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Click To Call with Ruby and Rails

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Wish your users could get in touch as easily as they can surf? It's your lucky day!

Let's go over the step s necessary to implement click-to-call in a Ruby on Rails application.

Click to Call

  1. A website visitor submits a web form with a phone number.
  2. Your web application receives the submission and initiates an HTTP request to Twilio asking to initiate an outbound call.
  3. Twilio receives the request and initiates a call to the user's phone number.
  4. The user picks up the call.
  5. After the call connects, we provide TwiML instructions to connect the user to our sales or support teams.

What We Will Learn

This tutorial demonstrates how to initialize a call using the Twilio REST API and how to create a call using the TwiML Say verb.

Let's get started! Click the button below to move to the next step of the tutorial.

Next

Set up your environment

Before we create our click-to-call application, we need to set up our environment first.

Let's put our Twilio credentials in a place where our application can access them. For this tutorial, we'll store them in environment variables that our application can read.

# Find your Account SID and Auth Token at twilio.com/console
export TWILIO_ACCOUNT_SID=AC2XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
export TWILIO_AUTH_TOKEN=XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
export API_HOST=https://example.herokuapp.com
export TWILIO_NUMBER=+15551230987

Replace the Account_SID, Auth_Token, and Twilio_Number placeholder values with your unique values, which you can find in the Twilio Console. You can use an existing Twilio phone number or obtain a new number.

Twilio Console Credentials Location

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      app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

      Next, let's look at making a friendly web form.

      Next

      The web form

      For our solution, we'll need a form where the user can enter a phone number.

      No need to overthink this as the real goal is to POST the user's and sales team's phone numbers to your controller.

      So what does this form need?

      • An input for the phone number
      • Another for the sales team number
      • A submit button.
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          app/views/twilio/index.erb

          Build a Web Form

          app/views/twilio/index.erb

          Since the page doesn't need to render new content after clicking on submit, we've decided to implement the POST action via AJAX using jQuery. Let's take a look at that next.

          Next

          Submit the form

          To make the click to call feature more seamless we used Ajax to send the form asynchronously.

          This code shows one way you could implement this functionality using jQuery:

          • Watch for the user "submitting" the form element.
          • Submit that form data to our controller.
          • Let the user know if the submission was successful or not.

          This is a pretty common implementation of jQuery's $.ajax() method, but notice that we are returning the response message when the call has connected.

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              app/assets/javascripts/app.js

              Submit a form with AJAX

              app/assets/javascripts/app.js

              Now that we have the frontend done let's build a controller that will receive this data and call the user. We'll start our exploration in the next step.

              Next

              Instantiate a client object

              First, we initiate a @client object with our Account SID and Auth Token. This is essentially our Ruby REST API handler, which we could use to send SMS (or a myriad of other things).

              In this example, we need it to get access to account.calls. This is the object that we're going to use to create phone calls.

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                  app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

                  Handle a form POST

                  app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

                  Next, we'll look at making phone calls.

                  Next

                  Make a phone call

                  We'll use the REST API to make an outgoing phone call which requires us to pass a From number, a To number and a URL Parameter that tells Twilio what to do after it connects the call to our user.

                  In this case, Twilio needs to DIAL in the Agent once the call has been placed. We'll discuss this more in future steps.

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                      app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

                      Give Twilio a from and to number and some TwiML

                      app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

                      Next, let's look at the endpoint we'll expose to Twilio.

                      Next

                      The Connect endpoint

                      Twilio makes a request to our application when the call is created using the REST API. This means that we need to create an endpoint that is publicly available for Internet requests: we'll walk through a way to make your localhost accessible via ngrok a little later in this tutorial.

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                          app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

                          Core Code Controller

                          app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

                          A publicly exposed URL has some drawbacks. Next, we'll look at making sure we don't leak any sensitive data.

                          Next

                          Validate the Twilio request

                          TwiML sometimes can contain sensitive user information such as phone numbers. If you're revealing sensitive information at a route, you'll want to make sure you're talking to Twilio.

