Sheila McGee-Smith
Sheila McGee-Smith, who founded McGee-Smith Analytics in 2001, is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant focused on the...
Read Full Bio >>

Sheila McGee-Smith | March 29, 2017 |


AWS Announces Amazon Connect

AWS Announces Amazon Connect Enters the contact center space with a splash at Enterprise Connect

Enters the contact center space with a splash at Enterprise Connect

Amazon selected Enterprise Connect as the launching pad for its entry into the contact center market when Gene Farrell, VP Enterprise Applications and Tom Weiland, VP Worldwide Customer Service of Amazon took the keynote stage Tuesday morning. Unlike many new contact center offerings, I was not pre-briefed on the solution, but have watched the buzz grow over the past couple of weeks. My views here are based on Amazon's press release, Farrell's presentation, as well as an interview with the CEO of an early Amazon Connect partner, Joe Salesky of CRMNEXT.

Weiland said that Amazon Connect was built out of the belief that "traditional contact center solutions were unable to meet our demanding requirements." They were complex, with multiple components from multiple vendors. The tools were cumbersome, requiring niche expertise, and they were in proprietary environments requiring "esoteric" skills. Along with other drawbacks, existing solutions were described as having complex pricing requiring long-term commitments.

Amazon needed a better solution, and so they built it -- and now they are making it available as a CCaaS application. Weiland reports that tens of thousands of agents used Amazon's version of Connect during the 2016 holiday shopping season.

Over 50 groups and businesses within Amazon use Connect, including subsidiaries like Zappos and Audible. Attributes of Amazon Connect, which became generally available upon yesterday's announcement, include self-service configuration, dynamic, personal, and natural contact flows built on an open platform. In addition, Weiland described an Alexa-like artificial intelligence feature using natural language understanding and speech recognition, Lex, which he reported is currently in beta and will be available in the future. The agent desktop experience is shown below.


Weiland then introduced Brian Pearson, CTO of GE Appliances, where a three-month proof of concept (POC) of Amazon Connect was conducted. The slide below was used by Pearson as he described the difference between how GE Appliances is able to operate in its current multi-vendor, complex environment with the experience using Amazon Connect. Note that many contact center POCs take place with relatively few live production calls being taken. Pearson emphasized that while GE Appliances initially used Amazon Connect for the internal help desk, as part of the trial they took 15,000 live production calls.


Amazon concluded its keynote presentation talking about the partners it is already working with to build and extend Connect. For example, Twilio brings some of the voice capabilities to Connect, and Calabrio can be integrated for workforce optimization.


Note that as discussed in the press release and presentation, Amazon Connect is a voice-only solution, e.g., live calls and IVR. One way for customers to add channels like email, Web chat and social would by combining Connect with Salesforce, Zendesk or the other CRM vendors listed. Joe Salesky, CEO at CRMNEXT, was at Enterprise Connect, and I had a chance to sit down with him to discuss Amazon Connect. CRMNEXT is a banking-specific CRM platform that Salesky described as supporting a billion banking customers and a million bankers.

To say Salesky was enthusiastic about Amazon Connect would be an understatement. One of his first comments was, "This is an historic announcement," Amazon moving from services and infrastructure to applications. I noted that Amazon Chime was also announced last month, but Salesky clearly thinks that Connect has the opportunity to make a much bigger impact in the market. Salesky said that it took CRMNEXT's team one day to do the integration with Amazon Connect.

How does Amazon Connect fit with the CRMNEXT portfolio? Similar to the alliance between Salesforce and Cisco announced in September 2016, where Cisco brings the voice and the routing and Salesforce brings the desktop and digital channels, Amazon would bring the voice and CRMNEXT the other channels. The difference I would note is that in the Cisco/Salesforce case, artificial intelligence is primarily brought to the alliance by the CRM vendor (Salesforce), and in the Amazon Connect case, AI is brought by the contact center solution (Amazon Connect).

Last week on a call with contact center analysts, Genesys CEO Paul Segre was asked about a rumored Amazon contact center solution -- Genesys PureCloud runs on AWS. His sage response was, "We've been expecting Amazon to enter at some point, and so there is no surprise there. ... It's a complicated world that we live in, we think they are going to raise the bar and get people to start thinking about digital use cases. It frankly benefits our business."

Follow Sheila McGee-Smith on Twitter and Google+!
Sheila McGee-Smith on Google+


April 19, 2017

Now more than ever, enterprise contact centers have a unique opportunity to lead the way towards complete, digital transformation. Moving your contact center to the cloud is a starting point, quick

April 5, 2017

Its no secret that the cloud offers significant benefits to enterprises - including cost reduction, scalability, higher efficiency, and more flexibility. If your phone system and contact center are

March 22, 2017

As today's competitive business environments push workforces into overdrive, many enterprises are seeking ways of streamlining workflows while optimizing productivity, business agility, and speed.

April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.