Twilio's Omni-Channel Approach: A Self-Service Win/Win, Finally Realized

August 10, 2020
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Selfserv win-win

The idea of “DIY” (do-it-yourself) is nothing new. Yes, it has grown in popularity recently due to tools such as Youtube, Instagram, and the like, but the concept of DIY has been around since the 1950’s. People take pride in being able to carry out professional grade tasks without direct aid from experts or professionals.

In the Contact Center world, we want customers to have tools to do things themselves – without a live agent. The promise of self service has proven elusive. For decades we have struggled to provide rich experiences that create high satisfaction with self service applications. I submit that a combination of new capabilities, shifting customer preference for omni communications and an increased willingness to do-it-yourself has finally allowed us to realize the self service win-win where both businesses and customers benefit.

Attempts at self-service in customer interactions

The idea of self-service is sound; companies automate routine interactions to promise better service at less cost. Motivated by reducing live agent cost, businesses have been investing in Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems for over 40 years. Unfortunately, conventional solutions have often struggled to achieve reasonable customer satisfaction outcomes.

Traditional attempts at self-service and IVR’s were a win / lose proposition: businesses saved money but all too often at the sacrifice of customer satisfaction. Deflecting calls, essentially forcing self-service, was not the warm greeting people desired. Seemingly endless menus (combined with slow prompting) were cumbersome and unnatural to users. Refer to Newton’s Telecom Dictionary for terms like ‘IVR jail’ where you are forced to navigate and can’t escape, and ‘cheat codes’ the magic DTMF sequence that, when entered, gets you to the elusive live agent.

IVR systems are not easy or cheap to build, operate, and maintain. Hardware and connectivity are substantial expenditures. Developers have to create integrations, often in proprietary ways to build logic and foolproof navigation, and craft a rich experience from basic user input. Contact Center professionals who work in self-service systems are rightfully very proud of their considerable work. However, I often think: if they could assemble all of their customers, ask them to “raise your hand if you love our IVR”, likely the results would be disappointing.

The last decade has witnessed a communications revolution where customers have changed in profound ways, and the technology in solutions has improved radically. Research tells us that if given the option, customers prefer to solve their problems without human intervention – and they increasingly want to do this over digital channels. Businesses now look to technology such as chatbots and Artificial Intelligence to create intelligent and powerful experiences. As the customer journey crosses channels of communications, context persists across channels for continuity. We don’t have to start over if we move from one channel to the next.

Among the most significant achievements in contemporary solutions is the final realization of the self–service win / win, where both businesses and customers truly benefit.

Twilio's approach: creating value across multiple channels

At Twilio, we create value in very new ways on the frontier of cloud communications. Twilio serves the omni-channel contact center like no other solution. Our framework and Build approach offers unparalleled flexibility and the ability to deploy and quickly iterate live agent and self-service experiences. Our customers transform their communications to be unique and better for them, competitively. Increasingly they look to self service options to benefit their customers and their business. Twilio offers digital channels, software agility, and cloud scale to take customer communications to the next generation of engagement and experience.

The fundamentals of Twilio self-service include:

Cloud – no longer do companies have to build premise based systems, with stacks of equipment and redundancy, all provisioned for one moment of peak volume. Self-service is a fantastic application for the elastic, consumption-based cloud. Twilio solutions are built to scale and offer a massive return on investment when evaluating against the onerous operation, infrastructure cost, and “undifferentiated heavy lifting” prospect of conventional systems.

Development tools – Twilio Studio is a flowchart like design experience where Business Analysts and non-technical staff can create scripts through intuitive visual tools. The best of both worlds, Twilio, also offers open APIs for developers to take code-level control, allowing them to customize their applications to the finest detail.

Omni channel – We are nearing the end of life for the term “IVR”, where “V” is for Voice. Customer preference continues to trend away from voice to the many other text-based modalities that are more convenient or appropriate. Twilio Flex incorporates virtually any channel, including custom channels, for live agent and self-service experiences. The customer journey may even cross channels with continuity.

Chatbots -  What used to be just speech recognition is now the ability to understand and communicate naturally and automatically on any channel. Twilio offers Natural Language Understanding. It's now a fundamental part of an automated self-service experience that is tailored, conversational, and effective.

Migration tools – No longer a barrier to staying status quo, Twilio and our partners offer capabilities that make it easy to migrate existing self-service scripts into Twilio.

Customer experience: more than just good business

Better customer interaction isn't just good business, it's fundamental to our relationships. More than ever, companies are looking not only to improve but to transform into a unique and world-class customer engagement platform, regardless of the size of their budget. Increasingly, our customers tell us that they want businesses to provide intelligent tools for them to do it themselves.

Bring your imagination, be inspired, and get creative like never before, then reveal your self-service win / win powered by Twilio. We can't wait to see what you build!

John Hartmann is a Contact Center professional with over 20 years of experience creating communications solutions for the enterprise. Specializing in go-to-market strategy, John is a champion and evangelist for cloud solutions that deliver unique value and competitive advantage through contemporary practices. John has helped companies around the world to actualize omni-channel communication experiences that inspire customer satisfaction, empower business agility and maximize return on investment.