Tuesday, 13 March 2018 11:34

Twilio introduces Flex, the 'world's first' fully programmable cloud contact centre platform


In a world where your call is important to us, one cloud-enabled platform claims full programmability for its contact centre smarts that can save the world with instant deployment.

Ok, ok, so Twilio Flex probably isn't going to save the world in the same way you'd expect Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger to, but if it can help to make calling contact centres even the tiniest bit better, it might end up saving your sanity.

Naturally, Twilio notes Flex's flexibility, stating that it is "the first contact centre platform that gives businesses complete control of their contact centre experience".

Flex is said to allow companies to "instantly deploy an omnichannel contact centre platform and also programmatically customise every element of the experience including the interface, communication channels, agent routing, and reporting to meet the unique needs of the business".

Indeed, Twilio says Flex is "a new type of platform for applications which has the potential to disrupt traditional monolithic application vendors in the same way API platforms disrupted traditional infrastructure services for communications, compute and payments", and is "built on the same elastic Twilio infrastructure that supports hundreds of thousands of contact centre agents and handles nearly 40 billion (annualised) interactions a year".

So, for those who've never had the joy of calling a contact centre, why is such an entity important?

Well, Twilio reminds us that "a company’s contact centre is critical to building and maintaining relationships with customers. However, as customer expectations shift with the availability of new communication channels, companies struggle to keep pace because of the difficulties and cost of upgrading the on-premises, hardware-based solutions that have dominated the contact centre market for decades".

In addition, Twilio tells us that "many companies have outgrown the one-size-fits-all applications and are demanding the ability to create an experience for their customers and agents customised to their unique needs".

Al Cook, head of the contact centre business at Twilio, said: "Hundreds of companies, including ING Bank, Zillow, Simply Business and National Debt Relief, have built customised contact centre solutions using Twilio’s communication APIs.

“With Flex, we are providing a contact centre platform that has a point-of-view based on the best practices we’ve learned, offers options for those who want to get up and running quickly, and gives businesses unlimited flexibility as they design their customer experiences."

Customisability from infrastructure to interface

In an age of disruption left, right and centre, Twilio says it is "introducing an entirely new approach to the industry", and that, as noted above, Twilio Flex "delivers the first instantly deployable, cloud-based platform that allows businesses to programmatically customise every element of their contact centre experience - from the core infrastructure to the user interface".

More detail on what Flex allows businesses to do

  • Instantly support an omnichannel experience: Flex allows businesses to instantly deploy agent, administration and supervisor desktops and begin engaging with customers via channels including voice, SMS, email, chat, video, Facebook Messenger and any other channel immediately, either natively or through an integration.
  • Programmatically customise any user interface: While Flex user interfaces work out of the box, they are designed to be customised at every point of the contact centre journey. Businesses can customise customer-facing components like click-to-call or click-to-chat, add entirely new channels or integrate reporting dashboards to display agent performance or customer satisfaction.
  • Bring contextual intelligence to every interaction: Flex empowers developers with machine learning to improve agent, supervisor and operator productivity and uses Twilio’s powerful TaskRouter to apply attribute-based routing logic across all communication channels.
  • Build applications with drag-and-drop ease: Twilio Studio, a visual application builder, makes it easy to customise everything from IVRs and chatbots to SMS-based appointment reminders or surveys -- quickly and easily without writing code.
  • Integrate any application: Flex can integrate with any third-party applications that are critical to the business including customer relationship management (CRM) from Salesforce or Zendesk, workforce management (WFM), workforce optimisation (WFO), reporting, analytics and data store.

Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics, said: "Twilio has been working with the in-house developers of businesses large and small for many years, helping them create customised customer and agent experiences.

“The best practices gleaned from those engagements have been incorporated into a service that works out of the box and also allows for robust customisation."

An enterprise platform "built for scale"

The company tells us that "Flex is designed for businesses and ISVs with large scale contact centre deployments that require an additional layer of customisation in order to best serve their customers".

"Underpinning the Twilio Flex contact centre platform is Twilio’s Super Network, an elastic infrastructure that catalogs, orchestrates and delivers global connectivity to Twilio’s customer base.

"Twilio powers nearly 40 billion interactions a year while maintaining a 99.95% service level agreement. Built on Twilio’s Super Network, Flex enables businesses to support up to 50,000 agents and reach customers in more than 100 countries without having to manage infrastructure or carrier relationships."

An ecosystem to extend customer success

Twilio naturally also wants to remind us all that "Flex provides a robust opportunity for the entire ecosystem of partners - from ISVs to technology partners to systems integrators".

Ryan Nichols, general manager of Zendesk Talk, said: “When it comes to delivering the best customer experiences there’s no one size fits all.

“The partnership between Twilio and Zendesk is powerful because together we provide businesses a choice in how to build an integrated omnichannel experience. We look forward to continuing this partnership with Twilio in the future.”

For companies looking for a pre-built contact centre solution, Twilio says it will "continue to refer them to one of its many contact centre partners like Zendesk or Serenova. Twilio Flex provides ISVs new sophisticated components to build into SaaS contact centre solutions that ultimately allows the entire ecosystem to more effectively address the full spectrum of customer requirements."

Twilio also reports "actively working with tier one systems integrators to help customers who want to build a highly customised solution, but may not have development resources in-house".

Then there's the Twilio Marketplace, whose partners include "IBM Watson, Ytica, and Verint" which will provide customers with "one-click integrations for capabilities like sentiment analysis, workforce optimisation, workforce management, analytics, reporting, and storage".

Pricing and availability

Twilio says: "Flex is currently in preview and will be generally available by the end of 2018 with flexible pricing options including per seat per month."

Further quotes:

  • “Liberty Mutual has been working with Twilio for a couple years now using their developer APIs in some of our contact centre areas. As we look ahead at industry trends and emergence of new channels, we are excited for the opportunities to make it easier for our customers to interact with us. We’re working with Twilio Flex to test and build new capabilities that are made possible by the power and innovation of cloud computing. It allows us to move beyond our existing API implementations towards a more programmable app model that provides the full omni-channel capabilities.” - John Heveran, senior vice-president and chief information officer, Liberty Mutual Commercial Insurance

  • “We’ve partnered with Twilio for years as we know they are on the leading edge of changing how businesses communicate. Twilio’s architecture and connectivity have been critical to offering Serenova’s customers a plug and play option for conducting interactions via the cloud without sacrificing security or reliability. Twilio’s Flex is a logical step for a company that we’ve come to know first-hand is dedicated to evolving and improving how customers interact with contact centre organisations.” - Pascal Vincent, chief technology officer for Serenova

  • “At ING Bank, we believe the only way to keep up with innovation is to speed up, and the only way to speed up in the world of software is to empower the builders. Using this approach, ING is using Twilio’s platform to build one global contact centre solution that serves customers in forty countries. This project will replace 17 separate legacy systems and provides us the flexibility and scale required to build the exact experience we need to serve our global customer base.” - Jannes Smit, head of IT omnichannel at ING

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.





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