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Inside the Flexathon With Perficient

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As a company that’s built around the developer community, hackathons are a longstanding tradition at Twilio. On June 26, we invited 25 developers from 3 different countries to Flexathona day building with Twilio Flex, our new programmable contact center platform, at Twilio HQ. The experts who built Flex from the ground up were on hand to answer any questions and provide guidance if needed. Attendees from companies such as Scorpion, Zendesk, Perficient, DVELP, and AdHawk, as well as independent developers, shared demos of what they built and revealed their first impressions of Flex.

Flexathon provided valuable feedback on the Flex console provisioning experience and documentation. We’ve incorporated that feedback into the product and we’re now in a position to onboard additional customers. If you’re ready to level up your customer engagement and want to know more about what Flex can do for your business, get in touch.  

This post from Curtis Swartzentruber, Senior Lead Software Engineer at Perficient, is the final in a three-part series sharing a look inside the Twilio Flexathon.

Now that Twilio Flex is close to general availability, we’re really excited about what it has to offer our customers. Our consulting firm provides digital experience, business optimization, and industry solutions to enterprise customers throughout North America. In addition to onboarding new customers onto the Flex platform, our developers will also offer Twilio services like Studio flow design, assistant models, and TaskRouter configuration.

As one of the first companies in Twilio's brand new partner program, we spent a few days getting certified on Flex and the rich ecosystem of pre-existing Twilio communication APIs. But to kick things off we participated in an all-day "Flexathon", Twilio's version of a hackathon that was all about jumping in and trying to build something on Flex.

My Flex Experience

Our team had a chance to preview Flex a few weeks before the Flexathon and the onboarding process required a substantial amount of manual setup. The thing that struck me as soon as we got started with the Flexathon was the new QuickStart setup process; this eliminated many of the manual steps previously required. Most stuff just worked right out of the box.

It's as simple as creating a new Twilio project in your console and visiting a QuickStart page. When you launch the page, it will check if the current project already has Flex installed. If not, it will run through a set of background processes to set you up. You do need to start with an empty project as the template will fail if you've already created Functions or TaskRouter components.

There was still a bit of manual intervention required by the Flex team here and there, but overall it was a very impressive experience. I particularly liked exploring how all the Twilio services are configured behind the scenes. A big part of this is a customized TaskRouter workspace that is pre-configured to get a Flex environment up and running quickly. This includes a sample TaskQueue and Worker to start with, along with channels and a basic Workflow. In addition, Twilio Functions are created to tie everything together (task creation, channel management, communication stickiness).

CRM and Omnichannel Support

My goal was to build a self-service flow where a customer could get some information out of a CRM (Salesforce in this case) and then escalate to an agent if their questions weren’t answered Flex has a panel and callbacks already configured for that, assuming your CRM allows it. We've had various degrees of success, depending on the CRM platform. If you want to flip the script and run Flex inside your CRM, you can do that too. I really enjoyed help from various members of the Flex team, as well as brainstorming ideas with them. That was my favorite part of the process.

I think the exciting thing about Flex is you are effectively starting with a blank canvas with the React frontend, with many of the necessary pieces already set up for you to jump right in. At the same time, you have the power of all the different mature Twilio APIs and other services standing ready to enhance whatever you want to do.

One big advantage with Flex is that a lot of the impediments you see in traditional contact centers when trying to accomplish omnichannel solutions just go away. Omnichannel is basically part of the Flex DNA and the available channel support is just going to expand over time. I think this will allow much more of a customer-driven approach to sales and service.

Artificial Intelligence and Flex

If you are like me, sometimes you would just rather interact with a computer than a human. This opens up all kinds of possibilities in how to communicate with organizations. Add in some of the bot and artificial intelligence offerings that are starting to come together and it just really expands the palette of the possible.

Another idea we are thinking about a lot is the concept of a “worker” in a flow in Flex; not all of those workers have to be human. And not all of the “customers” have to be human. I think we may see Flex used as a starting point for some very interesting routing and personal agent experiences, such as routing work around an organization (legal docs, MRI scans, etc.) or building personal agent interactions (e.g. Can I please just have your computer and my computer figure out when we are free and schedule this meeting?).

What's Next?

Some parts of Flex are still in the works, such as supervisory frameworks and generally making certain operations more streamlined or easier to configure. But you can already see how powerful this framework is going to be for building rich customer care applications. The ability to customize everything makes a staggering contrast to traditional call center platforms and we think customers are going to really love what we build on Flex.

Future projects we envision with Flex include:

  • Assessment and pilot projects as customers look to move some or all of their current contact center off legacy platforms.
  • Helping customers quickly add omnichannel options to their contact centers.
  • Custom Flex integration with other systems, such as CRM, ticketing/support/RMA systems, and custom resources or data.
  • Bringing more self-service or bot interactions into the customer care process (including use of natural language, sentiment analysis, etc.).

This product lends itself to building the kind of customer interactions we see requested all the time at Perficient. For 10 years, we’ve been successfully building products that work with on-premise unified communications, but it’s clear that companies are increasingly going to move away from on-premise systems and toward the cloud. Flex is well-positioned to take advantage of that move and the platform has the flexibility that both sales and developers can get excited about working with.

Also read: Inside the Flexathon with Scorpion and Inside the Flexathon with AdHawk

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