The new high volume outbound communication capability in Amazon Connect which was announced at Enterprise Connect last year, is now generally available to all. It is named Amazon Connect outbound campaigns.
If you haven’t heard about Amazon Connect, it is an easy-to-use cloud contact center service that helps companies of any size deliver superior customer service at lower cost. You can read the original blog post Jeff wrote at launch in 2017, with amazing Lego art 🙂
Contact centers not only receive calls and communications, but they also send outbound communications to customers. There are a variety of reasons to send outbound communication: appointment reminders, telemarketing, subscription renewals, and billing reminders. The vast majority of these communications are phone calls, and in many contact centers, agents make the calls manually using customer contact lists in external systems. Since customers only answer about ten percent of calls, these agents can spend nearly half of their time dialing and waiting. This can result in millions of dollars in lost productivity each year for a contact center with as few as 200 agents.
To help you to address this challenge, today we are adding to Amazon Connect outbound campaigns a set of high-volume outbound communication capabilities that allows you to proactively reach more of your customers across voice, SMS, and email. When using this capability, you will have a scalable way for proactive outreach for hundreds to millions of your customers, and you will increase your agents’ productivity and lower your operational costs.
Amazon Connect outbound campaigns delivers a predictive phone dialer. The dialer includes an answering machine detection system powered by machine learning. It allows the automatic detection of answering machines for voice calls and passes calls to agents only when the call is answered by a human. The dialer also adjusts the call rate depending on factors such as percentage of human-answered the calls, call duration, and agent availability. There is no integration required to get the benefit of existing Amazon Connect features, such as automated workflows, routing, and machine learning capabilities like Contact Lens. You now have a single system for inbound and outbound communications.
To further refine the customer experience or use multiple channels in your campaigns, for example, to send an SMS or email message to your customers when they do not answer calls, you have the option to use Amazon Pinpoint. Amazon Pinpoint is a flexible and scalable outbound and inbound marketing communications service. It allows you to define customer segments, define the customer journey, define the contact strategy, and more. Amazon Pinpoint is the system handling high-volume SMS and email campaigns.
To better understand how Amazon Connect, Amazon Pinpoint, and other AWS services work together, you can refer to this very detailed blog post.
Let’s show you how it works
Imagine I am a contact center manager, and I want to create an outbound call campaign to target a selected list of customers.
I first import my customer contact list from a spreadsheet on Amazon S3. I may also import it from popular customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation applications, such as Marketo, Salesforce, Twilio’s Segment, ServiceNow, Shopify, Zendesk, and Amazon Pinpoint itself.
Then I create a campaign and define some journey parameters: the communication channel, the start time, and the corresponding content, such as a call script, email template, or SMS message. At the scheduled start time, the journey is executed using Amazon Connect for calls or Amazon Pinpoint for SMS or emails, as specified.
When I configure the campaign to run in Predictive dial mode, as I mentioned before, the dialer automatically adjusts the dial rate based on the duration of calls and the real-time availability of agents. Once a call is answered, Amazon Connect distinguishes whether it is a live voice or a recorded message and routes the live customer to an available agent in the Amazon Connect agent application, where the agent can see the call script that I specified during setup, along with relevant customer information.
As explained earlier, I may use Amazon Pinpoint to define the customer journey. By doing so, I can combine voice, email, and SMS channels in the same outbound communication campaign to improve the efficiency of my agents and my customer’s experience. For example, a financial institution can use Amazon Connect to send an SMS notification to remind a customer of a missed payment and include a link to request a call back from an agent. When a call is requested, Amazon Connect automatically queues the call, dials the customer’s number, detects their voice, and connects an available agent to the customer.
Amazon Pinpoint allows you to define the details of the customer journey.
As usual with AWS services, I can analyze contact events sent via Amazon EventBridge. EventBridge is a serverless event bus that makes it easier to build event-driven applications at scale using events generated from your applications, integrated software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, and AWS service. When filtering or analyzing events posted to EventBridge, I can create metrics such as time to connect to an agent, duration of the contact, and call abandonment rate
These metrics help me understand the status of my campaign and ensure compliance with applicable regulations, such as maximum call abandonment rates. I also can use historical reports of these metrics to understand the effectiveness of all my communications campaigns over time.
Speaking of compliance, we do not want anyone to abuse the system, intentionally or not, or to break any local compliance rules.
Access and Compliance
Using automated services to drive outbound communication campaigns is strictly regulated in several countries and territories. For example, the US adopted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991, and the United Kingdom’s Office of Communications has similar rules.
Amazon Connect outbound campaigns gives you the tools to stay compliant with these regulations and many others. However, just like with traditional IT security, it is a shared responsibility. It is your responsibility to use the service in a compliant manner. We are happy to assist you in addressing specific use cases.
Let’s share two examples to illustrate how Amazon Connect outbound campaigns can help you meet your compliance status: respect quiet time and monitor call abandonment rate.
The use of quiet times allows contact center managers to configure a schedule for channel communications based on the day of the week and the hours of the day. More precise delivery times means your customers are most likely to engage with the communication and increase metrics such as open rates for SMS and email, as well as pick-up rates for voice calls. It also allows contact center managers to follow country and state-level voice dialing legislation. The following screenshot shows how you can configure quiet times using Amazon Pinpoint.
According to TCPA, call abandonment rate is the percentage of calls picked up by a live customer but not connected to a live agent within two seconds after the customer greeting. I found it interesting that in the UK, the time is measured from the start of your customer greetings, while in the US, it is measured from the end of the greeting. Amazon Connect outbound campaigns provides you with metrics, such as
connectedToAgent for each outbound communication. Contact center managers can use these to compute the abandonment rate and dial up or down the outgoing communication channel accordingly.
Other metrics, configuration parameters, and AWS Lambda API integration allow contact center managers to consult a Do-Not-Call (DNC) registry or list scrubbing and verify your customer’s local time zone or bank holiday calendars, just to name a few.
Pricing and Availability
Amazon Connect outbound campaigns is available in US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and Europe (London) AWS Regions. This allows you to start your outbound campaigns for customers in the USA, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
As usual, pricing is based on your usage; you only pay for what you use with no upfront or minimum engagement. The key metrics we are using for pricing are the minutes of outbound calls. The pricing page has all the details.
And now, go build your contact centers.