Sheila McGee-Smith
Sheila McGee-Smith, who founded McGee-Smith Analytics in 2001, is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant focused on the...
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Sheila McGee-Smith | March 12, 2018 |


Twilio to Launch 'Flex' Contact Center Solution

Twilio to Launch 'Flex' Contact Center Solution Plans to usher in a customizable, scalable narrative for contact center as a service.

Plans to usher in a customizable, scalable narrative for contact center as a service.

As leaked in the press three weeks ago, and privately confirmed by company officials, Twilio is launching a new contact center solution, called Twilio Flex, this evening at Enterprise Connect 2018.

The graphic below summarizes Twilio's core selling proposition for Flex. Starting on the left, there are several reasons why approximately 85% of contact center agent seats are still supported by premises-based solutions. One has been the lack of demonstrated scalability from existing multi-tenant contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) offerings. None of the existing CCaaS players (save for Amazon Connect) purports to be able to support the tens of thousands of agents some large enterprises require.

Premises-based solutions from Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys have typically been deployed in these very large implementations. These solutions can scale to the required 50 or 60 thousand agents, but companies have had to purchase and deploy a significant amount of equipment to support peak demand and maintain that infrastructure even when demand may fall far below that peak. These contact center environments are typically highly customized to integrate into the enterprise application and data environment of the company, with professional services often required to maintain these integrations adding to the ongoing expense.


On the other side of the spectrum, and the graphic, Twilio depicts its view of today's typical SaaS contact center solution. Twilio points to its own CCaaS partners as fitting into this category (e.g. Serenova or Zendesk). SaaS contact centers are described as having advantages, like the ability for quick deployment, but disadvantages as well. To date, CCaaS vendors as a group have not demonstrated the scalability required by companies with very large contact centers. Twilio contends that these solutions also offer limited customizability. This is a view that I'm sure will be vehemently objected to by the CCaaS leaders in the market, who pride themselves on the openness of their API-first architectures.

Reminiscent of Goldilocks and the three bears, this brings us to Twilio Flex, positioned in the middle of these two ends. Twilio posits that one of the reasons larger companies are dragging their feet on going to the cloud is that they require a level of customization not being offered by the CCaaS players today. It believes that Twilio Flex is the answer.

  • Fully customizable? Agreed. Some aspects of the client interface or routing design customization are accomplished with Twilio Studio, a visual application builder aimed at marketing and other line of business professionals, as well as other online configuration tools. Other types of changes, perhaps including enterprise-relevant data in an agent or supervisor dashboard, might be done by developers making minor tweaks to code.

    Wait, you might say... code? Contact center managers monkeying with code!? Ah, but perhaps a new day is dawning -- a day when developers have a seat at the table with CIOs and VPs of Customer Care. So posits Twilio.

  • Massively scalable? Twilio states in its press release that Flex has been tested to 50,000 agents. This is higher than anything being touted by other CCaaS vendors today. In a briefing session with the Twilio Flex team, Al Cook, head of its Contact Center Business, hinted at a soon-to-be deployment that is slated to grow this number to 70,000 agents.

Each year, Dimension Data publishes a Global CX Benchmarking Report that includes invaluable, timely data on customer experience changes and trends. In Monday's Contact Center Market Update session at Enterprise Connect, I was privileged to present some early learnings from the 2018 report, scheduled to be published in the second quarter of 2018. One early conclusion, that I'm sure the full report will explore in depth, is that while "Cloud continues to grow as a model in public, private, and hybrid forms ...the ability to customize emerges as a new challenge." This finding supports the new CCaaS narrative that not just Twilio, but also Amazon Web Services with Connect, is proposing to the market.

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