AWS's Amazon Connect Provides Instant Call Centers in the Cloud

Instead of requiring help from IT teams and specialized consultants, Amazon Connect can be configured and run directly by line-of-business employees.

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Enterprises now can subscribe to a call center in the cloud and let other folks handle all those important customer calls that require so much corporate time and effort.

Amazon Web Services on March 28 launched Amazon Connect, a self-service contact center service designed to make it easy for a business to provide professional customer service at much lower cost than it takes to set up a physical call center and hire people for 24/7 duty in various languages.

Instead of requiring help from IT teams and specialized consultants, Amazon Connect can be configured and run directly by line-of-business employees. It requires no hardware to deploy and no per-agent licenses; users pay based on the number of customer minutes and the amount of phone time they consume, AWS said.

It uses a configurable combination of human agents, chatbots and the Alexa analytics system to comprise a virtual call center.

Pay-as-You-Go Business Model

The scalable, pay-as-you-go model means that companies can utilize Amazon Connect all the time or only in situations where call volume is unpredictable, spiky or both, Amazon said. Existing call centers can continue doing what they do, but when calls begin to spike for any reason, the Connect call service can be turned on as needed to help handle the unexpected (or expected) wave of calls.

Users can set up and configure a virtual contact center in a few minutes, Amazon said. There is no infrastructure to deploy or manage, so users can scale their Connect Virtual Contact Center up or down, onboarding up to tens of thousands of agents in response to business cycles, such as short-term promotions, seasonal spikes, or new product launches. Users pay only for the time callers are interacting with Amazon Connect plus any associated telephony charges.

Connect works with the following AWS services:

S3 (Simple Storage Service):  Amazon Connect uses S3 to provide unlimited, encrypted storage of calls (audio) and reports.

AWS Lambda:  This give you the ability to run code in serverless fashion as part of a customer contact. The code can pull data from a CRM (customer resource management) app or a database and use the data to provide a personalized customer experience.

Lex:  Customer contacts can make use of natural language, conversational interfaces powered by the same technology behind Alexa.

AWS Directory Service:  Amazon Connect can reference an existing Active Directory or it can create a new one. The directory is used to store user (administrator, manager, or agent) identities and permissions.

Kinesis:  Amazon Connect can stream contact trace records (CTRs) to Amazon Kinesis. From there, they can be pushed to Amazon S3 or Amazon Redshift and analyzed using Amazon QuickSight or other business analytics tools.

CloudWatch:  Amazon Connect publishes real-time operational metrics to CloudWatch. These metrics will tell you how many calls are arriving per second, how many are being held in queues, and so forth. Employees can use these metrics to observe the performance of the contact center and to make sure that the right number of agents are on hand at all times.

Key Features

Cloud-Powered:  Connect is an integral part of AWS and is designed to be robust, scalable, and highly available. Each contact center instance runs in multiple AWS Availability Zones.

Simple:  Connect was designed to be set up and run by business employees, not tech specialists. The graphical console makes the setup process (including the design of graphical call flows) intuitive.

Flexible:  The Contact Flow Editor (CFE) that powers Amazon Connect includes blocks for interaction, integration, control flow and branching. Call flows can include a mixture of prerecorded audio prompts, generated audio, Lex-powered interaction, integration with existing systems and databases, conversations with agents and call transfers.

Economical:  Connect's pay-as-you-go model keeps operating costs in line with actual usage. On the agent side, Amazon Connect includes a softphone that supports high-quality audio.

Connect is based on the same contact center technology used by Amazon customer service associates around the world. Setting up a cloud-based contact center with Amazon Connect can be done using only a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, and agents can begin taking calls within minutes, Amazon said.

Zendesk on March 28 was one of the first partners announced to support Connect. Zendesk Support, a customer service platform that equips agents with the context and support to deliver exceptional customer service, is being integrated with Connect, the company said.

There are no up-front payments or long-term commitments and no infrastructure to manage with Connect; users pay by the minute for Connect usage plus any associated telephony services.

For more information, go here.

Image: Amazon Web Services

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...