Amazon Connect evolves cloud contact center with machine learning
Contact centers didn’t change very much for many years, with most operating on a call floor and working off of legacy communications platforms. It wasn’t until the arrival of cloud and unified communications platforms that contact center innovation took a giant leap forward, culminating with the advent of on-premise vendors like Cisco Systems and Avaya, and cloud-based communications platform like Amazon Connect.
Built using the same customer service technology employed by Amazon, Connect was offered by its giant cloud services arm AWS with a pay-as-you-go pricing model that enabled customers to make major cost savings by iteratively adding only the features and applications that they wanted to – allowing savings of up to 80% of the cost of traditional contact centers, according to AWS.
Amazon Connect is the first contact center platform built from the ground up with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) as part of the feature set. And at AWS’s annual re:Invent virtual conference last week, a slew of new AI and ML-based features were announced that should aid customer service agents who are working remotely while helping them organize and make sense of analytical data in ways that only AI can manage.
One of the new Amazon Connect services available in preview mode, Wisdom, uses machine learning to search through several applications and databases as the customer and agent are talking. For example, if a customer asks how to process a return, the Wisdom feature could instantly search databases in real-time to find instructions and surface the answer to the agent.
Last year, AWS announced Contact Lens, which delivered historical analytics to find calls that did not go well. The manager could listen to the recording or read a transcript to find out why it happened. AWS updated it this year to flag calls based on real-time factors like speech patterns or volume levels, which can loop in a supervisor in real-time to proactively assist the agent, and also provides real-time transcripts so there is an instant call history that could be useful for future communications or review.
Also new this year is Amazon Connect Voice ID, which uses ML-powered voice analytics to authenticate customers rather than the clumsy and repetitive process of answering multiple questions to confirm identity.
Voice ID allows for a customer’s voiceprint to be recorded and saved for future verifications, with the software analyzing speech attributes like rhythm, pitch, and tone to authenticate the caller’s voice.
Rounding out the new features made possible by machine learning are Amazon Connect Customer Profiles and Amazon Connect Tasks. Customer Profiles brings together disparate customer records from various systems and unifies them, matching the profile data by using machine learning to scour for similar but unique info, such as phone numbers or account IDs.
This streamlines customer data so call agents can deliver personalized, relevant service to customers, bypassing some of the more cumbersome traditional contact center hurdles. Similarly, Tasks streamlines and automates all the usual post-call duties such as updating customer info, issuing action items like product recalls or refunds, or scheduling follow-up sessions.
And like any good SaaS, these new features can be accessed directly from the Connect interface, including by line managers who can monitor subordinates’ interactions, or assign their own tasks. “When everybody’s working from home now, it needs to be much easier for people to get that information in real-time while on the call with the customer because they don’t have someone sitting next to them,” said Larry Augustin, VP of business applications for Amazon Web Services.
Since introducing Amazon Connect in 2017, AWS has done a remarkable job of improving its call center software to be more intuitively in-line with what operators need, leveraging on its AI and ML expertise to provide a more customer-oriented service while removing margins for human oversight in the process.
More than 5,000 contact centers were set up on Amazon Connect during March and April of this year alone, according to a spokesperson for AWS. Its cloud-based platform is used by some of the biggest firms including Best Western, John Hancock, GE, Square Inc., and Capital One.