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Addison Lee has launched an open API key that allows developers to integrate its cab services into third party apps and websites, as well as improve data flow between its partners.

ComputerworldUK spoke to the firm's chief technology officer, Peter Ingram about its API integration and use of API tool Mulesoft to improve customer service. 

Addison Lee: Using API integration to create a truly global taxi service

Addison Lee is claiming market share back from Uber using innovative technology and API integration to provide seamless digital customer service for its passengers – no matter where they are in the world. Chief Technology Officer Peter Ingram explains how.

“When customers land in a different country we want them to pick up our app otherwise they will find another supplier on the ground or use a competitor”, Addison Lee’s Ingram tells ComputerworldUK.

The taxi firm knows that most of its corporate customers in the UK have offices overseas – and it wants to tap into this market. To do so, it is working with suppliers on the ground which “supply the wheels”, but using its own technology will provide a seamless Addison Lee experience across the digital channels.

The company is in the early stages of deploying API management vendor MuleSoft technology to integrate its APIs so that its core IT systems can link to suppliers (like local taxi firms and travel websites) without using a manual email system.

“We’re currently a halfway house where any supplier in a city has a web portal where they receive jobs (taxi requests) but we want a direct portal wherever you travel to. It will be uniform, monitored, on the same platform and able to scale in order to provide unrivalled customer experience.”

While Addison Lee has plenty of resources – with a fifty-strong developer team that works specifically on its platforms and “were looking at APIs generally”, it found “a number of challenges with regards to integration”. To save time, it turned to MuleSoft.

During the proof of concept, the firm was able to build recyclable business logic to provide partition layers to help deploy integrations quickly whenever a corporate customer asks for a service from a new supplier (for example, if it wanted to use Addison Lee in New York, the firm would need to integrate with a taxi firm on the ground to provide a taxi under the Addison Lee service).

While it is only six weeks into implementation, Ingram says that in testing, the IT team was able to reduced integration time from several weeks to days.

Aside from external suppliers that “provide the wheels” in the global hubs Addison Lee want to infiltrate, it uses other platforms and websites plugins like Google Maps and Thompson Travel amongst others, to share information that will create a bespoke, seamless experience for its clients.

With Salesforce, for example, Addison Lee can now update a customer record, pulling a booking from its Java-based app into the CRM and check if a customer is on a loyalty scheme or their preferences, providing “a much more powerful, richer experience.”

Cloud makes sure we have no app delays

The firm uses cloud tools in various instances – like AWS for its research and development efforts, but is moving its driver network tracking tools and its Java-based app onto Microsoft’s Azure cloud and using different messaging technologies like PubNub.

“We are trying to get the speed of response as quick as possible and we can do that in the cloud with no delay time. If we have a delay that is too long, customers will not book.”

Addison Lee runs its own datacentres but it is increasingly using VMware and cloud to scale quicker and cache data in different places to break down API complexity and comply with data security requirements for sovereignty and client purposes.

“You can stand up a whole system fairly quickly in the cloud so it gives us much more flexibility”, Ingram adds.

Creating a loyalty scheme

The firm just set its loyalty scheme live after two months of preparation. Built on a mixture of Salesforce and in-house development, the firm hopes the programme, along with its 8-10 year historical customer datasets will ensure it offers the best customer experience possible. This will be its prize weapon to beat stiff competition from the likes of Uber, Hailo and Lyft in the US.

Ingram says: “We do want a share of wallet and we believe loyalty will play a huge part in that.

“We have a branded vehicle it is serviced regularly. We can give you Wi-Fi experience. It is more about the overall experience. Plus we are definitely insured, definitely keep records and we are definitely safer.”

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