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2020 ushered in significant change in the manner and speed at which contact centers are adapting to new business requirements along with ever changing customer behaviors. Public and private sectors have been impacted in ways not previously seen and social distancing impacts on the contact center are far reaching and long lasting. Thankfully, Amazon Connect is front and center as a great strategic choice.

Social Distancing

The key requirement that spanned across all verticals and sectors was the need for social distancing. Almost overnight contact centers became a significant challenge compared to the rest of the organization.

For decades, contact centers have been designed with offices in mind, both from an operational management and security point of view. A contact center will drive a significant cost and require many different teams to support. Typically being one of the key services that IT provides to its customer (Operations).

Network, security, storage, compute, desktop are just some of the other teams needed to build, support and maintain a contact center and that's before you add the contact center/voice team. Decades of designing, product choices, security reviews have made contact centers difficult to adopt with pace.

Thus, when faced with the requirement to social distance, companies tackled this with 4 significant approaches.

Work remotely

Those who had the existing capability were able to relatively seamlessly, support working from home or could create a way to allow remote working did so. Some organizations had to make some difficult decisions in doing so, such as ensuring compliance with PCI-DSS.

Close the contact center

Some organizations took the approach to close the contact center, the governments furlough scheme made this a slightly less difficult decision. However, as they return to operational norms, changes will need to be made to support social distancing.

Relocate / reduce staff

For many organizations, their services directly support the COVID-19 efforts and some of these organizations were able to reconfigure their offices or use other premises to maintain their services whilst adhering to social distancing.

Deploy a new contact center

Then we have those organizations that were facing office closures or needed to scale by orders of magnitude in a short space of time to provide vital front-line services. For these customers, many turned to cloud contact centers such as Amazon Connect, where 100s of agents were able to be deployed in days to support critical front line services. Such as the London Borough of Waltham Forest, who discuss their rapid adoption here:

Channel Swapping Acceleration

Social distancing certainly drove the short term and will continue to affect the medium term strategy as the world starts its road to recovery. Another key theme I'm seeing is the acceleration of channel swapping. Some organizations turned off their voice channel and in its place offered services on the digital channels. These do not envisage a return to the norm, instead the current situation has accelerated chat as the dominate channel.

Where Next

If 'cloud first' were not already the number 1 requirement for a call center going forward, I fully suspect this will be feature 1 going forward. A cloud first contact center must support the key tenants of cloud and customer demand:

  • 100% cloud
  • Enables remote working
  • Digital channels first then voice
  • Burst capacity and evergreen
  • Simple consumption based licensing (no agent licensing)
  • Self service
  • Smart devices (speakers / car etc.. aka Alexa)

During the past 2 months, our fully remote team have supported several organizations adopt Amazon Connect, the immediate need was to scale / allow working from home. However, as the dust settles on the new normal, these organizations are realizing the other benefits of Amazon Connect. What was a short term requirement, has turned into a happy strategy acceleration that has given them the ability to reform their own culture and organization around cloud adoption, which in turn will result in greater services to their customers at a price that supports the recovery from COVID-19.