Nimbus: How Sensible Uses Retool to Improve Customer Payouts

Our low-code pathway for new workflows, apps, and views of our data.

December 12, 2022

Sensible manages each Weather Guarantee we create on behalf of our partners.

As we continue to expand our product to cover dozens of new types of travel and outdoor experiences, Sensible needs to be ready to process lots of inquiries and reimbursements quickly, and easily reference the data associated with each.

In order to provide and maintain this high level of customer service for our product and our partners, we built an internal Retool app called Nimbus.

Why ‘Nimbus’?

The name Nimbus refers to dark gray rain clouds—the kind we're protecting people’s experiences against with our Weather Guarantee product. Nimbus can also refer to a luminous cloud or halo surrounding a supernatural being—which is what this app aims to be for our customer service and business development teams.

Nimbus helps us resolve technical issues and manage Weather Guarantees. As we grow as a company, Sensible’s partners and end users are going to encounter new scenarios where they may need customized support.

We want to anticipate flows where customers need to change the contact/payout information for their account or take a variety of other common actions. These flows include resending reimbursement links, investigating if a policy met the deductible to qualify for a reimbursement, and checking on the status of a given payout.

When we discover recurring customer scenarios like these, Nimbus provides a clean customer support UI for our team. It invokes and processes the workflows in a timely manner.

For administrative support, we’ve also built in approval flows for new partners who want to integrate with our product.

Why did we select Retool?

Retool lets us quickly iterate on these support and admin-related features by integrating with both our own internal APIs and key external ones such as Zendesk and Stripe. We can create a UI from their component library, make changes, and push a new release of Nimbus in minutes—instead of having a team of dedicated frontend and backend engineers working on the app.

Retool hosts Nimbus, so there’s less overhead for us to maintain and deploy it. Our approval flows live in Retool, where we can manage the users, product configurations, pricing, and more. Retool’s UI component library allows us to create custom scripts, which transform data from our APIs and store custom states to meet our requirements. 

We will set up safeguards for new customer support agents, so they have everything they need to view and modify data objects or make API calls, without the risk of making unintentional changes. There’s an access and permissions system to ensure that only specific people can perform a given action, and this will be important as our customer support team grows.

What services are integrated with Retool?

In Retool, the term “resource” refers to a data source that your application pulls data from. The most common types of resources are application databases, APIs, and data warehouses.

We currently integrate our internal APIs that manage Weather Guarantee objects. This gives us the necessary context on what the customer purchased, what weather events are covered, and reimbursement information.

Additionally, we integrate with external APIs for services we depend on, including Zendesk (for pulling Zendesk tickets about customer needs) and Stripe (for transaction information).

In the future, we’ll be able to tie in the analysis of historical weather forecasts, current views of a wide variety of weather variables, and observability of extreme weather events currently underway. Together, this will give us comprehensive context into whether a customer should receive a reimbursement—as well as a deeper understanding of what our customers and partners are experiencing at the locations where Weather Guarantees are available.

How was the Retool timeline/integration process?

Retool makes the integration process with databases, APIs, and external services very straightforward. Retool also allows multiple types of authentication like Basic Auth, OAuth 2.0, Auth0, so that we can use the authentication pattern that we deem appropriate and secure.

After setting up the permissions and auth to hit our services, we go into the Retool UI and manually configure a resource. After we successfully test in dev, we can set up connectivity to our production environments and start developing our Retool apps.

For Nimbus, these initial steps took less than a day. This was super satisfying, since connecting different data sources and services can be one of the pain points during software development.

After designing the views and functionality that we needed, it only took a few days per feature to set up the necessary UI components and plumbing to any API endpoints that we needed to invoke. This saved us a ton of time, as a similar application built from scratch would have taken months to develop.

What was the frontend component process like?

Retool has a premade component library that meets all of our needs. This includes data tables, key-value objects, and a vast selection of input fields for text, dates, radio buttons, check boxes, and everything else that you might find in a widely used frontend library during app development

A lot of our data objects are best represented in a table structure, where a row can represent a Weather Guarantee policy. We can then take that row object and perform any other visualizations or modifications needed to assist a customer. This includes examples of table components, row objects, and ways to search for individual policies, users, and more.

Are Nimbus and Retool working well together?

Our customer support agents will occasionally run into a situation where they need to do a special reimbursement or send a bunch of updates at once because of a certain weather event. 

In these cases, Nimbus allows our customer support team to easily pull dozens of Weather Guarantees directly into table views (instead of having to manually grab them from a database).

From there, we’re able to create payouts for each customer and automatically send them SMS messages telling them that they’ll be reimbursed by Sensible. Additionally, the contact information for all of those Weather Guarantee holders is easily accessible to our customer support and business development teams, to allow for a deeper, more personalized follow-up.

Delighting our customers with fast, clear communication and quick reimbursements helps alleviate their stress during a time when they’d planned on having fun.

It’s something that we take pride in as a team—and it’s made possible with the help of Nimbus. 

What’s in the forecast?

  • Integrating more live weather data sources to improve our observability of weather events impacting customers’ locations.
  • Creating an app to better display and modify Weather Guarantee configurations at each partner location.
  • Training new customer support agents to use our tools

Also, be sure to check out our Retool Lightning Demo!

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