TL; DR: Amazon Connect’s cloud-hosted call center helps businesses provide exceptional customer service while saving money through a pay-as-you-go model. The omnichannel technology, which users can deploy in just minutes, simplifies call center operations and improves agent efficiency. With customer-fueled updates and continuous improvements via machine learning (ML), Amazon Connect is quickly becoming a go-to tool for creating seamless customer experiences.
Customer expectations have reached record highs. In a recent study conducted by Salesforce, 66% of consumers and business buyers surveyed said they expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations.
According to the research, innovation is paramount in satisfying such a mandate — especially in the pandemic era. More than half (52%) of respondents said they now expect personalization on all offers, with the vast majority (88%) stating they are looking for accelerated digital initiatives due to COVID-19.
At the same time, the influx of online shoppers who must turn to phone and live chat for customer service has left contact centers busier than ever. With demand changing so rapidly, businesses need cutting-edge support technology that empowers agents to become problem solvers.
Fortunately, Amazon — known for its near mastery of customer support — is offering businesses a leg up with Amazon Connect. The cloud-based call center technology provides a seamless omnichannel experience for both customers and support agents. Features include voice authentication, unified customer profiles, skills-based call routing, task management, real-time and historical analytics, and intuitive management tools.
“The contact center was ready to be reinvented, and we’re excited to be a part of that,” said Eron Kelly, General Manager of Product Marketing at AWS. “By making Amazon Connect a cloud service, we allow users to scale up and down with a pay-as-you-go pricing model based on changes in demand — which we certainly saw last year with COVID.”
The result is simplified contact center operations, improved agent efficiency, lowered costs, and, most importantly, happier customers.
A Cloud-Hosted Solution Born From Amazon’s Own Needs
Amazon Connect was initially developed to meet the online retailer’s internal needs more than a decade ago.
“Amazon’s retail business was seeing hockey stick growth,” Eron said. “They were looking for a contact center solution that would allow them to continue to boost customer satisfaction — because that is one of the most important leadership principles at Amazon — but also be prepared for rapid spikes in demand.”
Think Amazon Prime Day: the retailer’s annual 48-hour digital sales fest designed specifically for Prime members. In 2020, traffic to Amazon.com represented 40.6% of total traffic to the top 100 sites online.
“They were looking for a solution that could support scenarios where in one day you could need thousands of additional agents,” Eron said. “They couldn’t find any suitable solutions at the time, so they built their own on AWS.”
In 2017, Amazon made the technology available to all businesses. Today, service agents from a range of ecommerce companies use Amazon Connect to serve millions of customers each day. The cloud-based call center is available in dozens of languages and is used in 32 countries worldwide.
“Thousands of customers, including Capital One, Intuit, GE Appliances, and Dow Jones, have gravitated to Amazon Connect because of the way it reinvents the contact center,” Eron said. “It’s scalable to accommodate the peaks and valleys of the retail business. For example, Intuit, one of our key customers, has more agents supporting customers during tax season than any other time of the year. And they need a solution to affordably meet that demand.”
Boosting ROI and Enabling Rapid Technological Adaptation
Today, Amazon Connect provides customers of all types with a fast path to seamless customer experiences. The cloud-hosted solution uses skills-based routing based on static and dynamic input and features built-in voice and chat capabilities, real-time and historical analytics and metrics, and remote agent capabilities through WebRTC.
These features can ultimately improve the bottom line by slashing contact center costs, boosting visibility, streamlining management, and improving the customer experience.
Forrester Research recently conducted a study on the Total Economic ImpactTM of Amazon Connect. The research revealed that the three-year impact of Amazon Connect can reduce cloud subscription costs by up to 31% and boost return on investment (ROI) by 241%.
“The study also uncovered interesting information on how an enhanced customer experience contributes to ROI,” Eron said. “There was an average revenue increase of about 2% and a reduction in refunds and replacements by about 15% for customers using Amazon Connect that came as a result of delivering the right experience for customers.”
Another core element of the cloud-hosted platform is its ability to facilitate rapid digital transformation through a pay-as-you-go pricing model. Eron said many competing contact center solutions require users to prepay whether or not they use the service on a particular day.
“We have plenty of customers who’ve had to quickly put a contact center in place almost overnight to support some new initiative or increase in demand that they didn’t anticipate,” he said. “In March and April 2020 alone, we saw 5,000 new contact centers created on Amazon Connect.”
Features to Enhance the Anatomy of the Call
In early March 2020, Rhode Island’s Department of Labor and Training (DLT) website experienced 10 times the usual volume of unemployment insurance applications. The added stress on the department’s 30-year-old interactive voice response (IVR) and interactive web response (IWR) systems left many beneficiaries frustrated by busy signals and inadequate responses.
After implementing Amazon Connect to replace the Department of Labor and Training’s legacy IVR and IWR solutions, the system went from a capacity for 74 concurrent calls to up to 1,000 simultaneous calls per minute.
“On the first day of operations, they had nearly 75,000 Rhode Island residents interact with the system, both directly and through IVR technologies, to successfully file claims,” Eron said. “They couldn’t have supported their citizens without Amazon Connect, and they were able to set it up very quickly.”
Based out of Milan, Best Western’s European contact center also used Amazon connect to pivot to a remote workforce under the social distancing constraints of the pandemic. Because Italy was one of the first and hardest-hit countries, Best Western had to move quickly to a remote setup.
“Within a month, they were able to migrate their entire contact center, and they moved their agents to remote workplaces during the week after that,” Eron said. “They also took advantage of ML technologies to automatically translate 96% of their manual recording, and they reduced their total spend by 40% because of pay-as-you-go pricing.”
The self-service nature of Amazon Connect helps customers seamlessly consume the technology. Once the contact center is up and running, they can make changes close to the action without requiring the assistance of an IT professional.
Besides providing omnichannel functionality and front-end chatbot integration, Amazon Connect empowers agents with better tools for managing information flow. This helps agents effectively advise customers in solving problems.
Customer-Fueled Improvements and a Focus on ML
“In the last four or five months, we released a bunch of new capabilities that enhance the entire agent and customer experience, which I refer to as the anatomy of a call,” Eron said. “We’re carefully considering each stage of that process and working to improve it.”
One of the company’s newer services is Amazon Connect Voice ID, which uses machine learning to determine if the caller is who they say they are based on a preset voiceprint. Callers can opt in to the service, allowing the technology to analyze their voices for tone and cadence, among other characteristics.
“Instead of getting grilled on my mother’s maiden name or the make and model of my first car, we can jump right into the call,” Eron said. “So as a caller, I’m happy — it saves me time. And as a company, I can reduce the risk for fraudulent calls.”
Robust customer data and sentiment analysis round out the technology. Amazon Connect Wisdom, for instance, uses machine learning to reduce the time agents spend searching for answers. Furthermore, Contact Lens for Amazon Connect offers real-time transcription and sentiment analysis and will create alerts to supervisors based on keywords like “cancel” or “unhappy.”
Moving forward, Amazon Connect will continue to improve each stage of a support interaction to provide better agent and customer experiences.
“When it comes to what we’re building next, we’re always focused on the customer,” Eron said. “About 90% of the innovation at AWS is based on customer input. And so we’re constantly talking to our customers, and we’re trying to figure out ways to make agents more efficient so that they can get their job done more quickly and effectively.”