Twilio has launched Twilio Flex, a cloud-based contact center platform that is instantly deployable, fully programmable, and allows businesses to engage with customers via a variety of channels. Among the channels that can be deployed instantly with Twilio Flex are voice, SMS, chat, video, email, and Facebook Messenger. Twilio Flex is ideal for businesses that would like to integrate an additional layer of customization with their existing on-premises and SaaS contact center deployments.
Twilio Flex includes Flow Builder, Twilio Marketplace, and TaskRouter. Flow Builder is a drag and drop studio that non-developers can use to add and change channels, organize widgets, customize applications, and add new capabilities via third-party integrations (integrations coming soon). The Twilio Marketplace will provide one-click prebuilt integrations from a number of Twilio partners such as Amazon Alexa, IBM Watson, SendGrid, and Slack. TaskRouter allows tickets, calls, emails, and other messages to be routed to the next available qualified agent.
Twilio Flex is built on top of all the existing Twilio products, and all of the UIs have been built from the ground up. All user interfaces including the agent interface, supervisor interface, and administration interface work out of the box. However, all of the UIs are assembled as microcomponents so that they are entirely customizable. Non-developers can use Flow Builder to customize Flex components such as click-to-chat, routing, and task router, and developers can customize components by delving into the code. Developers can add new channels, integrate analytics dashboards, and programmatically customize every layer of each Flex component.
We reached out to Al Cook, Director of Product Management and Engineering/Head of Contact Center Business at Twilio, who provided insights into Twilio’s new Flex contact center platform.
Cook explained that Twilio implemented a different model as to how user interfaces are customized. The UI was built with React, and it is comprised of granular components. There's a definition file of the UI in XML that specifies every single component. The file can be edited to remove elements, change the behavior of an individual element, and change just about anything at all in Flex.
"One of the things that we learned in building an API business is that APIs unlock the creativity of developers. When you’re just delivering APIs, developers can really do anything that they want," said Cook. "They have the ability to experiment, and with experimentation that’s the prerequisite to innovation."
Cook went on to say that "when my team was building Flex, we spent the first six months just thinking about how to come up with a user interface approach, something that allows the freedom of innovation from APIs to be applied to a UI itself," said Cook. "It took a lot of time in designing, but I think what we came up with is just a different way of delivering a user interface. It gives you the freedom to really do anything you want, and that is not true of any other contact center solution out there."
Cook told ProgrammableWeb that the company built an intent extraction engine they named "Twilio Understand." This intent extraction engine extracts the intent and the different entities from interactions between agents and customers. There are two parts to the NLP capabilities in Twilio Flex; Twilio Understand which primarily focuses on intent extraction, and the Twilio Marketplace which offers third-party integrations so that companies can implement additional capabilities to their contact center platforms like speech recognition and sentiment analysis.
For example, if a company builds a chatbot on their website as the beginning of their customer flow, the company can plug in the content from the messaging stream into Twilio Understand to extract the intent, entities, and the specifics of what the company and customer are trying to do. Keyword detection could be used by the company to flag interactions where a supervisor may want to get involved with interactions between an agent and a customer based on keywords within the conversation.
Twilio Flex is currently in preview, and the company plans on making the platform generally available by the end of 2018. To learn more about Twilio’s fully programmable contact center platform, visit https://www.twilio.com/flex.