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AWS Delivers AI Services for Contact Center Partners

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Someone pressing an AI button on a laptop
Image: BillionPhotos.com - stock.adobe.com
In a blog post last week, AWS announced AWS Contact Center Intelligence (AWS CCI) solutions. AWS CCI is described as a combination of services that empower companies to integrate AI into contact centers. While AWS CCI currently has six services, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of services grows over time, as AWS continues to expand its AI services.
 
The services included in AWS CCI today are:
 
  • Amazon Comprehend: A natural language processing service that uses machine learning to find insights and relationships in text.
  • Amazon Kendra: An enterprise search service that is powered by machine learning. Kendra allows end users to find the information they need within the vast amount of content spread across a company’s websites and applications.
  • Amazon Lex: A service for building conversational interfaces, i.e., chatbots and voicebots, into any application using voice and text.
  • Amazon Transcribe: Uses automatic speech recognition to convert speech to text.
  • Amazon Translate: Provides on-demand and batch translation capabilities across more than 2,970 language pairs. Examples of a language pair are Italian to English or French to Spanish.
  • Amazon Polly: A service that turns text into lifelike speech, allowing the creation of applications that talk and the ability to build new categories of speech-enabled products.
 
The services described above are available today through AWS’s contact center solution, Amazon Connect. Most of the services were also available individually through the AWS Partner Network (APN) to technology, reseller, and systems integrator partners. While there are more APN partners, AWS said that AWS CCI is available now through these 12 companies:
 
  • Technology partners: Genesys, UiPath, Vonage, Acqueon, SuccessKPI, and Inference Solutions,
  • Consulting partners: Slalom, Onica/Rackspace, TensorIoT, Quantiphi, Accenture, and HGS Digital.
 
Those of us who follow the application of AI to contact center use cases have likely heard of most of these AWS services. To find out what is different about AWS CCI, I spoke to executives in three of the partner organizations listed in the AWS announcement: Acqueon, Genesys, and Vonage.
 
Acqueon Expands Work with AWS
The first question I asked Nicolas de Kouchkovsky, CMO of Acqueon, was how he would compare and contrast what AWS has announced with Google Contact Center AI, announced in July 2018. “If I put on my industry observer hat, Google has signed up many of the big players in the contact center space. You can read this AWS movement as trying to do something similar,” he responded, echoing sentiments of the other two partners I asked the same question.
 
Acqueon has long been a technology partner of AWS and it’s Amazon Connect solution, de Kouchkovsky explained. Acqueon is a partner solution that customers and consulting partners can use to add predictive outbound campaign calling to an Amazon Connect deployment. As seen in the graphic, for these customers, the Acqueon dialer works in concert with multiple AWS services to deliver a variety of contact center applications.
 
Acqueon for AWS diagram
Recently, Acqueon added a two-way messaging capability option to the previously outbound-only dialer functionality. Integrating this two-way messaging with Amazon Lex meant “instead of having a scripted SMS conversation, it became conversational,” according to de Kouchkovsky. In addition, Amazon Transcribe and Comprehend can be applied to the text from those messages to measure things like customer sentiment as well as other attributes.
 
AWS CCI allows Acqueon to take the building blocks of their technology, add Amazon AI services, and offer the same kind of applications to contact center customers that do not run Amazon Connect. For example, Acqueon also partners with Cisco and NICE inContact to offer outbound capabilities to their customers. Now, they can more easily offer their Cisco and NICE inContact customers expanded applications that include AWS CCI services.
 
Genesys Highlights Amazon Kendra
I asked Olivier Jouve, GM for Genesys Cloud, if AWS CCI will replace any existing Genesys or partner offers, or if it will instead serve as an additional AI choice for customers. He started by saying that since Genesys Cloud is built on AWS, “you can be sure that our customers are going to ask us for integration with AWS CCI.” Jouve was quick to add that there are Genesys Cloud customers having “a lot” of success with Google Contact Center AI, specifically Dialogflow, and Genesys will not be replacing any existing implementations. Genesys plans to offer the contact center AI solutions from both Google and AWS, “and if there is a third one with Microsoft, we’ll offer Microsoft.”
 
As a close AWS partner, many of the services offered as part of AWS CCI were already being offered by Genesys. Jouve was excited about one of the new AWS CCI capabilities though — Amazon Kendra. “Amazon Kendra allows you to index a database to connect a bot to a knowledge base instead of having to hard code (rules) into Amazon Lex for a chatbot,” Jouve said.
 
As seen in the graphic below, Genesys customers will contract AWS directly for AWS CCI capabilities. Customer AWS accounts will be charged for the usage of Amazon Lex, Amazon Kendra, etc.
 
Genesys Cloud and AWS CCI graphic
Vonage Focused on Enabling Developers
In a conversation with Vonage’s global VP, API partners, Guillaume Calot, he explained that the company has been creating AI partnerships with companies for many years, including Google, IBM, and Microsoft. Vonage’s goal “is to keep open as many options as possible for our customers to integrate with APIs,” Calot said.
 
“Everybody knows that AI adoption in the enterprise space is not that simple. It's a bit like we are crossing the chasm with AI adoption, especially for complex use cases like agent assist or advanced analytics. Therefore, having a big vendor like AWS stepping-in is really helpful to aid in adoption,” Calot went on to acknowledge.
 
Like Acqueon and Genesys, Vonage has already been working with AWS AI services individually (e.g., Amazon Lex, Transcribe, and Comprehend) for the past two to three years. Calot sees the announcement of AWS CCI as a good time to “align our roadmap and make sure that all our assets are completely up-to-date, refreshed.” In addition, the company is creating assets to help the developer community deploy AI services, e.g., training, how to document applications, and best practices.
 
The Vonage portfolio includes unified communications-as-a-service, contact center-as-a-service, and communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS, now known as Vonage’s API business). I was initially surprised to learn that the AWS CCI partnership is most strongly associated with the API business, not contact center. The graphic below shows that Vonage targets its artificial intelligence API solutions to companies with non-Vonage contact centers, e.g., Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, etc. Conversational AI, live call agent assist, and post-call analytics are use cases that Vonage can deliver using AWS CCI services.
 
A Vonage and AWS CCI graphic
In my view, last week’s announcement does two things. First, it focuses attention on the variety of AI services available from AWS to build transformative contact center applications. Second, it also packages these services in ways that make them more cost-effective for partners and the companies they serve.