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Amazon Connect at re:Invent 2022

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A contact center agent illustration
Image: Yuliya Volkovska - Alamy Stock Photo.
Since Amazon Web Services launched its contact center solution, Amazon Connect, in March 2017, the company’s annual conference, AWS re:Invent, has been an opportunity to include new Amazon Connect feature and capabilities announcements in its product news roll-outs. In a blog post authored by Antje Barth, principal developer advocate, AI and Machine Learning, AWS, the company announced this week the latest and greatest features coming to Amazon Connect. Of special interest were two enhancements to Connect's analytics and optimization capabilities: the immediate availability of analytics for the chat channel, and step-by-step guides which allow customers to create workflows that teach contact center agents how to solve different end-user problems.
 
Amazon Connect's New Categorization Scheme Shows a Maturing Product
The Amazon Connect announcements were discussed briefly by AWS CEO Adam Selipsky during his keynote address, which formally opened the conference. More information was available in a deep-dive session, What’s new in contact centers with Amazon Connect, delivered by Pasquale DeMaio, vice president, Amazon Connect, AWS. DeMaio was joined by customers Prithvi Sahoo, senior director, customer experience platform, and Vikas Sagar, Manager of Engineering, both of Adobe and Hexin Wilson, vice president, customer experience, Saks Fifth Avenue.
 
During DeMaio’s session, I was struck by a slide he used describing Amazon Connect having four pillars of functionality:
  • Omnichannel customer experience
  • Agent empowerment and productivity
  • Analytics, insights, and optimization
  • Self-serve configuration and management
An AWS graphic
While all four elements have been part of Amazon Connect in some form since its inception, the categorization scheme — and the graphic listing many of the capabilities supporting each function — is a new way for the company to describe the increasing breadth of the portfolio. It also underscores how AWS’s contact center solution has matured over the years. Especially relevant in the last year or so has been the market’s desire for more and better agent empowerment tools — something that DeMaio and his team have had as a dedicated focus.
 
During his session here in Las Vegas, DeMaio reinforced that the direction of product development is primarily driven by customer request. “More than 96% of the features we have at AWS came directly from customer ask. We like to keep a few percentage points to do some innovation on your behalf,” DeMaio joked.
 
Two new capabilities announced at re:Invent are extensions of Contact Lens, part of the analytics, insights and optimization pillar.
 
Analytics for chat conversations is immediately available. This now extends to the chat channel a capability already available for Amazon Connect voice conversations. The preview capability shown in the slide, define agent evaluation criteria, provides what is colloquially known as “score cards,” or “evaluation forms” for evaluating agent performance during an interaction.
 
NOTE: The newest features announced for Amazon Connect are typically described as in “preview.” When a feature is in preview, there may be changes to the user experience, performance, and functionality as customer feedback influences and evolves the feature prior to general availability (GA).
 
Wilson from Saks was excited by the scorecard announcement, saying during DeMaio’s session, - half in jest - “Sign us up!” She explained that from a quality assurance standpoint, most companies - including Saks - are probably only evaluating about 5% of conversations. “Imagine a world with 100% coverage - that is truly transformational. We will be able to change the culture to be one of continuous improvement.”
 
An AWS graphic
The other preview feature announced - step-by-step guides - is an addition to the Amazon Connect agent workspace. With the step-by-step guides, AWS customers can use Amazon Connect’s no-code, drag-and-drop interface to create custom workflows and step-by-step guided experiences for their agents, and within those workflows, they can specify the conditions under which a guide is shown to an agent. Once the agent selects the guide, the Amazon Connect agent workspace provides the information and one-click actions across both Amazon Connect and third-party applications that agents can use to resolve a customer issue.
 
When DeMaio talked about step-by-step guides, he emphasized that the feature walks an agent through how to solve a problem, especially useful for a brand-new agent. “This can make them productive on day one,” DeMaio said.
 
An AWS graphic
Earlier this year, I spoke to an Amazon Connect customer, Bryan Carey of Traeger, Inc., who described himself as more of a builder than a buyer of contact center technology. The customers who joined DeMaio on stage in Las Vegas this week exemplified both ends of the build versus buy spectrum.
  • Adobe described moving from a multi-vendor contact center operation, with one vendor for voice interactions and another for chat (80% of Adobe’s volume), to Amazon Connect. The project from beginning to end was about two years, including participation in a hackathon, multiple proofs of concept and chat deployment prior to voice. One element of the deployment was Adobe’s desire to build its own agent interface, which they say they were able to do because of the openness and availability of Amazon Connect APIs.
  • Saks, who said that most of their interactions today are voice, completed their deployment in two months. As Wilson explained, “Our decision was to get time-to-market and do things out-of-the-box, because that delivered value as quickly as possible.” It is worth noting that Saks uses Amazon Connect in conjunction with Salesforce, which provides some digital channels and AI capabilities, e.g., next best action using Einstein.
Amazon Connect continues to mature, from a voice-only call center in 2017 to the full portfolio of capabilities we see today. At the same time, they have moved from being a vendor attractive primarily to companies looking to build customized contact center solutions to one equally attractive to those non-technical business users looking for off-the-shelf functionality.

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