At re:Invent, AWS and Capital One Shared Their Vision for Generative AI in the Contact Center

This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter.

Capital One migrated its contact center to the cloud on Connect. The result was millions of dollars in cost savings – and that was before AI improved the customer connection success rate.

Generative AI stole the show at AWS re:Invent recently, as it has at almost every other event this year. A really interesting wrinkle on this 2023 event trend: how generative AI will shape the future of contact centers “Pasquale DeMaio, VP of Customer Experience, Amazon Connect at AWS, gave one of the most interesting sessions about the state of contact centers, “What’s next in contact centers with Amazon Connect and generative AI.”

“While I’ve seen amazing things that customers have done to deliver customer service, the thing that I do find regularly is I still see so much of the same challenges,” he said. “Folks are still hamstrung by the technology they have that prevents them from delivering the level of customer service they want.”

DeMaio said he sees frustrated agents, supervisors in the dark, and customers suffering negative results. At Amazon, he said they’re looking to drive innovation in customer service, with examples like one-day delivery, AI with Alexa, and just-walk-out stores. Then, with AWS removing the heavy technology lifting, companies didn’t have to worry about server racks.

The Evolution of Amazon Connect Toward Better Customer Experiences

“We took the same approach in the contact center, and that’s why we developed Amazon Connect,” DeMaio said. “Amazon Connect started as an internal tool years ago—in fact, 16 years ago—and the person who wrote that very first line of code is still an engineering leader in the Amazon Connect team.”

Excited by what it had done inside Amazon, they asked customers if they’d like something similar. The answer was a resounding “yes.” And that gave birth to Amazon Connect. DeMaio said that Amazon Connect has tens of thousands of customers around the globe, with more than 10 million interactions daily.

He discussed the move to conversational experiences that feel more natural. Maybe you’re at an airport, and your flight has been canceled. “There’s a good chance you’ve tried to call to figure out what’s going on and get that fixed,” he said. “When you call up and the thing says, ‘How can I help you?’ you’re almost certainly going to say ‘agent, agent.’ You’re freaking out. Well, what if instead of saying, ‘How can I help you?’ it said, ‘I see your flight was canceled. Would you like me to book you on the next one?’”

DeMaio said such an approach, using AI, can diffuse the stress for a customer. AWS wants to make every use of AI count, DeMaio said. It should have a real-world impact beyond the buzzwords. The core of Amazon Connect, in particular, is aimed at helping AWS customers innovate to serve their customers—whether through case management, self-service, or setting up a new contact center. This can be accomplished without a large staff of engineers using low- and no-code solutions.

Accelerating CX Innovation at Capital One

DeMaio shared more about the capabilities of Connect to accelerate CX innovation. As an example, Amazon Connect Contact Lens is a set of ML powered speech analytics that can highlight customer insights. Also, Amazon’s generative AI assistant has been brought into Connect to enable agents to work faster and be smarter. After this, he handed over to Chris Short, Senior Director of Product, and Ram Mepperla, Director of Software Engineering at Capital One, to share their story on how they’re using Amazon Connect.

“Our focus at Capital One is in credit card servicing,” Short started. “So we’re focused on solving customer needs that blend a mix of AI and human-assisted technologies. Specifically, we own voice and chat platforms and infrastructure that’s largely powered by Amazon Connect.”

Capital One has 100 million customers with 50,000 employees. Short says a unifying thread for Capital One has been a differentiated tech investment.

“We think a lot about how we build experiences for the customers to pull this all together,” he said. “As you can imagine, there’s a real diverse platform and capability ecosystem required there that we view as a mix of in-house and partnerships with Amazon. So we’re always thinking about how we can make that better on behalf of the customer.”

Focusing on the Cloud and Getting Out of the Data Center Business

Capital One’s journey with Amazon started a decade ago, quickly focusing on the cloud and getting out of the data center business. The company even started to monetize its tools and capabilities with the Capital One Software group.

The key goal for Short and his team? Simplifying the agent experience.

“We really need to get to a point where we had more real-time monitoring and the ability to scale in near real-time,” he said. “The initial Connect migration enabled us to unify the tech platform but also start to transform how we think and build with respect to the customer.”

Capital One migrated its contact center to the cloud on Connect, enabled network configurations, and real-time data. The result was millions of dollars in cost savings. The innovation didn’t stop there. Since 2020, the organization has been moving even faster, with Connect enabling Short’s team a bit of breathing room to think about new things they can do for their customers.

“Our focus now is: ‘How do we best pull in the mix of AI and human to solve a customer problem in a more collaborative and assistive way?’” he said. “Connect has been super-powerful for going from the old paradigm of just a static telephony channel that flows from picking up the phone to a human agent to one that we’re really starting to think in a true omnichannel way.”

Using Connect to Scale Quickly

“We launched with 50,000 calls per day, but within a couple of days, we were able to hit 600,000 calls per day, and we are now hitting a million dials per day,” Ram Mepperla said.

He added that this is no easy task for a contact center of their scale. He said that Amazon Connect helped a lot with voicemails from customers. With Connect, they were surprised to see its voicemail detection hitting 95%.

“That was at least 15% better than what we had earlier,” he said. “And when it comes to the connection success rate—actually reaching out to the customer at the right time at the right place—we had a 30% increase in the connection rates. Our agents are able to talk to the real customers and not just leave voicemails.”

Key Takeaways

The Capital One example shows how a high-volume contact center can migrate to the cloud and scale almost overnight.

After listening to Pasquale, Chris, and Ram, I was left with this impression: Tools like Connect are finally delivering on the long-sought promise of IT vendors that goes back decades. For longer than I can remember, vendors have repeatedly said their systems will free you up so you can focus on your business.

It was rarely true. But, in the case of Amazon Connect—and with the help of the story Capital One shared—it appears to be actually happening.

My feeling is that this is just the beginning for Amazon Connect. This re:Invent discussion shows how Amazon will continue to flex its muscles in the contact center space.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.