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LGSS Digital Blog

Service design for local government

Ben Thompson
Lead Developer

Use Amazon Web Services to create resilient, AI driven call centres in the cloud

At LGSS Digital, we like to embrace the latest technologies. Amazon Web Services has been a great partner in helping transition to cloud computing.

AWS has become a giant in computing since its modest (re)launch in 2006, transforming business infrastructure and enabling many companies to flourish. Back then, it provided S3 for storage, SQS for message queueing, and EC2 for running virtual machines. Today, the product range has mushroomed into a vast toolkit that covers everything from virtualisation, serverless computing, internet of things, and media streaming, to satellite ground stations, blockchain, and machine learning.

Amazon Connect

One of the underused and under-appreciated services offered by AWS is Amazon Connect. Connect is a virtual call centre offering, which enables you to set up a call centre with no infrastructure; all you need is a headset and an internet connection.

There’s no setup fee and you only pay for the calls you receive. This means you can do away with installing a private branch-exchange (PBX), buying voice-over-IP phones, and as we discovered in one of call centres, installing a separate network connection for the phone headsets.

Amazon Connect also means that you can enable flexible working. This was another problem that affected one of our partners, who had a 44% call drop-off rate because they didn’t have the desk space to increase the size of their team.

The resilience that Amazon Connect offers is superb. You don’t need to worry about power cuts, flooding, or losing connection to the internet. You don’t need to worry (as much) about snow days because all your call centre analysts need is a laptop and an internet connection.

Because the infrastructure is managed by AWS, you can rely on it far more than traditional PBX-type infrastructure. It’s also really easy to set up. The first time we used Connect, we comfortably set it up in the 4 weeks we had from project initiation, before it needed to go live.

You can leverage the amazing text-to-speech service, Amazon Polly, to create menu options and prompts, rather than recording new audio. Today the team leaders at the call centre are able to make adjustments to the menus and queues themselves using a web interface. That means no calls to tech support to get things done.

Connect, then, is compelling; we can improve the resilience of our call centre, give the call analysts more flexibility, and even get more people into the workforce, such as more disabled people or family carers who might need to work from home. It will also neatly integrate with your CRM and secure your payments data.

But the real power of Connect is found in its integration with the rest of AWS, especially Amazon Lex and AWS Lambda.

 

 

“The real power of Connect is found in its integration with the rest of AWS, especially Amazon Lex and AWS Lambda.”

Ben Thompson

 

Amazon Lex

Amazon Lex is a high-level chatbot service offered by AWS. It’s been built using deep learning and provides a set of natural language tools to create a really compelling, interactive experience.

You can set up general queries and responses and Lex will handle the questions from users, much like Amazon’s Alexa. This allows common queries to be dealt with before they even enter the queue, significantly reducing the number of calls that need to be handled by an agent. And unlike most call centres, the automatic function will be operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

AWS Lambda

Lambda is Amazon’s fabulous serverless computing platform. When using Lambda from a Connect call, you’ll be able to uniquely identify the current call and then interact with the any other Amazon service or even interact outside the AWS ecosystem.

Because these technologies are common to AWS, we can create a customer interaction service layer using natural language to communicate with people, answer common questions and even deal with simple problems. We found that a chatbot designed to answer common questions about Cambridgeshire libraries cut call centre volumes going through to agents by 80%.

The really exciting thing about Lambda is that we can use the same service layer to provide the same chatbots across all our main contact points. We can implement these features in our call centres, on web chat, to reply automatically to emails, and even to provide chatbots using Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Service automation

Using AWS tools, we’re beginning to provide public services with full integration to council back end systems. So a resident will be able to apply for planning permission or a council tax discount, just by speaking to a bot. This is made much easier thanks to the power of AWS but we’re also able to leverage the technology we’ve invested in to help other local authorities provide the same services.

If you’re interested in the services we’ve discussed here, continue the conversation on twitteremail us or share this post with someone else.