Everyone likes their comfort zone, even when it’s not actually a good place to be, usually that’s because the unknown is a less comfortable place. When applied at scale in an Enterprise, this has a crippling effect that prevents an organisation from adapting to the changing environment in which they do business.
We often jump to fit new technologies to existing practices, discarding them because they don’t have all of the features we currently use, irrespective of whether those features are aligned with what the customers of an organisation actually benefit from.
We’re at risk of doing the same with another product by Amazon that is shaping up to provide a platform to change the way an Enterprise can support customer interaction. Amazon Connect is a contact centre as a Service (CCaaS) solution that at a high level does two things:
- Firstly it removes the need to plan capacity and provision all of the hardware and software required to operate a contact centre, providing a pay as you go model (OpEx instead of CapEx). Scaling the infrastructure required to service call load up or down is automatic, allowing more focus on the business logic and customer satisfaction.
- Second, it allows you to create customer experiences that are more aligned with customer intent, rather than a convoluted menu driven and mostly inefficient point of contact. Due to its open nature, Connect has the ability to integrate easily with other Amazon Web Services and 3rd Party Products.
One of the areas we are working to understand is whether the existing frameworks, operating models and architectures of contact centres could change to be more effective, more reliable and yet more cost efficient if built with Amazon Connect. This requires no small amount of Art of the Possible thinking.
Out of the box, Amazon Connect provides regional resiliency and global scale. Often one of the hardest parts of planning any system is foretelling the capacity that will be required. With Connect however, the fact that Amazon can scale beneath the logic, removes the need for crystal balls and instead shifts focus to what will provide the best customer experiences.
Providing the best customer experience should be the key focus and point here. Amazon use a ‘working backward from the customer’ methodology and anyone adopting Connect should consider doing the same, rather than trying to insist that the current architecture, load capability and feature set are supported by Connect. We often find when we dig deeper, that many of the ‘necessary’ features are not actually heavily used.
This process of starting from the desired outcome, forces removal of complexity from systems, which really is something that all contact centres could probably do with, given the spaghetti matrix of products that have been integrated to provide all the features ‘required’ in the past.
Another risk to the improvement or replacement of the current state, is the idea that transformation will come from a ‘big bang’ approach. This is actually the most toxic way to design any transition as it will increase the risk and often make changes so complex that they will likely fail. Amazon Connect doesn’t need to be implemented in any way similar to a traditional type of Contact Centre system.
To start, it is best that a customer looks to find a set of call journeys with a degree of similarity that can be segmented away from the existing system, this allows for testing of the concept and gathering data on how well Connect CCaaS works. It is better to gain this real data so that it can help plan out the rest of a transformation of an organisation’s contact centre, constantly adjusting model as new data is received. You can gain access to Amazon Connect and a working instance with local numbers in minutes, so it’s not like you need to agree a large figure up front based on assumptions.
Another common reflex is to see the contact centre as we’ve always seen it, a room full of 100s or even a building with 1000s of people in it. Whilst connect is highly reliable being built on the back of Amazon Web Services (AWS), it’s likely that the premises with all the agents in isn’t. It would be worth looking into a change in the way a contact centre is organised, in terms of location and staffing. Here are some questions we often ask:
- Would it be more beneficial for resiliency if multiple facilities were operated?
- Would it be easier to find a good selection of agents in each location, reducing the burden on a single geographic resourcing pool?
- Would an event at any one of these smaller locations have less impact overall?
- Would more real estate (locations) mean a higher cost of operation, or would the benefits to the service outstrip the cost?
- Would this have secondary benefits to the economy in areas where work is harder to find?
- Will this distributed service offer better scale, in the event of needing more resources taking calls?
Whilst we don’t have the answer to many of these questions, we know that the cost in Amazon Connect won’t really change because it is billed on the per-minute usage of inbound and outbound calls. There are a number of other costs related to additional features, such as DDIs or Toll Free numbers, but these are of minimal cost impact.
With Connect, activities that are sometimes impossible due to architecture, are available, such as routing calls to more than one location, whilst still being answered by a skilled agent. Queues can consist of agents from around the world if required, since all voice connectivity happens via Encrypted Channels across the internet.
Remember DevOps? It’s not a crazy fad, the principles and practices that accompany it are actually core to any successful implementation. Our team consist of Voice SMEs, Infrastructure Developers, Application Developers and all of them are Amazon Connect certified, making for a very relevant and efficient team dealing with transformation. It’s the same in the organisations we work with, if you have a Contact Centre, why wouldn’t you place Product Owners, Project Managers and Developers nearer to the Customers/Agents of your contact centre? The results of shortening feedback loops has a positive impact on the features that are developed by aligning them with the desired customer outcome.
ECS often engage with customers and help them to reset their thinking. Helping teams move away from leaping toward their comfort zone and assessing Amazon Connect with rose tinted glasses, instead opting to observe just how scalable, flexible and cost effect the service is.
One last point we should discuss is what happens after a year of attempting to take an all-or-nothing approach to a migration. It’s likely that large organisations will still be planning at this stage, or maybe procuring and provisioning a facility. So how realistic is it that after two years, you’d be looking to start taking calls on a newly built platform (whose vendors claimed was the perfect modern system)?
In that time, compared to the last two years, Amazon would have achieved the following;
- 2017 AWS released about 1100 new services and features (some entire products including Amazon Connect)
- 2016 AWS released around 1000 new services and features
- 2018 – Q2 – 467 new features and services released
The pace of innovation and addition of valuable features being released by Amazon Web Services is unmatched. Now that Amazon Connect is being adopted at a faster rate, by a number of customers such as Capital One,it is likely that there will be a heavier influence on new/valuable feature development for the product.
In 2 years, using a more Lean/Agile approach of Build/Measure/Learn, an Enterprise might have already migrated their entire Contact Centre. Not only will they have done that, but they will have come to a place where the system will scale, customers changing needs can be met quickly and costs are significantly decreased, or there is a better balance between cost of operation and customer satisfaction.
By the way, we aren’t leaving out the other elements of a contact centre solution, we’re just focusing on the part that got left behind first, calls. You might still speak of your customer services as ‘call centres’, where we will really see value is the ease with which other channels can be integrated, especially established digital channels such as Email, Web and SMS, but also newer channels such as chat bots.
The first step is getting help on the journey. ECS have a practice of over 50 certified Amazon Connect staff that can help with your business case, initial workshops and knowledge sharing and a Proof of Concept.