Amazon Web Services (AWS) yesterday released its long-awaited Amazon Connect, a suite of cloud-based contact center services that leverage the artificial intelligence powering Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant to handle contact center calls and texts.
Amazon Connect also includes new tools, such as Lex, an artificial intelligence-based service that relies on the same automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology and natural language understanding (NLU) that powers Alexa.
With Amazon Connect, customers can set up and configure a virtual contact center in minutes. A self-service graphical interface helps users design contact flows, manage agents, and track performance metrics.
The Amazon Connect suite also includes dynamic call routing and real-time historical analysis of calls, providing a history of customer interactions to determine why they’re calling and how best to handle their calls.
"Ten years ago, we made the decision to build our own customer contact center technology from scratch because legacy solutions did not provide the scale, cost structure, and features we needed to deliver excellent customer service for our customers around the world," said Tom Weiland, vice president of worldwide customer service at Amazon, in a statement. "This choice has been a differentiator for us, as it is used today by our agents around the world in the millions of interactions they have with our customers. We're excited to offer this technology to customers as an AWS service—with all of the simplicity, flexibility, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of the cloud."
Amazon Connect integrates with a broad set of other Amazon Web Services tools and infrastructure so customers can record calls in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), use Amazon Kinesis to stream contact center metrics data to Amazon S3, Amazon Redshift, or an external data warehouse solution, use Amazon QuickSight for data visualization and analytics, and use AWS Directory Service to allow agents to log into Amazon Connect with their corporate credentials. Amazon Connect also integrates with leading CRM, workforce management, analytics, and helpdesk offerings from Appian, Calabrio, CRMNEXT, Freshdesk, Paxata, Pentaho, Pindrop, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, Tableau, Twilio, VoiceBase, Zendesk, and Zoho.
At Salesforce.com, the integration brings together Amazon Connect with Service Cloud Einstein, allowing for easy set up and management of an omnichannel customer contact center that is fully connected to service case histories and CRM data across sales, commerce, marketing, and more.
The services offered in this global alliance allow for systems to be up and running in minutes versus the hours and weeks traditionally needed for builds that marry disparate legacy and hybrid applications. It is expected to be generally available in the Salesforce AppExchange.
"I can't underscore enough how very complex doing something like that has been previously," says Keith Pearce, vice president of product marketing for Salesforce Service Cloud. "With this integration companies that want to come to market with more compelling, sticky, innovative customer experience services have a way to do it easily. Before they had a multitude of vendors, long deployment, long testing, and few choices."
Traditionally, an average-sized company could spend three, six, or even nine months to set up a customer service department with all the necessary service levels. That time can be detrimental when entering a new market, opening a new branch, or merging with another company and trying to integrate two systems. That's why industry giants like Salesforce and Amazon are making big bets on disrupting the old way of building customer service operations, specifically contact centers—a technology that goes back to the mid-1980s. Pearce notes that call centers haven't experienced the kind of innovation to keep pace with how consumers really engage, using interaction-based technology like natural language recognition.
"Transactional customer services are old and ready for displacement," he says. "Cloud computing is a way to bring new and contemporary innovation to call center by making it simple and interaction based."
Service Cloud Einstein structures data sets from omnichannel interactions into cases that use the intelligence of Einstein to offer the next-best step to drive a specific outcome.
Salesforce and AWS' global strategic alliance will connect the Salesforce Platform with Amazon AppStream 2.0, AWS IoT, Amazon Redshift, Alexa and Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC). Many Salesforce services, including Heroku, Marketing Cloud Social Studio, SalesforceIQ, and the Salesforce IoT Cloud, run on AWS infrastructure.