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Simonetta Turek is General Manager of Twilio Flex, a leading CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Software Solution) offering. It is a customizable API-rich platform that lets users build to spec – the kind of contact center they want. It is scalable and subsequently programmable. Turek recently sat down with me for an interview where we discussed the future of the contact center space – she even gave me an update on Twilio Flex. 

In 2020, Twilio experienced a lot of acceleration and growth on many fronts, according to Turek, who noted that the company had high growth in addition to witnessing an uptick in demand from new/existing customers. According to her, Twilio saw 800 billion interactions on its Flex UCaaS platform in 2020. 

She noted – the CPaaS giant spent the past 16 months enhancing the user experience of its UCaaS platform. All this, along with other elements like speed and scale. Concerning the future of the contact center space, Turek gave me a great deal of insight into some increasingly popular industry trends. You will find that part of our conversation below. 

 

COVID-19 ushered in massive market transformation 

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated efforts that were already underway – that is, the digital transformation efforts of many companies. It sped up by an average of six years, Twilio data show. And those same data indicate that customers now expect personalized, convenient, and efficient digital experiences. 

“If the past year has taught us anything, it is that personalization and efficiency are the holy grail of customer engagement. Data are the key to better understanding customers, and to giving them the kind of experience they want.”

The future of the contact center market, according to Turek – will be centered around customer experiences, a thought consistent with trends we have only seen grow over the past 16 months. And that is already started to happen by companies seeking to understand elements like customer context. 

Contact centers have long focused on the processes rather than the outcomes of servicing the customer – this is why business owners must adjust their mindset, no longer finding it viable to think of the contact center as a separate business silo. It is a unified experience, after all, Turek lamented. 

 

AI’s increasing role in the contact center

Last year – Twilio acquired customer data platform developer, Segment. The deal – worth a reported $3.2 billion, a lot of dough for the potential yield of a sweet reward with an added customer benefit – enhancing CX (customer experience). There is the potential to boost the contact center workflow experience, too. 

Today, it appears, the deal might be paying off, as it relies heavily on leveraging data to pull off advanced contact center functionalities like the ones Twilio Flex now extends. According to Turek, the company wants to ensure that Flex users have the right kind of context going into customer conversations – no matter the channel they use. That’s accomplished via implementing artificial intelligence directly into the contact center experience. 

“Whether it is a human or an AI bot, ensuring a personalized service will remain pre-eminent into the future. Integration data are also vital to understanding what customers want. Data even play a critical role in determining where the industry heads.”

Turek told me that Twilio sees an industry shift, noting that the concept of high-volume, short-duration interaction contact centers has changed, making way for another AI application to enter the UCaaS equation – conversational AI. 

More and more of the “everyday contact center experiences” – are today managed using self-service conversations or enhanced automated workflows, no matter the channel. Turek told me that most Twilio Flex customers say – they prefer self-service chats to solve issues; rather than a phone call.  

“They can transact, schedule, or address an inquiry quicker and without dead ends – a space set to accelerate post-pandemic, demonstrating the value it can provide customers.”  

Of course, humans will always play a role in this process when interactions require human intervention. These situations are often more complex – and may require access to disparate information, Turek told me. 

 

More companies seek flexibility and agility

New Zendesk data show; although organizations say they recognize the importance of anticipating and adapting to customer needs – a mere 9% of business leaders and 11% of managers/admins said that they “actually meet the minimum set of agility competencies, ones that can classify a company as  a “market-leading organization.”

That same study of 3,900 business leaders revealed a lot about flexibility, too. It noted that these individuals are consistently more flexible about changes in how customer service agents work. Sixty-one percent of organizations surveyed said they offer work from anywhere arrangements, with 54% extending alternate work schedules.

Turek also backs up this notion, noting during our chat: “From our customers, such as Robinhood, BGL Group, and AB InBev; we have seen a lot more curiosity around the custom-fit digital experience.” She continued, stating that a lot of companies are now asking central questions like:

 

  • How do we meet customers where they are? 
  • Which channels should we prioritize (i.e., mobile phone, website, etc.)? 
  • How do we engage with them the right way? 
  • How do we offer differentiated experiences? 
  • How do we make experiences consistent?

 

“These kinds of conversations go to show how more everyday experiences have become increasingly customer-centric and driven. The digital CX is a company’s bottom line,” Turek concluded.

While it seems that over 40 percent of companies and leadership remain hesitant about workplace flexibility – employees crave greater flexibility, agility, and workplace autonomy. Companies that wish to stay relevant and attract the best possible talent; have gotten themselves in a “quagmire” (of sorts). 

In the end, it will likely result in having made some concessions to appease employees, and rightfully so.