We are two weeks into 2021, and Amazon Web Services has wasted no time in making a splash in the contact center industry. This is a market that’s well established, with many big-name vendors that have established shares. As the market has shifted to the cloud, it has given rise to a number of new, cloud-first providers that have dominated the market of late.
AWS takes a platform approach to contact center
Given the crowded nature of the contact center industry and AWS’s late entry into it, the company had to take a different approach to it. In this ZKast video podcast with AWS GM Eron Kelly, he describes the company’s approach to contact center and collaboration as being more of a platform play where other vendors can use the underlying AWS technology to enhance their own product. We’ve seen that with AWS Chime, which is now integrated into Slack and Salesforce; that’s the approach it is taking with its Contact Center Intelligence (CCI) suite.
If anyone needs a refresher, AWS CCI is a set of artificial intelligence-enabled services to improve call center operations. This includes text to speech, search, real-time translation, conversational AI, transcription and natural language processing. Its goal is to provide these services via the cloud to enable other companies to do more.
AWS expands CCI globally via partners
Recently, AWS announced it was expanding CCI worldwide through the addition of a number of new technology partners. These include, but are not limited to the following:
- Customer engagement platforms: 8×8, Avaya, Genesys, Salesforce and Talkdesk
- Technology partners: Vonage, UIPath, Xappai, VoiceWorks and Cresta
- Consulting partners: Servion, Accenture, Wipro, Lucy in the Cloud
Many of these partners are global or have a strong presence outside the U.S., allowing AWS CCI to scale globally. The partnerships will bring AWS CCI artificial intelligence and machine-learning capabilities to global contact centers, CRM tools and other applications providers looking to create tailored customer experiences using the enhanced capabilities.
Although CCI can be used in a broad set of applications, the contact center is its current “low-hanging fruit.” There are three pre-configured CCI solutions focused on the contact center workflow, now with additional language expansions.
CCI brings a wide range of AI features to contact centers
The first one is enhanced self-service with chatbots and interactive voice response (IVR), which allows contact centers to answer common inquiries around the clock and frees up agents to handle more complex requests. This solution utilizes the conversational interface of Amazon Lex and Amazon Polly text-to-speech voices to create virtual agents that interact with customers in several languages, such as French, German, Italian and Spanish.
The other two solutions, call analytics with agent assist and post-call analytics, perform real-time or post-call speech transcriptions to analyze agent interactions with customers. They have capabilities that can detect caller sentiment and identify keywords in conversations using natural language processing (NLP). When coupled with Amazon Kendra, agents can use the keywords to find relevant information and resolve issues during live calls. Live calls can be transcribed in German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese.
Companies that use different contact center providers can add AI/ML capabilities by selecting pre-built solutions through the AWS Partner Network (APN). The capabilities can be integrated with existing contact center platforms to enhance both customer and agent experience.
Talkdesk uses AWS CCI to beef up its own AI capabilities
In parallel with the AWS news, cloud contact center vendor Talkdesk issued its own press release highlighting its use of the AWS CCI solutions. The company is using the AWS CCI solutions to broaden its already extensive AI features. Talkdesk customers now have a choice of using the AWS features, Talkdesk’s own iQ native AI component or some combination of the two. In 2020, Talkdesk announced six AI capabilities and now can use AWS CCI to accelerate its initiatives in this area.
Amazon has offered contact center solutions since 2017 when it launched Connect. The omnichannel cloud contact center solution allows non-technical users to design interaction flows, manage agents and track performance metrics. Connect employs ML to analyze conversations in real time and to help center agents search for relevant information.
Connect is offered via a web browser and Amazon Workspaces, a managed desktop that can be accessed by users from any device. AWS CCI is completely separate from Connect but can also run on Workspaces. While Connect and CCI services are packaged differently, Amazon aims to maintain the AWS continuum to offer customers and partners choice.
It’s important to note that AWS CCI isn’t just slideware and has a number of real customers. In a blog posted on the AWS site, it highlighted a number of customer stories, such as:
- Maximus is administrator of government health and human services and is the largest provider of contact center services to the government. With the help of AWS Partner, SuccessKPI, Maximus was about to add AWS CCI into the Genesys Cloud environment in a matter of hours, delivering a full view of citizen experience. The tools enabled it to deliver more capacity, automate quality review and agent compliance and performance.
- Magellan Health is a large, managed health care company focused on the special population, complete pharmacy benefits and other specialty areas. It is using the Amazon Kendra service to build a secure, scalable agent assist application. This helps call center agents and the customer to quickly find the information needed. The use of Kendra has knocked call times down about 9 to 15 seconds, which is significant in contact centers.
- Cation Consulting is one of the AWS consulting partners focused on conversational AI. The company uses the technology and self-service experiences to reduce customer support costs while improving customer experience. Cation has deployed AWS CCI in customers such as Ryanair, who is using a chatbot to handle customer inquiries.
Typically, entering a mature market as a late entrant is a sure sign of failure, but AWS isn’t trying to compete with the incumbents on their terms. Instead, it’s taking a partner-centric, platform approach to enable others to do more. This is consistent with the way it’s gone to market in other areas, and I expect AWS to be one of the leaders, if not the leader in contact-center AI.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions. Kerravala is considered one of the top 10 IT analysts in the world by Apollo Research, which evaluated 3,960 technology analysts and their individual press coverage metrics in December 2020.