AWS announced three new capabilities for Amazon Connect, its call center service that makes it easy for customers to build contact centers in the cloud. Contact centers are one of the new as-a-service models that we have seen in recent years. I wrote a piece on Zoom’s Five9 acquisition and its intelligent contact center that you can read here. To keep from repeating myself, I have said about call centers:
A well-functioning contact center is essential for many businesses to best support, engage and ultimately retain their customer bases by ensuring their needs are met. All of that said, a contact center can also be a massive headache for the inexperienced business to deploy and manage. If done wrong (and we’ve all experienced those less-than-enlightened attempts), it can make for a lot of impatient, unhappy customers. Instead of muddling through the process on their own, many companies these days are turning to CCaaS.
The modern call center is inextricably linked to CX (customer experience) as well and with the power of ML and automation, that CX can be improved. The industry still isn’t remotely attacking the surface of what can be done so there’s a lot of room for disruption.
What is all fascinating is hearing from real AWS customers that have experienced Amazon Connect. Here are some real-world Amazon Connect customers with real testimonies from Amazon.
SIXT is a leading global mobility service provider with over 2,000 locations in approximately 110 countries. Dr. Peter Beermann, Executive Vice president of Network and Customer Management at SIXT said, “When we assessed our standard ‘Customer Excitement’ metrics, Amazon Connect Chat performed 20% better than our legacy customer service channels, and our first contact resolution rate rose to more than 90% satisfaction.”
The University of Texas at Austin (UT) uses Amazon Connect to transition to working, learning, and teaching from home due to the pandemic. Antonino Cummings, Principal Project Manager at the Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services at UT Austin, said, "in an end-of-semester student survey conducted by the College of Liberal Arts for summer and fall 2020, 84% of students said their technical issues were 'easy to resolve' through online tech support and wait time dropped to less than 30 seconds to talk to an agent." These are significant numbers considering most (especially college students) do not like online tech support, and most do not like taking surveys.
Morrisons is one of the largest supermarket chains in the United Kingdom with 11 million weekly customers. Jordan McLean, Technology Director at Morrisons said “During the pandemic, we were able to get everyone in the centre working from home within a day, and then add agents to support six times the average weekly call volume. We can also adjust our automated communications in just a few minutes—that’s a process that used to take five to 10 business days”
Amazon Connect is AWS’s CCaaS with the goal to enable businesses to have a fully operational contact center that can be operated virtually anywhere and can easily and cost-effectively scale to support unexpected call volume. To put into perspective the scale of Amazon Connect, Amazon said “that tens of thousands of AWS customers are supporting more than ten million contact center interactions a day on Amazon Connect.”
Amazon announced three new capabilities to Amazon Connect that build on its 130 new price reductions, features, and enhancements that AWS has delivered. For the Amazon Connect Wisdom and Amazon Connect Voice ID, I have written previously on there announcement here. Let's dive right in and see what AWS announced and why it matters.
Amazon Connect Wisdom
AWS announced that it is making Connect Wisdom, its real-time agent assistance, generally available. AWS says it gives immediate access to the wide range of product and service information that agents need to solve customer issues as they're actively speaking with customers. Amazon Connect Wisdom takes content from multiple sources and databases and consolidates them into organized and digestible content for agents. Rather than agents manually seeking out the solution to the problem, Amazon Connect Wisdom can automate that tedious task. It can take content from homegrown databases and a company's third-party knowledge repository. Amazon says that paired with Contact Lens for Amazon Connect, it can leverage machine learning-powered speech analytics to automatically detect customer issues during calls and recommend content in real-time to help resolve issues.
Amazon has a reputation for some of the best applied AI in the industry and I look forward to hearing customer stories on Wisdom.
As I said, automation is a key to improving CX. The more processes of a workflow that can be automated means there is more time for agents to do the things that matter and frankly cannot be replaced by automation like the personal experience. Automation makes the entire call center more efficient and ultimately saving money, and one of the big processes that keep call centers from being efficient is looking up information. I have even experienced this myself, and more than likely, you have too if you have ever called customer support and been put on hold after expressing your concern to an agent.
