Amazon Connect, a Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) platform offered by AWS has generated plenty of buzz since its launch in 2017. Initially viewed by many in the industry as an intriguing experiment, Connect has suddenly found itself in the spotlight amidst the worst global pandemic in over a century. The surprising finding which many in the tech industry already knew and skeptical business leaders doubted, was that companies could shift their workforce off premises and not only survive, but in many cases thrive in spite of the steepest drop in economic output on record.
This trend is not expected to slow anytime soon, so understanding how a CCaaS solution might make sense in your organization is critical. We have gathered together a list of best practices to help you self-assess your operational readiness - These best practices have been compiled from previous customer migrations to Amazon Connect.
Since Contact Centers are a complex business process, we will focus on the easiest ways to get started, plan for, and perform a migration. Our hope is that the guidance contained herein can help you maximize the return on your investment and minimize organizational stress. When you are ready to dive deeper with your organization, please reach out to an expert systems integrator to design and deploy your system. They will make sure it is done correctly. This is why companies like OmniLegion Technologies exist.
Join an Amazon Connect Bootcamp
It cannot be overstated how important it is to get a basic understanding of what Amazon Connect offers. You can research all you want, but until you get your hands dirty you won’t have a good understanding of the platform’s potential. A good way to get started is to attend an Amazon Connect Technical Bootcamp. These are offered by most systems integrators like OmniLegion Technologies and will offer a chance to build your own CCaaS while an expert walks beside you providing guidance. Plan on giving away 4 hours of your day to be fully engaged to maximize your time with the team.
Contact center basics – people, process and technology
If you have spent any significant time in the contact center space, it’s likely that you’ve spent years developing skills on how to attract, evaluate, and manage specialized contact center tools. The challenge with most technologies in the space is they’re complex, proprietary, and often deployed by people who don’t understand you and your environment.
It’s common to spend as much as 80 percent of your time on keeping your contact center infrastructure running. The rest of the time you are typically improving customer experience through operations and new technology. Your focus with Amazon Connect should be to reverse these numbers. Amazon Connect can help you realize significant capital and operational savings. This can allow you and your team to stop focusing on operational availability, and shift your efforts to continuous innovation around customer experience. This will only make it easier to increase customer satisfaction and develop long term relationships.
Where should you start? Proof of concept
One of the first questions we hear from perspective customers is, “What is Amazon connect and what can it really do?” While it’s easy to explain this, it’s easier to understand when you’re actually consuming a proof of concept. Make sure you involve your IT team and all you really need are a few hours of training and experimentation to spin up an instance. You can use the AWS Free Tier for 30 minutes a month of free calling. Once you have your call flows replicated, you can use the trial period to experiment with all of the AWS advanced features such as Amazon Lex chatbot, or IVR self-service.
Amazon Connect simplifies your technology stack. There is no hardware or software required, unlike legacy call center systems. The AWS administration console is fully integrated and requires no infrastructure management. That means that implementations are significantly less complicated than legacy solutions and all you need to worry about are interactions between customers and agents, and any integrations with third party systems.
Make sure you pay attention to these bullets with your POC:
- Demonstrate that Amazon Connect can handle your contact center operations
- Verify that the integrations that you need are available
- Build a migration plan that meets your organization’s needs
Migrations can be complex, so carefully evaluate your environment for current vendor support, equipment, database, telephony, and data center contracts with respect to total budget level, renewal dates, and component dependencies.
Some other things to consider:
- Order your vendor budget from largest to smallest with contract expiration dates.
- Prioritizing the near-term contract expirations.
- Shorten any renewals to the minimum time period – i.e. minimize contract overlap.
- Evaluate any dependencies – for example, one telephony component depends on another with a later support renewal date.
- Identify a migration/cutover date.
- Make a plan for equipment retirement and resale.
- Evaluate any datacenter space you may be leasing and make a plan to relinquish the space.
- You can also retire and resell, or dispose of your telephonic equipment.
- Make sure you are ready to move to USB headsets that connect to a PC or laptop
Telephone number migration planning
When your organization begins to consume Amazon Connect, they will essentially become your telephony provider. This means that you must port your existing direct inward dial and toll-free numbers to AWS. This process normally takes up to six weeks so early planning and coordination are critical to ensure a smooth cutover. The amount of time depends on the complexity of the request and your current carrier. Porting toll-free numbers, or requests to port a large quantity of numbers at one time, usually take longer than porting local, direct dial numbers. We recommend that you select a new phone number for Amazon Connect so that you can become familiar with the service while waiting for your number to be ported.
