Amazon Connect launches cloud-based contact center billed by the minute

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Besides their business applications and employee productivity tools, Amazon.com Inc. now also wants companies to run customer service operations on its public cloud.

The infrastructure as a service giant today is launching a managed call handling system described as a more convenient alternative to setting up a contact center from scratch. Dubbed Amazon Connect, the offering is based on the software that powers the retailer’s internal customer support group. As such, it’s equipped with several  automation features designed to ease operations in environments with a high volume of calls.

According to a blog post from Jeff Barr, the chief evangelist for Amazon Web Services, the system handles so much of the work that spinning up a virtual contact center can take as little as a few minutes. Amazon Connect allows users to perform the bulk of the configuration through a console called the Contact Flow Editor that employs straightforward graphic controls.

After taking care of basic tasks such as creating an account and choosing phone numbers, a manager can start creating procedures for handling different types of calls. Customers phoning in at an unusual time, for instance, may be redirected to an auto-responder that provides information about when the contact center is open. As for calls placed during business hours, Amazon Connect makes it possible to create a customized response workflow based on the nature of the inquiry.

Each step appears as a box in the Contact Flow Editor. The console provides the ability to implement a phone menu for listing the available support options and enables companies to create voice prompts to request information or provide guidance. Once a customer completes the process, they’re placed in queue to connect with a representative that is prioritized based on the urgency of the call.

Like other AWS services, Amazon Connect is available under an on-demand pricing model that bills companies according to how much time they rack up on the phone. Affordability is one of several factors that Amazon is counting on to set the system apart from the competing contact center automation systems out there. Another is built-in integration with AWS Lambda, its script execution service, that makes it possible to automatically pull up data from third-party business applications during a call.

Tom Goodmanson, chief executive of the contact center software maker Calabrio Inc., explained in an email that “as organizations clamor to meet consumer expectations, contact centers must leverage a technology platform that brings together all contact center data—from the voice of the customer to agent operations—into a unified solution.” Centralizing operations is especially important in a large company where departmental barriers can make it difficult for customers to receive help in a timely manner. 

Partners are already jumping on the opportunity to make their services accessible via Amazon Connect. Among them is Salesforce.com Inc., which has integrated its Einstein artificial intelligence with the system to let service representatives easily access customer data from its platform. Zendesk Inc. also said its Zendesk Support service will be integrated with Amazon Connect.

Image: Amazon