March 28, 2017 Last Updated 2:15 pm

Amazon Web Services launches new cloud-based contact center service: ‘Amazon Connect’

Amazon’s new call center service is a pay-as-you go, scalable service, charging companies based on usage, rather than the standard licensing fee

The online retailer has one big profit center, one that drives away much of the company’s red ink: its Amazon Web Services. Today, the company launched a new product called Amazon Connect, a cloud-based contact center solution.

As some tech sites have pointed out, Amazon is moving into a rather crowded field by providing these services, but they are a natural produce extension, so the risk seems low.
 

 
The key will be the ease of getting the services up and running, and here Amazon has a good track record. Just as importantly, Amazon Connect is a cloud based pay-as-you go service, charging companies based on usage, rather than a licensing fee, making it easy to test out the service.

“Ten years ago, we made the decision to build our own customer contact center technology from scratch because legacy solutions did not provide the scale, cost structure, and features we needed to deliver excellent customer service for our customers around the world,” Tom Weiland, VP of Worldwide Customer Service, said in the announcement (reproduced below). “This choice has been a differentiator for us, as it is used today by our agents around the world in the millions of interactions they have with our customers. We’re excited to offer this technology to customers as an AWS service – with all of the simplicity, flexibility, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of the cloud.”

We probably won’t know whether the new service is catching on for a while. Amazon’s first quarter is about to end, so their report come early May won’t say much about this except that it has launched. Maybe that report released in August will give us a clue.

Here is Amazon’s announcement for Amazon Connect:


SEATTLE, Wash, – March 28, 2017 — Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), an Amazon.com company, today announced Amazon Connect, a self-service, cloud-based contact center service that makes it easy for any business to deliver better customer service at lower cost. Amazon Connect is based on the same contact center technology used by Amazon customer service associates around the world to power millions of customer conversations. Setting up a cloud-based contact center with Amazon Connect is as easy as a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, and agents can begin taking calls within minutes. There are no up-front payments or long-term commitments and no infrastructure to manage with Amazon Connect; customers pay by the minute for Amazon Connect usage plus any associated telephony services. To get started with Amazon Connect, visit https://aws.amazon.com/connect.

The contact center is the front-line for a company’s most important asset – its customer relationships. But, traditional contact center solutions are complicated and expensive. Companies often have to invest in complex, proprietary hardware and software systems that can take months or even years to deploy, require specialized skills to configure and consultants to implement, and come with inflexible licensing that makes it difficult to scale as contact volumes fluctuate. With Amazon Connect, customers can set up and configure a “Virtual Contact Center” in minutes. There is no infrastructure to deploy or manage, so customers can scale their Amazon Connect Virtual Contact Center up or down, onboarding up to tens of thousands of agents in response to business cycles (e.g. short-term promotions, seasonal spikes, or new product launches) and paying only for the time callers are interacting with Amazon Connect plus any associated telephony charges. Amazon Connect’s self-service graphical interface makes it easy for non-technical users to design contact flows, manage agents, and track performance metrics – no specialized skills required.
 

 
Amazon Connect also makes it possible to design contact flows that adapt the caller experience. Contact flows can change based on information retrieved by Amazon Connect from AWS services (e.g. Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Redshift, or Amazon Aurora) or third-party systems (e.g. CRM or analytics solutions). For example, an airline could design an Amazon Connect contact flow to recognize a caller’s phone number, look up their travel schedule in a booking database, and present options like “rebook,” or “cancel” if the caller just missed a flight. And, customers can build natural language contact flows using Amazon Lex, an AI service that has the same automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology and natural language understanding (NLU) that powers Amazon Alexa, so callers can simply say what they want instead of having to listen to long lists of menu options and guess which one is most closely related to what they want to do.

“Ten years ago, we made the decision to build our own customer contact center technology from scratch because legacy solutions did not provide the scale, cost structure, and features we needed to deliver excellent customer service for our customers around the world,” said Tom Weiland, Vice President of Worldwide Customer Service, Amazon. “This choice has been a differentiator for us, as it is used today by our agents around the world in the millions of interactions they have with our customers. We’re excited to offer this technology to customers as an AWS service – with all of the simplicity, flexibility, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of the cloud.”

GE Appliances has been making appliances for over 100 years and today offers a wide number of appliances under the Hotpoint, GE, Haier, GE Café, GE Profile and Monogram brands. “Amazon Connect is a radical shift in the contact center space – there is no complex hardware configuration and management – Amazon Connect makes voice an application on the network. We can rapidly connect it to anything, and easily leverage other AWS micro-services we have already developed,” said Brian Pearson, CTO of GE Appliances. “Our business continually strives to improve the ownership experience of our consumers. With Amazon Connect, we can both simplify and personalize the consumer experience, aligning our processes to better address the needs of our consumers. We’re excited to move towards a software-defined call center model, using Amazon Connect, driven by customer-centricity.”

Based in Raleigh, NC, Bandwidth is a communications software company powering top brands with voice and messaging solutions. “Amazon Connect helps us streamline operations and drive workforce efficiency to the next level,” said Ryan Henley, Vice President of Customer Success, Bandwidth. “Our agents are now able to work remotely with ease using the desktop telephony features Amazon Connect provides, and our call center leaders are able to quickly and easily review calls with reps, providing a fast feedback loop for continuous performance improvement.”

AnswerConnect’s fully remote team helps clients ensure they never miss a call again, offering 24/7/365 live reception and answering service to clients worldwide. “We need to be available for our customers 24/7/365, no matter what,” said Natalie Fung, CEO of AnswerConnect. “As a fully remote company, we needed a cloud-based soft phone that could easily scale up or down, keep our remote workers connected, and give us the 24/7 availability our clients know us for. Amazon Connect has provided that and more. We have real-time, historical visibility, and reporting. Amazon Connect easily integrates with our existing systems, and the usage-based pricing accommodates our need for seasonal scalability without financial impact. These factors made our decision to move to Amazon Connect an easy one. It was the best choice for both us and our customers.”

Amazon Connect integrates with a broad set of AWS tools and infrastructure so customers can record calls in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), use Amazon Kinesis to stream contact center metrics data to Amazon S3, Amazon Redshift, or an external data warehouse solution, use Amazon QuickSight for data visualization and analytics, and use AWS Directory Service to allow agents to log into Amazon Connect with their corporate credentials. Amazon Connect also integrates with leading CRM, Workforce Management (WFM), Analytics, and Helpdesk offerings from Appian, Calabrio, CRMNEXT, Freshdesk, Paxata, Pentaho, Pindrop, Salesforce, SugarCRM, Tableau, Twilio, VoiceBase, Zendesk, and Zoho. This means customers can embed the Amazon Connect agent experience into the applications their agents already use. If customers require additional support for custom integrations, they can work with AWS Partner Network Consulting Partners 1Strategy, Accenture, Aria Solutions, Persistent Systems, Slalom, Solstice IT, VoiceFoundry, and Wipro. Amazon Connect is currently available in the United States and 18 countries throughout Europe and will expand to more countries in the coming months.

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