At Enterprise Connect, Amazon shows how improved features can enable more efficient contact centers.
After two years, the Enterprise Connect show returned to an in-person format in Orlando, Florida. Enterprise Connect is typically a show that communications vendors use to announce new products and features – and Amazon Web Services (AWS) did just that.
Prior to the pandemic, AWS was a relative newcomer to the contact center industry. Indeed, it was just five years ago at Enterprise Connect that the company announced its Amazon Connect contact center as a service (CCaaS) solution.
So much has changed in the contact center industry in that period, and AWS has certainly legitimized itself in the past 24 months. Let’s look at the AWS news.
New Optimization Capabilities for Amazon Connect
During his keynote, GM of Amazon Connect, Pasquale DeMaio, announced the company was adding native agent forecasting, capacity planning and scheduling to the product. DeMaio was clear that this wasn’t meant to replace the already integrated workforce optimization tools it has in Connect with partners like Verint and Callabrio, but to complement it and provide a native option for customers.
Like other Amazon Connect features, this is built from the ground up and available directly in the core system. Users can turn the feature on with a single click. Once the service is turned on, the system starts to crunch numbers in the background and then data is presented to the user automatically.
For example, in the analytics interface, once the capability is turned on, there is another option called forecasting. From there, the administrator can set up forecasting groups that can be populated by dragging and dropping queues into the group. Then different types of forecasts can be performed, such as average handle times, contact volume and more.
DeMaio said that beta customers saw about an average of 5% improvement in forecasting outcomes. People who are familiar with contact center workflows know that a 5% improvement is a massive benefit. In fact, businesses often go through extensive amounts of process redesign to improve by just a single percent.
A similar flow is used for capacity planning and scheduling, where the admin simply clicks a few buttons, drags and drops some queues, and machine learning does the rest.
Transforming Contact Center Operations
This release will certainly provide Amazon Connect customers incremental value by allowing better workforce efficiency. Furthermore, the integration into the contact center platform creates some interesting possibilities to transform contact center operations that can result in a much bigger step-up in value creation.
For instance, consider a customer on hold to talk to an agent. The system informs the customer that the wait time for voice is 15 minutes and the wait time for chat is one minute. At that point the customer can choose the faster chat or hold for a live person if the issue is complex. This adds another level of optimization as customers are given information to respond to and then decide what works best for them in the moment.
While this isn’t traditionally thought of as workforce optimization, it helps offset tasks from agents, which ultimately saves money.
Forecasting Helps Remove Sticker Shock
This set of capabilities helps AWS customers better predict spend, which has been an issue for some customers as they look at Connect.
The entire contact center as a service (CCaaS) industry, except AWS, uses the traditional pricing model of per user per month, and a multi-year contract. Customers typically buy for peak and then overpay for times when call volume is low.
Retail, for example, would provision for Thanksgiving to Christmas volume, yet come nowhere near that level in the early part of the new year. Amazon Connect uses a usage-based pricing model where customers can provision as many agents as they want and only pay for the transactions.
This is always more cost effective than provisioning for peak utilization. Some customers have told me they get sticker shock when the bills come in as they pay for what they used and sometimes face unusually high usage. The Connect platform’s forecasting capability can help customers predict what the spend will be, so they can better plan budgets.
Even after five years, AWS is a relative newcomer to an industry that’s done things a certain way for a long time. Through its focus on customer experience, AWS is introducing cloud principals to the contact center market such as pay per use and rapid innovation. AWS’s focus has been to use AI to remove much of the heavy lifting placed on agents and managers. And in this era of hybrid and remote work, this can help companies adapt while improving customer experience.