Contact centers have been an important fixture in global business since the 1960’s and continue to impact how companies engage with their customers today. My first experience with contact centers was in the early 2000’s with a business process outsourcing company in Sandy, Utah called Affiliated Computer Services. ACS was like all other call centers at the time and primarily used voice as a channel. Our group was a little different and was the first group to push chat as the primary channel for issue resolution. The concept of chat seemed so forward thinking 15 years ago, but today has become expected.
For many years contact center technology has been deployed on-premises because companies considered these solutions more reliable and secure. Companies like Cisco, Avaya, and Genesys have traditionally dominated the space and made it difficult for smaller more innovative companies to enter the market. These platforms perfected things that we know as standards today such as precision call routing and queuing. And If you wanted a more advanced solution, you could plug in tools such as workforce management, workforce optimization, outbound dialers and chat.
Enter the past decade and the rapid rise of Cloud Computing and what we see now is a shifting technological landscape. Up until a few years ago, most cloud solutions were consumed by business that couldn’t afford more stable options. However, over the last ten years Cloud-based solutions have evolved from affordable SMB options to must-have platforms for companies of all sizes. This is particularly evident over the last three years as Cloud providers have started winning more enterprise business.
The business landscape has also shifted, and quite possibly been radically transformed forever. COVID-19 has permanently changed the world, especially for retail businesses. Entire workforces have been sent home, and companies have realized that virtual office models are viable. Brick and mortar stores are pushing more online sales to future proof their business. Many of these companies still cannot afford legacy enterprise solutions however, so more affordable Cloud contact center solutions will increase. They will likely be built on AWS using Amazon’s technology or AWS and their investment in Amazon Connect.
Amazon Connect is a solution that is taking the world by storm due to its artificial intelligence / machine learning platform and usage-based pricing model. Connect is an extensible open platform that allows you to build what you need and only pay for only what you use, typically resulting in cost saving from 30-50%. It is literally the most powerful customer experience engine on the planet. Amazon Connect is built as an open platform to create the customer experience you need. The challenge AWS faces with Connect is a compelling unified agent interface that competes with other Cloud and or Legacy solutions. In order to compete in the enterprise space, they need a unified CTI single pane of glass. To achieve this, AWS has chosen to leverage the free market to build desktop solutions on top of Amazon Connect.
Surveying the landscape as it currently exists, we’ve narrowed down a few solutions that stand out as viable options for implementing the single pane of glass feel with Amazon Connect:
Salesforce Service Cloud Voice – The newest solution to the Amazon Connect family is Service Cloud Voice. It combines the power of Salesforce with the Power of AWS to build a clean interface with 21st century solutions like real-time transcription, sentiment analysis and expert systems (I.E. Einstein AI). Service Cloud Voice is scheduled to be available in the summer of 2020.
Kustomer – A purpose-built solution for help desks, service desks and contact centers. This solution aggregates communication for customer experience and incorporates different contact center solutions for voice including Amazon Connect and Five9. They include an omnichannel approach and have real-time sentiment analysis for calls. Kustomer is a very clean and easy solution to use that is starting to win a lot of business in the SMB space.
USAN – An overlay solution specifically built for Amazon Connect with a single pane of glass across all channels. Also includes an email solution, which enables Amazon Connect to be a full omnichannel solution. USAN feels comfortable for companies that are used to legacy solutions and how they work. It feels a little more corporate but works very well and leverages the same usage model as Amazon.
In summary; Amazon Connect is future proofed in this space. Everything that the competition is currently building seems to come from AWS. AWS makes everything possible and the other Cloud solutions adopt it. Things like real-time transcription, sentiment analysis and expert systems are changing the way companies engage their customers. This means AWS is driving where customer experience technology is going. You need to make sure whatever tool you purchase can easily keep up with technology. There are lots of great options out there and we consider Amazon Connect the one that will drive the future of customer experience.