Case Study: Amazon Connect with PCI

Blue Sentry recently worked on an Amazon Connect deployment with a large client -- a consumer products company with a heavy reliance on independent consultants.

The company runs a large, global, and highly complex customer contact center operation  to support its independent business owners as well as end-user customers for their many services.  It also offers business support for its multiple lines of business in addition to technical support for wireline, high-speed internet, cell, and other essential services.  

The Challenge

In order to maintain its high level of support, the company was facing an expensive upgrade of an aging and end-of-life Avaya-based system that was the backbone of its customer contact operations.  Along with the cost of the Avaya licenses themselves, the company also would have to contend with upgrades for all of the third-party integrator solutions needed to enhance capabilities of the core Avaya system. The initial outlay for these software solutions was expected to be $2 to 3 million, along with a 10-15 percent maintenance fee each year for ongoing support.  Those challenges, along with hardware costs associated with running these systems, added up to staggering CapEx and OpEx expenditures simply to maintain the same business capability.

The Solution

Blue Sentry was already working with the company on several other projects and so was already well-engaged.  Upon learning of this challenge, Blue Sentry suggested Amazon Connect from AWS as an alternative to the on-premise Avaya-based upgrade path that was currently under consideration. Using Connect on the AWS platform would allow ACN to get all the functionality of their current systems, plus the added capabilities of Connect’s machine learning and analytics functionality, with a massively reduced operational and maintenance cost. It would also allow ACN to avoid the large capital outlay associated with launching an Avaya upgrade project.  

There were twin challenges at the onset of the project: Ongoing customer operations could not be disrupted, and there was a tight timeline to get the new system implemented and tested before the expiration of the existing Avaya licenses.  All eyes were on this conversion and the stakes were high. Converting its most essential operating environment to a new platform would be risky, but trying to do it very quickly in a short amount of time raised the stakes even higher, but the potential benefit was significant.  

“I did not know how we were going to get it all done in time.” remembers an executive at the company, “But I was impressed with the speed and thoroughness of the Blue Sentry team.”  

Blue Sentry immediately undertook the work of building out the business systems and IVR flows with appropriate queues in Connect. To avoid a time consuming de-novo PCI compliance effort,  Blue Sentry engineers used Lambda functions to link Connect with the company’s existing payment systems. Additionally, Blue Sentry’s default approach to any customer environment is to take advantage of all AWS services that lend themselves to assuring security standards are met if not exceeded.  In this case, Blue Sentry took advantage of CloudTrail across all regions globally, VPC flow logs, GuardDuty and Security Hub, giving the customer a simple place to visit to assess the security posture at any given time.  AWS SNS alerts were also configured to alert the Blue Sentry SRE team as well as pertinent customer staff should any anomaly be flagged by any of these services. Blue Sentry was also able to build custom Customer Contact Panels with needed links and information for the contact center agents. Additionally, Blue Sentry was able to deliver custom dashboards allowing contact center managers the ability to shut down call flows and queues in case of emergency as well as insert hot messages in real-time into the call flows to inform customers of possible service impacts. In short, everything the customer needed to be fully operational was accomplished in just six weeks, allowing the company enough time to test the system and train managers on the new platform. In the end, the cutover was an unqualified success.

The Benefit

The service-based nature of Connect means that the company is no longer tied down to legacy hardware and expensive systems but is free to grow the capability of contact center operations at any scale. The company now knows its agents can continue to provide the best possible service to their customers even as needs change in the future, and there will be no more looming upgrades to contend with. 

Additionally, moving to Connect has saved the company significant capital and operational costs, eliminating a minimum $2 million capital outlay for its Avaya renewal, additional capital outlay for contact center components from third party integrators, and $300,000 per year in ongoing maintenance and support costs.  

Instead, the company had zero capital outlay and now spends under $6,000 per month for Amazon Connect.   Amazon Connect completely replicates the contact center functionality under  Avaya without having to deal with all of the third-party integrator products. And, Connect offers additional machine learning and analytics capability to enhance the company’s capabilities in the future.   

“In retrospect, considering the cost savings, it was a no brainer,” says another executive at the company, “but we would not have been able to do it on the timeline without Blue Sentry.”