After building its business up to a $1 billion valuation by working with the biggest startups in Silicon Valley, Twilio is pushing into the enterprise with an unusual target in its sights: the call centre.
The American software-as-a-service (SaaS) company provides APIs for in-application communications - be that text, video, telephony. It is already the underlying communications platform in apps from Airbnb to Uber, so if you have ever texted or called an Uber driver, you have used Twilio. Much like how fellow Silicon Valley startup Stripe provides developers with the tools to facilitate payments within apps, Twilio does the same for communication and messaging.
Courting the enterprise
The developer-centric company has traditionally relied on bottom-up adoption, but with larger enterprises it will need to get the attention of executives too.
The recent IPO will have helped with visibility, and companies looking to adopt a modern approach to software development will be attracted to Twilio.
The firm is also attempting to allay concerns larger customers might have around compliance and security by adding features like access management, advanced security and segmented billing. The enterprise product starts at $15,000 per month or 30 percent of monthly spend, depending on which is greater.
The initial use case that the company seems to be getting most traction with is by helping legacy customers simplify their contact centres.
It may sound dull, but contact centres are a huge outgoing on enterprise balance sheets, especially in the financial services and retail sectors that Twilio is already seeing some penetration with. But this is just part of Twilio's plan. As more and more large enterprises invest in digital strategies, Twilio wants to get its foot in the door through its contact centre use case, before working its way into the customer-facing apps these companies are building.
Call centre 2.0
Speaking at their first UK developer conference Signal yesterday, Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson highlighted one of its customers, ING Bank, which is overhauling its call centre systems.
“A mobile bank has to be agile. ING had 17 separate legacy call centre systems from vendors, installed at different times and by different teams. It was a mess. They needed to consolidate these systems into one for an easier time maintaining.
"Their teams of developers are using the building blocks of Twilio to assemble various solutions for the business units in 40 countries, from chat to voice to video.”
Twilio's head of product Patrick Malatack told Computerworld UK that Twilio allows customers to blend their communications with customer information systems, allowing call centre staff to save time when dealing with customers to offer “a contextualised experience to route you to the correct agent”.
He explained: “We see that customers want to be able to take their information systems and blend them with communications. By blending those you get an experience that is much beyond the traditional ‘give me your mother's maiden name and a pincode’”.
Twilio now has 14 separate product lines “offering different building blocks to build the right interactions with your customers for the right situations”, he says. The ability for in-house developers to build bespoke products for its teams is attractive to modern enterprise customers.
Twilio European customers
ING started working with Twilio by building a new customer-facing instant messaging platform. It took the bank eight weeks to move over to the new system, complete with weekly delivery updates, before moving into video and telephony. twilio is now ING’s global contact centre provider for voice, chat and video.
Large UK electronics retailer Dixons Carphone also uses Twilio as a middleware layer to link together the disparate telephony systems in place across its various brand's contact centres and suppliers so that call centre staff can interact with one system.
Dave Ward, head of new technology, innovation and connected home at Dixons Carphone explained that ripping and replacing these legacy systems simply wasn't an option. Instead, twilio allows them to "build interfaces between existing infrastructure".
The retailer then blends in a module called Vault, which stores customer information about what items they have purchased and previous interactions. With Twilio they can link this contextual information to the customer service agent to route calls to the right place quickly, avoiding the need to navigate a cumbersome Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, where you navigate menus with your phone keypad.