The global spread of COVID-19 has impacted the ability of many organisations to manage and respond to customer demand. It’s also forced many businesses across the country to re-imagine the way they operate. 

We’ve seen pubs and hotels turn their restaurants into supermarkets, local grocers offer free home delivery and small boutiques take their businesses online for the first time. If you’re offering a product or service, you’re definitely providing some level of support to your customers.

The next generation in customer service 

It can be quite a task to keep up to date with the number of new products and services Amazon Web Services (AWS) releases. So, if Amazon Connect flew under your radar back in 2017, we’ve got you covered. Simply put, Amazon Connect is a cloud-based contact centre. Cool, but what does that exactly mean? 

Well, If you wanted to set up a contact centre from scratch, there’s a lot to take into consideration—from the software, hardware and potentially on-premise infrastructure. Once you choose a vendor, sign a contract and pay some up-front costs, you then need to work with your vendor partner to manage changes moving forward. Amazon Connect is something that you have the autonomy to manage yourself. And all you need to get going is a web browser. Because it’s cloud-based, you get all the existing benefits of a low cost, pay what you need model with no upfront costs and the ability to scale up as needed. Amazon Connect provides the ability for you to manage voice, web chat and mobile via an IVR (talkdesk has a great article if you’re not familiar with the term). All of this is accessed through the Amazon Connect dashboard—allowing you to manage a full omnichannel contact centre on one platform. Pretty neat.

From my experience, setting up a basic Amazon Connect contact flow can be done with minimal effort, and AWS really has tried to provide this service with a low barrier to entry. There is also a drag and drop interface for managing contact flows; allowing contact centre managers to get their hands dirty with implementation. 

Amazon Connect now supports more than 30 contact centers across 8 countries, with some customers operating with more than 10,000 live agents at any given time. Seeing Amazon Connect proven in the real world, and with its ability to dynamically scale, means it really is suitable for any sized business—from a local brick and mortar store to a full scale enterprise. 

Integration

Personally, what really excited me about Amazon Connect is the ability to integrate with familiar services such as Lambda, S3 and Kinesis. Off the top of my head, I’m imagining something like being able to add dynamic messaging to a frontend application, based on data streaming back from Amazon Connect in real time. Not only does this sound fun to implement, but  I’m sure also very appealing to a lot of businesses.

There are all sorts of ways to be creative with all that customer data coming through Amazon Connect, and having integration freedom really means the possibilities are endless. 

Machine learning-powered conversations

Getting into the more technical detail, Amazon Connect has integration capabilities with Amazon’s Lex—the same speech recognition software that powers the infamous Amazon Alexa. Lex provides conversational interfaces (through the IVR) to add intelligence to call flows. 

I’m sure like myself, you’re no stranger to calling tech support when you have an internet or power outage. I often find myself fumbling my way through dialog such as “press 1 for accounting, press 2 for sales or press 3 for technical support”. It’s pretty slow, error prone and I often get through to the wrong department anyway which results in me getting transferred around. Amazon Connect has a nifty feature it calls skills-based routing. When you call an Amazon Connect powered contact centre, you’ll have a conversation with Lex to help figure out how best to help you.

Your conversation might go something along the lines of:

Lex IVR: “Good afternoon, welcome to [business name] , how can we help you today?”

You: “Hi there, I’m having issues with my phone”

Lex IVR: “I’m sorry to hear that, let me get you through to to one of our technical support specialists” 

Agent: “Hi, this is John from tech support. I understand you’re having some issues with your phone?”

The goal here is to minimise wait times and ensure the customer gets the answer they need, by getting them through to the right person, the first time. The underlying algorithms take into account variables such as availability, agent skill set, sentiment and the callers past interactions.

Chatbots

I mentioned earlier that you can manage web chat through Amazon Connect. Not only that, but you can integrate chatbots into your contact flow to (also powered by Lex). I won’t go into the details of chatbots because we’ve already written some excellent blog posts about some of our experiences.

Insights and analytics

At the end of 2019, AWS announced Contact Lens, which is a set of machine learning capabilities integrated with Amazon Connect. Under the hood, Contact Lens uses natural language processing to transcribe audio calls to provide both real time analysis and historical analytics. Analysis is then performed on your conversations archive (both audio and chat) to determine sentiment, trends and compliance risks of customer conversations. The UI provides inline sentiment markers based on interactions organised by your defined categories. You can completely visualise your customers experience.

What’s coming next?

There are a couple of big new features coming soon, such as Theme Detection and Supervisor Assist.

Theme detection will allow you to discover emerging issues and understand the customer service implications. Without knowing what to search for, theme detection will help you discover issues that were previously unknown. For example, it will allow you to quickly understand if a customer is calling about a discrepancy in pricing on the website or in an email. 

Supervisor Assist is a real-time monitoring dashboard that will show sentiment progression of live calls. You will be able to set up a custom criteria for call characteristics that will provide alerts, giving you the ability to intervene and help customers. 

I’m really excited for the future of Amazon Connect. It offers a huge amount of features and value, and I’m sure there’s plenty I missed too! So if it intrigues you, I would encourage you to be curious, go forth and learn more about it.

If you need help standing up a cloud-based contact centre, talk to us.