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AWS Continues to “ReInvent” Its Communications Capabilities

This week, Amazon Web Services (AWS) held its annual re:Invent user conference in Las Vegas. The conference has typically focused on cloud-based infrastructure, and that was certainly a prominent theme at the 2019 re:Invent. However, contact center and unified communications have been gaining traction at the show as AWS has matured its offering. AWS announced a number of key new vendor partnerships that will certainly help the company legitimize itself as a mainstream UC and CC vendor – putting to bed the questions of whether it’s serious about the space or not. Below are some of the more interesting announcements.
Focusing in on Contact Lens
Contact Lens is a fully managed machine-learning-based analytics tool that provides its Connect contact center customers with real-time insights that can be used to improve customer experience (CX). As it has been well documented, we are now in the CX era, and frustrated customers mean churn, agent turnover, and even regulatory fines.
The new capability uses Amazon’s speech technology to transcribe and index calls, so they can be searched in the Amazon Connect console. This capability makes it easy for contact center supervisors to search voice and chat interactions for specific content or sentiment. This can be anything from customers looking to cancel service, return a product, or interactions with a negative tone. From the dashboard, supervisors can view specific events and see things like contact detail, transcripts, customer, agent sentiment, and the cause of long pauses. This information can be used to better train or coach agents.
Also, Contact Lens enables supervisors to find new issues without the need to proactively search for them. For example, Contact Lens can surface new product problems or other issues by identifying the problem from multiple conversations. The feature displays the themes in a visual format, so contact center supervisors can take immediate action and provide a response to customer feedback.
Contact Lens is built into Connect, activated with a single click, and requires zero machine learning skills, so the barrier to entry is low. The feature will be generally available mid-2020 but is currently in early release and is being trialed by some big companies, including John Hancock, Intuit, and News Corp.
Kendra is Here to Help
Kendra is a machine-learning-based enterprise search service that uses natural language processing. Kendra enables employees to search across multiple data silos, using real questions instead of keywords. Amazon applies AI under the covers to deliver a precise answer, instead of a useless list of random answers. An example was given where a customer asked, “when does the IT help desk open,” and Kendra responded, “the IT helpdesk opens at 9:30 am.” Kendra then provided links back to the ticketing portal and any other relevant sites.
The service is available as a console application and as APIs, so it can be used across enterprise applications. The preview version of Kendra includes connectors to SharePoint Online, Amazon S3, and databases. At general availability, Kendra will have integrations with Box, Dropbox, Salesforce, and OneDrive. This can make collaborating and working much easier as workers should be able to find content and people much faster than with keyword searches. One set of applications that weren’t addressed were team collaboration tools such as Slack and Webex Teams, as companies are starting to store content in these as well.
Chime SDK and Mitel
Also, at the show, Amazon had on display its Chime SDK, which was previously announced but didn’t get very much media coverage. The software development kit simplifies the process of adding audio, video calling, and screen sharing capabilities to applications. This lets developers create communications-enabled applications without having to manage any infrastructure. Using the SDKs will also deliver a high-quality experience, as the services leverage the high-speed AWS network and CloudWatch service that alerts when issues arise.
As an interesting aside, the video SDK was built in consultation with Mitel. This takes care of a big product gap for Mitel. Prior to this, Mitel’s video solution was with Vidyo, and they didn't have a viable cloud-based video strategy. At the show, I caught up with Mitel’s VP of collaboration and applications, Mona Abou-Sayed, who was presenting the joint solution to the re:Invent audience. She said that AWS was extremely responsive as a technology partner and developed the SDK in only a few months.
Mitel is the first customer using the SDK and will leverage it to develop a best-in-class video experience. Mitel customers should experience seamless integration as tie AWS services are connected into Mitel’s CloudLink Infrastructure, which runs on AWS.
ZK Point of View: Amazon’s place in the communications industry is still being defined, but it appears they’re here to stay and will be a formidable foe. During his keynote, AWS CEO, Andy Jassy, stated that Connect is one of the fastest-growing services in the company’s history. Between the Dreamforce announcements and the ones made at re:Invent, it’s clear that evolving Connect is a top priority for AWS. Also, the Chime SDK turns that product into a platform instead of being yet another meeting product enabling Amazon to focus on developers, which is what it does best.

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