Customer service is central to the overall customer experience that all consumers are familiar with when communicating with companies. That experience is often tested when we need to ask for help or have a question to be answered. Unfortunately, we've become accustomed to providing the same information multiple times, waiting on hold, and generally spending a lot more time than we expected to resolve our issue when we call customer service.
When you call for customer assistance, you often need to wait for an agent to become available after navigating a set of menus. This means that you're going to wait on hold regardless of whether your issue is simple or complex. Once connected, the systems that power call centers generally don't do a good job of using and sharing available information. Therefore, you often start out anonymous and can't be recognized until you've gone through a scripted set of questions. If your issue is complex, you may end up repeating the same information to each person you talk to, because context is not provided with the handoff. It's easy to end up frustrated by the experience, even if your issue is successfully resolved.
At Amazon, customer obsession is a fundamental principle of how we operate, and it drives the investments we make. Making sure that customers have a great experience when they need to call us is something that we've invested a lot of time in. So much so, that in March 2017, we announced Amazon Connect, which is the result of nearly ten years of work to build cloud-based contact centers at scale to power customer service for more than 50 Amazon teams and subsidiaries, including Amazon.com, Zappos, and Audible. The service allows any business to deliver better over-the-phone customer service at lower cost.
When we set out to build Amazon Connect, we thought deeply about how artificial intelligence could be applied to improve the customer experience. AI has incredible potential in this area. Today, AWS customers are using the cloud to better serve their customers in many different ways. For instance, Zillow trains and retrains 7.5 million models every day to provide highly specific home value estimates to better inform buyers and sellers. KRY is helping doctors virtually visit patients and accurately diagnose aliments by applying machine learning to symptoms. Netflix is using machine learning to provide highly personalized recommendations to over 100 million subscribers. There are really exciting projects everywhere you look, including call centers.
When Amazon Connect launched, we spoke about the integration with Amazon Lex. One of the really interesting trends in machine learning lately has been the rise of chatbots, because they are well suited to fulfilling customer requests with natural language. Amazon Lex, which uses the same conversational technology as Amazon Alexa, is Amazon Web Services' deep-learning powered chatbot platform. By linking Amazon Lex chatbots into the Amazon Connect contact flow, customers are able to get help immediately without relying on menus or specific voice commands. For example, an Amazon Lex driven conversation with your dentist's office might look like this…
Connect: "Hello, thanks for calling. Is this Jeff?"
Connect: "I see you have a cleaning appointment this Friday. Are you calling to confirm?"
Jeff: "No, actually."
Connect: "Ok, what are you calling about?"
Jeff: "I'd like to change my appointment to be next Monday."
Connect: "No problem, I have availability on Monday July 3rd at 11:00 AM. Does that work?
Jeff: "That's fine."
Connect: "Great. I have booked an appointment for you on Monday, July 3rd at 11:00 AM. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Jeff: "Can you send me a text confirmation?"
Connect: "Sure. I have sent a text message confirmation of your appointment to your cell. Can I do anything more for you?"
Jeff: "No, that's great. Bye."
The chatbot is able to quickly and naturally handle the request without waiting for an agent to become available, and the customer was never presented with menus or asked for information the office already had. AWS Lambda functions made the corresponding calls to the database and scheduling software, making sure that the interaction happened quickly and at extremely low cost. The workflow-based functionality of Amazon Lex and Amazon Connect also helps to reduce mistakes by making sure interactions play out consistently every time.
If the customer's issue is not able to be resolved by the chatbot, Amazon Lex is able to pass on the full context of the conversation to a human representative. This keeps the customer from wasting time repeating answers to questions and lets the representative focus 100% of their time on solving the problem, which increases the odds the customer is going complete the call feeling positive about the experience.
Today, we're announcing the general availability of Amazon Lex integration with Amazon Connect. We've also enhanced the speech recognition models used by Amazon Lex to support integration with other call center providers as well, so that all telephony systems can start using AI to improve customer interactions.
We think artificial intelligence has a lot of potential to improve the experience of both customers and service operations. Customers can get to a resolution fast with more personalization, and human representatives will be able to spend more time resolving customer questions.
Getting Started: Amazon Connect is available to all customers in the US East (N. Virginia) region. You can get started by visiting https://aws.amazon.com/connect. Additional information on Amazon Lex integration can be found at https://aws.amazon.com/connect/connect-lexchatbot.