What's great about Amazon Connect Wisdom is that, with the help of Contact Lens, it gets to the solution before the agent ever could, and I think this is profound. I don't think I've ever met anyone who wants to be on the phone with customer service or customer support, and I think I can say the same thing about agents. Getting the right information to customers quickly and efficiently is the whole goal, and I think Amazon Connect Wisdom could please customers, agents, and businesses.
Amazon Connect Voice ID
AWS also announced that it is making Amazon Connect Voice ID generally available. Amazon Connect Voice ID automates the beginning process of call center services. Just as gathering information is a long process for call centers, identifying and getting down to the problem can be a long process. What Amazon Connect Voice ID does is it provides real-time caller authentication without asking for date of birth, SSN, or security questions. Callers can authenticate themselves by using their voice and at the same time giving an extra layer of security. Amazon Says that when a caller chooses to enroll, Amazon Connect Voice ID uses machine learning to analyze the caller's speech attributes like rhythm, pitch, and tone during the first few seconds of a call and then creates a secure digital voiceprint caller. Then, when a customer calls again, Amazon Connect Voice ID compares the caller's voiceprint and assigns a confidence score that the organization sets.
Caller ID can sometimes be tricky when considering how advanced bad actors and spam callers have gotten. Many times when you get a spam call, and you answer the call with your personal response, and the bad actor is attempting to record your voice to use your speech attributes fraudulently. My advice is to not say anything first until the unknown and possible fraudulent caller has said something (in my experience, they do not say anything and hang up). When using a customer's unique speech attributes to identify their profile and secure information, you don't want to sacrifice security for convenience and efficiency. I like Amazon Connect Voice ID because companies can create a custom watchlist with audio recordings of known fraudsters to flag suspicious callers automatically. I think you can argue that it is more secure than security questions and passwords are given over a call because speech attributes can be unique and harder to replicate than basic information. Whereas before customers would have to protect secure information, it is now on the machine learning and technology of the Voice ID to protect and customers information. As bad actors get more advanced, so does machine learning.
When I think of how much experience the company has with Voice ID using Alexa, my belief is that this functionality would be very good.
High-volume outbound communications
AWS announced high-volume outbound communication (HVOC) now in preview. HVOC aims to solve that legacy contact centers only allow inbound communications and rely on separate applications and tools to reach customers with outbound communications. Also, it is difficult to integrate tools for outbound communication because each method of communication requires separate applications. It can be time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to manage because of the lack of interoperability.
Amazon Connect's HVOC integrates the communication process to consolidate calls, texts, and emails into Amazon Connect. Amazon Says the new communication capabilities include a predictive dialer that automatically calls customers in a list but throttles outreach based on agent availability. It also uses machine learning to distinguish between a caller, voicemail, or another type of greeting.
Why it matters
We live in an era of communication where you can contact the same person using multiple different platforms from the palm of your hand. For companies to have the ability to communicate more efficiently between employees, customers, and others at a high-volume scale makes a big difference. It is capabilities like these that give cloud contact centers more value compared to traditional legacy contact centers. When it comes to any relationship, great communication results in fewer problems, and this is no different for company-customer and company-employee relations. Consumers are generally still fed up with lousy call center experiences and I have always believed that by aggressively applying voice AI plus automation, CX can improve dramatically.
AWS's announcements to make Amazon Connect Wisdom and Amazon Connect Caller ID generally available should give tremendous value to Amazon Connect. These capabilities focus on ease of use and efficiency without compromising the user experience or security of customers. It shows us how much better cloud contact centers are compared to traditional legacy contact centers. Amazon Connect's HVOC does this by providing better communication between companies and its employees and customers.
Amazon has a very good reputation with voice AI given its expertise at Alexa, understands applied consumer AI and has unquestioned public cloud scalability. In the future, I will be looking forward to a hybrid version of Connect on Outposts.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.