Press 1 for bill shock, 2 for outages... AWS touts call-center management-as-a-service

All your calls are belong to us

Amazon Web Services on Tuesday introduced Amazon Connect, a hosted contact center service that allows any business to consign customers to voice jail with minimal effort.

Based on the contact center technology used by Amazon customer service personnel, Amazon Connect presents companies with a comparatively painless alternative to deploying internal telecom infrastructure and supporting call center operations.

Using a web interface, AWS customers can configure their Virtual Contact Center in a matter of minutes, without up-front payments or long-term commitments. It's the same pay-as-you go billing model that made AWS bill shock a matter of concern among IT professionals.

Pricing in the US is presently $0.03 per direct-dial call and $0.003 per minute of talk time, or $0.06 and $0.012 to handle toll-free calls.

Tom Weiland, VP of worldwide customer service for Amazon, said in a statement that Amazon a decade ago made the decision to build its own contact center platform because existing offerings didn't meet its needs.

"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," said Weiland.

For existing vendors in the space, like Genesys and Verint, Amazon's arrival doesn't bode well. Cisco also has a dog in this fight, in the form of Cisco Spark, an online customer communication service.

Connect is programmable so it can be used to define custom contact flows which do things like prompt customers for information, take action upon customer input, transfer to a hold queue, securely accept sensitive data, or end the call.

Should a company wish to prompt a customer to enter personal information through a phone keypad, then transfer the customer to a live agent who asks for the same question, that's totally possible.

Connect, perhaps unavoidably given its name, can exchange data with a variety of third-party customer relationship management, workforce management, analytics, and helpdesk services, including: Appian, Calabrio, CRMnext, Freshdesk, Paxata, Pentaho, Pindrop, Salesforce, SugarCRM, Tableau, Twilio, VoiceBase, Zendesk, and Zoho.

With the help of AWS integrators like 1Strategy, Accenture, Aria Solutions, Persistent Systems, Slalom, Solstice IT, VoiceFoundry and Wipro, Connect can be customized even further.

AWS expects that companies deploying Connect will avail themselves of other AWS services like S3 to store voice recordings of customers. With Amazon Polly (text-to-speech) and Amazon Lex (natural language processing), for example, callers could be condemned to converse with bots, without ever troubling precious human employees.

And of course, Connect includes real-time and historical metrics, to help companies understand why customers are hanging up in frustration and then bad-mouthing them on social media.

Presently available in the US and 18 countries in Europe, Amazon expects to release Connect elsewhere in the months ahead. ®

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