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Twilio Flex: A Customer Perspective from Lyft

As reported previously on No Jitter, Twilio announced the general availability of its contact center platform, Flex, this week at its customer/developer conference, Signal. I'm here in San Francisco, as were many of my contact center industry analyst colleagues, to see firsthand what progress Twilio has made since introducing Flex in March at Enterprise Connect 2018.

In a market where multitenant contact center cloud solutions are often described as well-suited for small to mid-sized operations (up to around 100 agents five years ago, perhaps to 500 today), Twilio aggressively set its sights on solving the complex customer care problems of companies with at least 1,000 agents. Many -- privately and publicly -- may have thought that a lofty goal. At Signal, the Flex team made it apparent that it has delivered on its promise.

I say that without equivocation because I had the opportunity to spend time with Lyft and Shopify, two of the initial Flex customers shown on the slide below. In this post, I'll share what I learned from Jaime Gilliam-Swartz, vice president, customer experience operations, at Lyft. I'll share on Shopify in a second post to come next week.

Sample of Twilio Flex customers, including Lyft


One of my first questions for Gilliam-Swartz was how Lyft defines a customer -- i.e., who drives interactions handled by contact center agents. Lyft divides its customers into three segments: drivers, passengers, and applicants, or people looking to be drivers, Gilliam-Swartz said. "All three have very different needs and very different contract types," she added.

The problem that Gilliam-Swartz is looking to solve at Lyft is the complexity its agents face as a result of the variety of tools they use to handle various interaction channels. A key end goal is what Gilliam-Swartz refers to as integrated tooling.

Lyft's existing cloud contact center solution populates a link with the caller's phone number. If Lyft's custom CRM tool, known as Tom, matches the number to an existing customer, the Tom record will populate information on the screen. From there, agents manually create a record in Zendesk, which the company uses to create trouble tickets. "So, there are three different tools that agents are working on right there," Gilliam-Swartz explained.

Lyft has a few thousand agents, half handling voice calls and the other half digital channels. Lyft intends to start its Flex migration in November, beginning with the voice agents, Gilliam-Swartz reported.

On the digital side, Lyft currently uses one vendor for text messaging, another for email, and another for social interactions. As Gilliam-Swartz told me, "It's a complex setup, and it all works -- but barely, kind of bubblegum and chicken wire." With a goal to add chat, Lyft decided it was time to see what a true omnichannel solution would look like.

After investigating digital channel upgrade options, Lyft decided to use Flex -- not only for digital interactions but to replace the existing cloud contact center as well. The plan is to have the digital agents – with all the existing channels plus chat -- migrated to Flex in first-quarter 2019.

I asked Gilliam-Swartz what factors -- after a broad, competitive evaluation -- led Lyft to choose Flex. She talked about three aspects of the evaluation.

  1. The choice involved a huge leap of faith in her product team, Gilliam-Swartz said. "Are we committed to doing this? Are we willing to put the effort in over time to make it work?" As a tech company, there's always a conversation about build vs. buy, but "on the buy or build spectrum, just how much are we willing to commit to?"
  2. Lyft had a desire to take advantage of customer information available from the mobile application that it wasn't leveraging.
  3. Lyft wanted the chosen solution to allow the company to solve associate desktop issues; it wanted the ability to create the right tool for agents.

Lyft chose Twilio and, as detailed here, is aggressively moving to implement Flex for thousands of agents over the next few months. Gilliam-Swartz's goal for Lyft customer care is to embody the company's core values of respect, friendliness, and caring. She, and the other decision makers at Lyft who contributed to the Flex decision, believe Twilio is a company equally committed to her goals.

Watch for my interview with Shopify's Chris Wilson, director of merchant support technical operations at Shopify, to come next week.