By William Lane
There has been much press about Amazon Connect, a self-service cloud-based contact center solution offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). There was a huge protest on various industry listservs about how this might affect the various business models of vendors and users within the telephone answering service (TAS), contact center, and related industries. When considering new information, it is best to take a deep breath, step back, and consider a broader view of the situation to evaluate the impact.
The purpose of this article is not to analyze Amazon Connect or other online cloud-based services currently available from other vendors, but instead to present some observations I believe are applicable to determine if this new offering, or any other much-touted cloud-based contact center service, is relevant to you and your business. I will ask pertinent questions to focus on what you may or may not need from your chosen technology vendor. To do so, I am going to assume you are in the business of servicing your customers’ clients from a TAS or contact center perspective.
First, does speed matter when interacting with your customers’ clients? This question is key to understand whether a particular cloud-based solution suits your business needs. Amazon Connect and many other cloud-based services utilize WebRTC exclusively. With WebRTC, the effective solution is completely browser-based. A solely browser-based solution means that the provider has implemented a mouse-driven versus a keyboard-driven business model. While this may be acceptable for many businesses, the impact is no shortcut keys or macros, resulting in a loss of efficiency and speed for agent-client interactions.
Second, is your business transaction-heavy? In a browser-based environment, the transactional logic resides on the cloud-based server. If your business model calls for intensive usage of message-scripting transactions, the agent is going to initiate commands via the Internet to a database server located at another destination numerous times per client contact. Even if there is an acceptable level of latency—which often there is not due to Internet connectivity issues—efficiency will suffer. This may be why few cloud-based solutions include message-scripting functionality.
Third, does your company have in-house professional services staff? If not, who will develop the necessary third-party integrations and additional features and functionality you need to differentiate yourself from your competition? Amazon Connect, and many other cloud-based contact center solutions, provide only self-service solutions. They may or may not offer tools you can use to build unique offerings for your customers. Therefore, it will be necessary for someone to utilize the provided tools to create the solutions that will attract customers to you as opposed to your competitors. Does utilizing a one-size-fits-all cloud-based solution, where price may be the only differentiator available to you in a global market, square with your business model?
Fourth, would your business model tolerate multiple hours of periodic downtime? It is no secret that AWS, the backbone for the new Amazon Connect service, has gone down several times over the last twelve months. The February 28, 2017, outage affected some customers for nearly eight hours. Many cloud–based providers make no guarantees of uptime in their service level agreements (SLAs). It is simply not an imperative element of their self-service business model.
Fifth, does your business model require validated HIPAA compliance? Many cloud-based solutions, including Amazon Connect, do not address HIPAA compliance. They do not provide proof of annual HIPAA assessments, audits, and the resultant scores provided by third-party auditing firms. Many cloud-based solutions leave all compliance adherence to the user and absolve themselves from any regulatory responsibility by claiming they are merely conduits providing a service, thus leaving you to fight the regulatory battles.
Ensuring that your business model matches your chosen vendor’s business model is imperative to achieving business success. If HIPAA compliance, platform reliability and robustness, third-party integrations, customized features and functionality, and agent speed are important to your business model, then many of the oft-hyped cloud-based contact center solutions available may not be for you.
William Lane has nearly forty years of experience in customer service and software development. He is president and CEO of Startel and Professional Teledata.