                          So, let's check that the request was made by Twilio before doing any operation on the /Connect endpoint.

                          The authenticate_twilio_request method provides a mechanism to confirm that the request your application is receiving is actually coming from Twilio.

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                              app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

                              Be sure you're talking to Twilio

                              app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

                              Now that we know a request originates from Twilio let's move on and look at the TwiML response we'll send.

                              Next

                              Generate TwiML

                              TwiML is a set of verbs and nouns written in XML that Twilio reads as instructions.

                              In this case, our instructions inform Twilio to SAY something to the user and then DIAL the support agent's number so the customer can talk to him or her.

                              To make writing TwiML easy, many of the helper libraries have methods that generate TwiML for you. We use twilio-ruby to create a TwiML response that will instruct Twilio to SAY something.

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                                  app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

                                  Make Twilio say something

                                  app/controllers/twilio_controller.rb

                                  And with that, you've helped us get a working click-to-call form, ready to be integrated into your own application.

                                  Next

                                  Test your app locally

                                  Now you can run and test your Twilio app.

                                  However, you probably want to test it using a publicly available endpoint without having to go "public" with your app. The best option is to use ngrok.

                                  Note: For more information about running the application, see the readme file in the app github repository.

                                  About ngrok

                                  ngrok generates a secure URL that forwards traffic to a port, usually 5000, on your localhost server. It allows you to run applications locally but make them a publicly available endpoint via secure tunneling. This allows you to test your application and do all the things you want your app to do but in a secure public space.

                                  ngrok is an executable (ngrok.exe) that you run on the command line or terminal.

                                  Setting Up ngrok

                                  Head over to ngrok's website, download the ngrok.zip file for your OS of choice, then unzip the file into an easily accessible location.

                                  For example, on Windows, you can place it in your \Users directory in \AppData\Roaming\<ngrok-directory-name>\ngrok.exe. Then, update your PATH environment variables to the location of the ngrok executable. On Linux or OSX, it's much easier (see the instructions on the ngrok site).

                                  And that's it.

                                  Accessing your app from an endpoint using ngrok

                                  So, now you are ready to use ngrok.

                                  Before you start ngrok, it might be a good idea to have your Twilio Console open.

                                  For Mac and Linux, open a terminal and run this command to start ngrok:

                                  $ ./ngrok http 4040
                                  

                                  On Windows, open a command prompt and run this command to start ngrok:

                                  $ Path-to-ngrok> ngrok http 4040
                                  

                                  Alternately, you can start ngrok using the following command:

                                  $ ngrok http 4040 -host-header="localhost:4040"
                                  

                                  The port number "4040" is arbitrary. If your local server is running on another port, replace "4040" in the command with the appropriate port number.

                                  This will start ngrok. A running instance of ngrok will appear in the terminal showing the local web interface (in this case http://127.0.0.1:4040) and the public URL (in this case, https://28dd499b.ngrok.io).

                                  ngrok-running

                                  The forwarding public URL needs to be set in the Twilio Console. In the Console, select the active phone number you set in the environment configuration file and enter the public URL from ngrok (shown above) in the "A Call Comes In" field under Voice & Fax. Be sure to select Webhook from the dropdown list.

                                  Each time you restart ngrok a new public URL will be generated. You will need to update this URL in the Console any time you restart ngrok.

                                  Twilio Console Webhook Setting

                                  And that's it. You now have a publicly available endpoint for your app, so now you can take a look at your running app and enter the phone numbers using your ngrok address: https://xxxxxx.ngrok.io

                                  What Else Can I Build?

                                  Where to Next?

                                  Did this help?

                                  Thanks for checking this tutorial out! Tweet to us @twilio and let us know what you're building!

                                  Jarod Reyes Jose Oliveros Agustin Camino Andrew Baker Paul Kamp Glenn Lea Kat King

                                  Need some help?

                                  We all do sometimes; code is hard. Get help now from our support team, or lean on the wisdom of the crowd browsing the Twilio tag on Stack Overflow.

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