Zendesk’s Ryan Nichols on Twilio Flex & the Future of Contact Centers

Learn how Twilio Flex and Zendesk will work together, what to expect from the future of the contact center, and what to consider when choosing the contact center option best suited for your organization.

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Zendesk’s Ryan Nichols on Twilio Flex & the Future of Contact Centers

The launch of Twilio Flex at Enterprise Connect caused quite a stir in the industry, and not just because our demo included a blender. Media outlets like NoJitter, TechCrunch, and PC Magazine praised Flex’s ease of deployment combined with customizability, while also raising questions about the potential for Twilio to directly compete with partners, including Zendesk.

Rather than share Twilio’s take on this, we thought you’d like to hear from one of our partners directly. So we sat down with Ryan Nichols, General Manager of Zendesk Talk, to discuss what Twilio Flex means for Zendesk and its customers, what to expect from the future of the contact center, and what IT decision makers need to consider when choosing the best contact center option for their businesses.

We hope you enjoy this Q&A style interview. You may also want to check out Ryan’s popular article on LinkedIn Pulse, Twilio Flex, AWS, and Zendesk: Beyond “Build vs. Buy” in Moving Enterprise Contact Centers to the Cloud.

Q: Does Twilio Flex put Twilio in competition with Zendesk or other Twilio partners?

A: That’s not how we see it at all. We’re very excited to have Twilio Flex out in the market. The world of call centers has been burdened by big, heavy, on-premise implementations for too long. We’re thrilled that Flex is now a choice for our customers who are looking to move their contact center to the cloud and want to have that done in a way that's already integrated with the rest of their support channels and Zendesk.

Q: How is Flex an opportunity for companies, like Zendesk, with contact center products built on Twilio?

A: We've been partnered with Twilio for a long time. Using Twilio APIs, we built an omnichannel contact center solution that’s baked right into Zendesk, where all of our customers’ other support channels are. We're really excited about this next step in our partnership with Twilio because our customers will be able to augment and bolster their offering using the Twilio platform to extend Zendesk Talk. This is great for customers who are looking for a packaged solution that they can get up and running quickly, but also want the option to customize their customer experience.

Q: When would a business buy Zendesk Talk and when would they be better off choosing Twilio Flex?

A: Zendesk Talk is a great solution for organizations that are getting started offering phone support or are looking to have a phone channel that’s deeply integrated with their other support channels. Twilio Flex represents the other end of that spectrum. It’s ideal for companies with thousands of phone-only call center agents that already have a team of programmers working on their Cisco, Genesys, or Avaya on-premise call centers. Flex gives these large enterprises a cloud-based, customizable alternative that they get up and running quickly and can also be integrated with a modern customer engagement tool like Zendesk.

Q: How big is the contact center opportunity? Is there really room for so many players?

A: All of the contact center options out there speak to the size of the industry ($25B, according to DMG), and the overwhelming sense that businesses are finally ready to move their contact centers to the cloud. Approximately 85% of contact center agent seats are still supported by premise-based solutions, so the opportunity is massive when you look at the numbers estimated to migrate in the next three to five years.

The reality is that there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to contact centers. Some businesses want the simplicity of something that's available out of the box like Twilio-powered Zendesk Talk. Some businesses have the time and resources to be able to use that as a starting point and build out exactly the experience that their customers expect. Having a full range of cloud-powered alternatives in the market is important.

Q: As more and more companies move their contact centers to the cloud, what advice do you have around the “build vs. buy” dilemma?

A: Zendesk Talk is the easiest way to get up and running offering phone support. It’s deeply integrated into our full solution for omnichannel support, including Zendesk Support, Guide, and Chat. We built Talk on Twilio’s powerful cloud infrastructure to make it super easy for small and mid-size businesses to deliver an awesome customer experience over any support channel. This is the “buy” approach to the contact center.

For companies already heavily invested in programming their Genesys or Avaya contact center, programming a Twilio-powered contact center is a much-improved alternative. And it’s easy for these larger companies to integrate that new cloud-powered contact center with Zendesk, through Talk Partner Edition and the Zendesk app framework. This is the “build” approach to the contact center.

However, since the vast majority of the market falls somewhere in between “build” and “buy,” we'll be making the building blocks of Twilio Flex available to customers of our out-of-the-box package, Zendesk Talk. In this way, the two solutions can be used together.

Imagine being able to start with a simple out-of-the-box call center solution from Zendesk Talk and then using components of Twilio Flex to extend it. You could get up and running with fully integrated, omnichannel support in minutes. You could then roll up your sleeves to extend that customer experience and make it unique, by doing things like using Twilio Studio to build a custom IVR. This is possible today by combining building blocks from Twilio and Zendesk, and we’re working to make that even easier, truly giving businesses the best of both worlds.

Q: What advice do you have for decision makers who are looking in to the best contact center option for their businesses?

A: Ultimately, to be the company that your customers want you to be, you need to build deep relationships. When you think about the kind of relationships we have with each other as people, we don't have channels, we have conversations. Customers expect the same thing when they're engaging with companies that they do business with. As the line between real-time communication channels and asynchronous communication channels blurs, it just makes sense to have all of your customer engagement points together in one spot. Ultimately, it's all about delivering the best customer experiences.