pierre added, “Keeping people informed is critical so expectations are managed. We’re very excited by the possibilities offered by working with Voxeo Labs.”
Finally, I asked Pierre what advice he had for other businesses looking to work with Telecom APIs. Pierre advised “Telecoms is complex and expensive if you do it yourself, so we use a Telecom API in order to keep our focus on our customers and merchants. We decided on Tropo on a Friday, by the following Thursday we were live and it has been a positive experience.”