The Enterprise Connect industry event took place week and, as is the case with prior conferences, unified communications and contact center vendors used the opportunity to announce updates or major products. Amazon Web Services (AWS), although a relative newcomer to the UC and CC industries, has become a significant participant at the event. At this show four years ago, it took the covers off its contact center product, Amazon Connect.
When Connect was launched, many industry watchers, myself included, were sceptical that AWS could have any success in a market that's filled with so many large incumbents. Four years later, AWS has had so much success that it's legitimized itself as a contact center vendor, removing any doubts as to whether it is in the market for the long haul.
During his keynote at Enterprise Connect, Amazon Connect GM Pasquale DeMaio provided an update on customer traction. Although he did not give an exact number, he did share that "tens of thousands" of AWS customers are now using Amazon Connect for more than 10 million contact center interactions per day.
The last update AWS provided was in early 2020, when the company claimed that about 5,000 new contact centers were created in March and April 2020. It's worth noting that its customer list doesn't consist only of small businesses because it has many massive contact centers such as Capital One, Intuit, Hilton Hotels, Rackspace, and Priceline.
One of the most significant differentiators has been its pricing model. Instead of charging a per-seat / per-month fee, which causes customers to have to buy for peak utilization and overpay most of the year, Amazon Connect is based on a utilization model. Customers can provision as many agents as they want but only pay for the minutes used. I have talked to some customers who were nervous about this pricing method because it doesn't have the same predictability as seat-based pricing. Still, everyone I talked with saw significant savings over a year. Change can be difficult, but Amazon Connect customers do see a significant benefit.
I'd be incorrect if I said that pricing was the only reason customers switched to Connect because the company has added dozens of features during the past four years.
At Enterprise Connect, it announced the following new capabilities:
Amazon Connect Wisdom is generally available: AWS had announced this feature previously, but now all customers can take advantage of the AI-based, real-time agent assistant that gives contact center workers immediate access to a bevy of products and service information required to solve customer issues. Contact centers are filled with customer data, and finding it is getting harder as more data is generated. Wisdom uses speech analytics to understand the conversation and provides the agent with real-time suggestions on quickly resolving issues. This is a great example of how AI isn't here to replace agents but to make them better.
Amazon Connect Voice ID is generally available: This had also been announced previously and is now made available to all customers. The product is designed to let callers use voice biometrics as an authentication mechanism instead of having to provide personal information, such as social security number, mother's maiden name, and favorite hobby. This is an AI-based feature that compares the caller's voice to a historical voiceprint, and if it falls within a certain confidence score, all of those frustrating questions can be bypassed. With this release, it did add a new capability for fraud detection. The service lets businesses create a custom watchlist of known fraudsters and flag suspicious callers to lower fraudulent attacks, saving time and reducing losses.
High-volume outbound communications in preview: This is a new feature in Amazon Connect that gives businesses the ability to reach out to their customers at a large scale, using multiple channels such as calls, texts, and emails. This is another AI-based capability that enables contact centers to schedule and launch high-volume outbound, omnichannel communications by specifying only the contact list, channel, and content to be sent to the customer. This is an efficient and cost-effective way for organizations to contact millions of customers for functions such as marketing promotions, appointment reminders, and other notifications without having to use a third-party tool. One of the interesting aspects is that the dialer uses machine learning to tell the difference between a busy signal, voice mail, or live greeting to increase agent efficiency, so only a live person is connected to an agent.
It's fair to say that AWS was a late entrant to the cloud contact center market and that almost always spells doom. In this case, AWS used a new pricing model to disrupt the industry and coupled that with massive scalability and a consistent drumbeat of new features to not only catch up but become a leader in this market. More to come, I'm sure.