AWS beefs up contact center solution with new AI capabilities

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala – VentureBeat.

It’s been nearly three years since cloud titan, Amazon Web Services (AWS) jumped into the contact center space when it announced its Amazon Connect cloud contact center solution. The company is a late entrant in the space, which normally spells doom for any company because once a market is mature, it’s hard to disrupt. AWS promised to be different and use artificial intelligence (AI) to take contact centers in an entirely different direction.

Initially, some were skeptical a new vendor could have success, but AWS used its unique consumption-based business model to gain some early wins and has not yet legitimized itself as a major contact-center-as-as-service (CCaaS) provider.

This week, AWS introduced several new capabilities in Amazon Connect that fulfill its initial promise. The three new features infuse the contact center with AI and machine learning (ML) to fundamentally change customer and agent experiences.

How Connect Cases simplify contact center case management

The first one is Amazon Connect Cases, a new case management feature for contact center agents. Adding case management tools in a contact center often involves third-party integrations, which can be costly and complex. On top of that, it requires agents to switch between multiple apps. Amazon is simplifying the case management process for contact centers by building this feature directly into Amazon Connect.

Cases automatically tracks calls, chats and tasks when a customer messages a contact center with an issue or inquiry, so agents have a better understanding of the customer’s issue. Call centers can leverage data from Cases to provide customers with personalized self-service, either using a telephony software known as interactive voice response (IVR) or chatbots. Those who require more assistance are routed to a live agent with the relevant case attached.

AWS customers deploying this easy-to-use tool can track not only the interactions or the issues associated with a customer case, but every action and follow-up task needed for that case. Within Cases, agents can create and resolve assigned tasks, view and add case data and make internal comments. The tool tracks all the work agents have to do to resolve a customer issue on a single screen within the agent desktop.

“The goal is to get better insights, automate, and allow customers to have a more natural, personalized interaction,” said Annie Weinberger, head of business applications’ product marketing at AWS.

Campaigns feature makes customer outreach smarter

The second capability, Amazon Connect Outbound Campaigns, is for businesses that want to use the contact center to reach out to customers more accurately. In just a few clicks, contact centers can schedule and launch high-volume messages, such as promotions, appointment reminders and delivery notifications. It’s an easier and more cost-effective way to reach hundreds of customers with voice, SMS and email without deploying third-party tools, said Weinberger.

“Companies can do simple outbound voice campaigns, but also build advanced cross-channel outbound campaigns. If someone makes a phone call and cannot reach anyone, a company can follow up with an SMS or an email. So, you really get cross-channel communication,” she said.

The outbound campaigns tool includes a predictive dialer that automatically calls customers in a list. A predictive dialer uses ML to detect whether a person or an answering machine picks up the call. Only when a person picks up are they then transferred to an agent for assistance. The tool ensures agents are always having conversations with live customers — a feature that also typically requires third-party integrations, but is now native within Amazon Connect.

AWS is making chatbots easier to build and deploy

The last capability, Amazon Lex Automated Chatbot Designer, is based on advanced natural language models. Developers can use Amazon Lex to build, test, and deploy conversational voice and text chatbots for various contact center services. All it takes is uploading transcripts from Amazon Connect (or another app) into Amazon Lex, which uses ML to analyze transcripts and create an initial chatbot design. Developers can then modify the design based on the needs of the contact center.

All three tools are key components in the agent experience and are available in the Amazon Connect dashboard. They can be used together or independently, providing AWS customers with a level of flexibility in how they choose to implement the tools within their contact centers. Amazon Lex and outbound campaigns are both generally available now, while Amazon Connect Cases are available in preview.

As mentioned earlier, Amazon Connect offers consumption-based, pay-as-you-go pricing, which means customers don’t have to pay for licenses up-front or guess what they might need ahead of time. Amazon Connect charges customers for the number of minutes they use, plus any associated telephony services.

According to Weinberger, customers have reported savings of up to 80% with Amazon Connect’s consumption-based pricing.

“We hear from our customers that the hardest part about adopting new innovation is the procurement process of having to sign long-term, up-front licensing and maintenance contracts. There’s no way to test or integrate these capabilities quickly,” Weinberger said. “That was one of [the] tenets from the beginning with our consumption-based pricing: no up-front licensing. You can immediately take advantage of new innovation as it comes out.”

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.