Amazon has entered into another segment. This time into the cloud call center space. So guess we are gonna have some sleepless nights 🙂
When I heard the news, I immediately set out to understand the offering and created a test account. The following is a list of first impressions:
This was pretty straight forward to anyone who has worked with AWS instances before. I chose not to create an admin. Setup took around a minute.
Setup was also a breeze. But this part of the product seems to be rushed through. For example, the most important piece, selecting a phone number for your business has very very limited options. Only 5. This will be a deal breaker for many businesses. Even from the dashboard there are not a lot of options for choosing phone numbers.
Calls worked ok. The quality was not great for my call, but maybe that was my network. When it was playing the IVR options, though I chose an option, it continued with the other options. Looks like barge in is not enabled by default.
I know drag and drop is sexy for creating IVR flows. They have been around for the last 20 years or so. But they generally end up being hard to manage. Thats a very tough design problem to solve. OpenVBX from Twilio did a good attempt some years back. The flows in Amazon connect also look similar. But creating a drag a drop IVR flow is cumbersome and its shows here too. The example flow given by Amazon has 19 sub flows to make it work and its very hard for a novice user to understand all the parts. Though the designer is capable of handling tough flows it will scare away majority of businesses which just need 1 or 2 options to connect to agents. I also did not find too many connections to external systems for an IVR flow to interact. Presumably the integrations can take place through lambda functions,but thats another learning curve for the user. Also, the major advantage of integrating with Amazon Lex was not visible. Maybe we have to integrate through Lambdas.
Call center features:
I did not check out all the features but Amazon connect has routing profiles(looks like skill configurations in call centers),queues, prompts and after office hours. These should be enough to get started with a basic call center.
There is nothing to write home about in reporting. We have the basic reports for queues and agents. But Amazon connect will have to do a lot more in this area if it is supposed to catch up with existing players. We just seem to have tabular reports with almost no dashboards.
All in all, my first impression is that Amazon connect seems like a rushed job. I would be surprised if Amazon was using this for their in house contact center. A lot of missing pieces like live barge in, dashboards, integrations etc to be considered as a serious call center product and too complex to be considered as a starter call center product for small businesses. So, I think Amazon connect is still trying to figure out its positioning. This looks more like a product from a startup who has put together an MVP on Twilio than a product from Amazon.
Knowing Amazon, they will fix many of the issues and improve the design in the coming months. And I am sure, their integration with Amazon Lex will only improve in the coming months and will become a force to reckon with. Till then, the incumbents should not have too much to worry about.