Twilio Looks to Inject Flexibility into Call Centers

    When organizations think about transforming the customer experience across multiple channels, all thoughts naturally turn to the call center. Most midsize to large organizations rely on a call center that they either built themselves or a service. The problem many of them face is that call centers tend to be based on monolithic applications that don’t easily adjust to the modern requirements of an omni-channel customer experience. Twilio, in the expectation of being able to inject some flexibility into call centers, has announced it is previewing Twilio Flex, a programmable call center environment based on voice, video and audio cloud services that it exposes via RESTful application programming interfaces (APIs).

    Al Cook, director of product management and head of engineering for the contact center business at Twilio, says organizations clearly need to be able to build digital business applications that enable them to engage with customers consistently, regardless of whether the customer is contacting via a voice call or mobile application. The challenge they face is not only that most of their existing call centers are limited to interacting with customers over the phone, the cost of upgrading those applications is prohibitive. Because of that issue, more organizations will be moving away from packaged call center applications in favor of programmable cloud services that are both highly customizable and less expensive to operate, says Cook. To facilitate that process, Twilio makes available visual programming tools that eliminate the need for developers to master lower-level APIs.

    Cook contends that one of the biggest limitations with existing call center environments is that they don’t scale up and down as easily as cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). A new report published by DMG Consulting estimates that the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market (excluding carrier revenue) was at least $2.8 billion. That estimate represents only about 11.4 percent of the total market, so the growth potential for cloud-based contact center is high.

    “You can scale the call center environment if you have to keep throwing boxes at applications,” says Cook.

    Cook also notes that cloud-based services are going to be in a better position to analyze massive amounts of data required to fuel next-generation call center applications enabled by machine and deep learning algorithms.

    Providing a better customer experience management is the primary reason most organizations are engaging in digital business transformation projects that start with customer relationship management (CRM) applications as their foundation. By integrating with those CRM applications, Twilio is positioning Twilio Flex as a natural call center extension.


    The issue many of them will need to address is to what degree they want to build those digital business applications versus continuing to rely on packaged applications. Twilio is betting that a cloud-based approach to creating a custom call center environment schedule, to be available by the end of the year, will not only prove more affordable, but it will result in many more organizations experimenting with new types of customer experience management applications simply because the barrier to entry for building them is about to substantially drop.


    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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