If you have outbound dialer projects and requirements, consider working on them following completion of your inbound contact center activities. Automated dialing is possible with Amazon Connect, but currently requires custom API programming or a partner dialer integration depending on the richness of feature set required. For more information about the API programming, see Amazon Connect Automated Outbound Calling is Now Generally Available. For more information about partner dialer integration, see Amazon Connect integrations.
Build a cloud support team
Since Amazon Connect is a cloud solution with no hardware or proprietary software to manage, it is vital to prepare your support team. Form a cloud team, and work with them to promote the project internally, while building their knowledge as the project progresses. Consider training all cloud team members on Amazon Connect as well as the core AWS services for data management and reporting that are available. Your selection of complementary AWS services will likely be decided by the extent of your interest in data analysis and the use of machine learning process improvement techniques.
OmniLegion Technologies will allow your team to shadow during and after the deployment if you would like to manage your system inhouse post deployment. We can also help by providing workshops, design and architecture assistance, and by assigning trained consultants to handle tasks that the team may not be ready to tackle.
Change your migration mindset
When you begin migrating your contact center we suggest switching to a lean management approach, such as agile, to increase the speed of execution, learning, and responsiveness to your customers. You could event use a project Kanban board to minimize the tendency to manage too much work in progress. A learning organization generally increases their team velocity as the conversion progresses.
Prioritizing your queue migrations
You will want a team that can help champion your migration from the start. Here’s an order that may make sense in your organization:
- Start with your help desk / support desk, they tend to be smaller with simple call queues. They can also help write FAQs.
- Standalone contact center groups that have minimal or no IVR or automation needs and are not dependent on workflow management software for scheduling.
- Make sure you bundle existing inbound call queues that are reliant on each other, such as a call flow where a caller calls one number with a normal transfer to another number.
If you have no team members who can write basic AWS Lambda functions, and operate the Amazon Connect controls prior to training, consider hiring an Amazon Connect partner like OmniLegion Technologies. They can start the process and work directly with the team. They have been through this before and can help you avoid pitfalls. They can also help your team take over the Amazon Connect environment over time.
Amazon Connect is an open system and supports a growing number of integrations with CRM providers, workforce and organization management software, outbound dialers, fraud detection, etc. Some of these integrations are available from AWS or partners as solutions that deploy rapidly for testing. For example, you can make the Contact Control Panel (CCP) appear to be part of your CRM system by using the Amazon Connect Streams API, further simplifying the agent experience.
Amazon Connect is API-driven so you can use other AWS services and AWS Lambda to pull together all the elements of a custom solution with a reasonable software development investment.
If you are planning to use chatbots for self-service implemented in Amazon Lex or need to integrate with an Amazon Connect Workflow Management partner, schedule these integrations toward the end of the project.
Go-live and ongoing operations
When preparing your call centers for production, review your AWS service limits from start to finish (Amazon Connect, AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, etc.) and ensure that they match your planned call and transaction volumes. You can work with AWS Support to review and increase these service limits as needed. Be sure to validate your revised service limits with performance testing before production release. It’s important to put the appropriate CloudWatch tools in place to monitor your spend. If you have deployed Amazon Connect correctly, it will be much cheaper than your current solution. Keep your finger on the pulse and it will always be cheaper than the alternative.
Once you are live, start considering how you can innovate within your people, process and technology. Consider evaluating your current workflows, physical plant, deployment of people, and team sizes and prepare a vision for your desired future state. At this point you can really consider the impact your contact center has on your company’s typical customer experience.
This would be a good point to look at other transformational services you can leverage to innovate your customer experience.
- Self-service – Consider other ways to interact with customers and solve their problems before they need to call the contact center.
- Reduce Talk Time – Increase the tools and knowledge of your agents so they can resolve issues faster and ultimately increase customer satisfaction and lower related costs.
- Speech to Text – Consider documenting calls through speech to text so you agents have a full breadcrumb trail of their conversations.
- Sentiment Analysis – If you are using speech to text you can take that to the next level with sentiment analysis and monitor and learn from all customer interactions.
- Machine Learning – Use machine learning techniques to interact with callers to provide service without a human in the loop.
Keep in touch with your AWS account team and Amazon Connect partner to understand the roadmap. There are many “build or wait” decisions to be made with Amazon Connect features.
We just described best practices for planning and implementing a migration from a legacy contact center infrastructure to Amazon Connect. Make sure and consider all of these factors when deploying Amazon Connect. We strongly recommend working with an Amazon Connect Partner in your project as they will help steer you clear of common challenges and make your implementation munch smoother. Please reach out with any questions and we can help you navigate your project.