If you haven’t yet set yourself up with a Twilio account, do yourself a favor and get one.
For one thing, you’ll have hours of fun, on long, cold, winter nights, configuring your own mock-up, cloud-based “intelligent phone system,” as Twilio describes the service. Plus, Twilio has just announced the availability of MMS, or Multimedia Messaging Service.
For those who don’t know what Twilio is, the best way I can explain it, is that it’s a software-driven, cloud-communications platform that anyone, via APIs, can use to build voice, SMS text, and now MMS applications.
The voice applications that you can construct, for example, are the irritating inbound phone-trees that businesses use to annoy customers.
You can make your own version of telephony hell with visual drag-and-drop call-flow design, text-to-speech, and so on. I used OpenVBX when I was playing around with the service and I was able to simply create call flows for incoming voicemails and load it all onto a shared-hosting web server.
Twilio’s basic concept
Roughly, the way it all works, is that a customer, department member, or whomever, calls a Twilio number that’s been allocated to the enterprise. Twilio then sends requests to the company’s application; the application processes the request and returns XML to Twilio; Twilio then spews out the instructions and pow-wows with the caller.
Twilio‘s business model is based on you, the enterprise, buying the calls, texts, and dedicated phone numbers.
Applications can be gotten off third parties, or you can build your own with Twilio’s APIs.
OpenVBX, the application that I used successfully as a test, is an example of an open source business phone system, but there are numerous other tools out there. They include pizza ordering, global customer support center, two-factor authentication via SMS and more.
Perusing the Twilio website will bring you up to speed.
You need a little bit of web experience for the FTP bit - setting up the database and connecting it to the web - but it’s all pretty self-explanatory.
Local numbers cost a dollar a month, and connecting with local numbers costs a cent to receive calls, and two-cents to make them.
The new MMS service
As of this month, Twilio has added multimedia to its existing double-play of voice calling and SMS texting. All U.S. Twilio phone numbers now have send and receive MMS functionality.
In its blog announcement, Twilio suggests using MMS over its phone numbers for mobile marketing, delivery logistics, and records and auditing.
Mobile marketing includes things like pictures and video being used to improve opening and conversion rates; delivery logistics could include the sent face of the delivery courier, or taxi driver, as a customer peace-of-mind add-on; records could include the uploading of receipts.
Fully supported MIME formats are gif, jpeg, and png images.
Various audio, video, image, text and application MIME formats can also be used. They include mp4, mpeg, bmp, rtf and pdf and many more. However, those MIME formats aren’t resized for device compatibility, like the jpegs are.
Each MMS costs $0.02 per message to send and $0.01 to receive. There are no upfront costs for MMS and no wait times, apparently.
Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are supported, and each message’s delivery can be tracked.
Five GB of media storage is included.
It should, therefore, be a cloud-facilitated, API-enhanced breeze, to not only put customers into endless Muzak-enhanced holding patterns, as they wait for agents to come back from long lunches.
But you should also now be able to send the customer a selfie of the actual agent eating the actual lunch, all at the same time, and all for a few pennies.
Now that’s customer service.
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