A Tale of Two Behemoths

Image credit: iStockphoto/rudall30

Some years, Enterprise Connect is the place where the world’s biggest vendors make significant announcements in the unified communications or contact center space. 2022 was one of those years, with both Amazon and Google making significant noise in the contact center space.

Amazon

Let’s talk Amazon first: It announced its new forecasting, capacity planning, and scheduling offer, currently in preview. Basically, Amazon has added workforce management (WFM) to Amazon Connect. Aside from refusing to call the product by any industry-standard term, Amazon has built what looks to be a complete and capable WFM that will be easy to deploy for its customers.

Google

As for Google, it announced that it was expanding its Contact Center AI (CCAI) capabilities to become a full contact center CCaaS (contact-center-as-a-service) platform. It is doing this through an OEM relationship with UJET, a less-well-known provider that has built a solution that utilizes a modern microservices architecture. UJET positions itself as selling CCaaS 3.0 and boasts the ability to provide AI-powered orchestration, real-time data streaming to CRM systems for a single source of truth, and a fluid customer experience.

Two Behemoths, Two Approaches

Amazon announced Amazon Connect at Enterprise Connect in 2017, almost five years to the day before this most recent announcement. The Amazon Connect product is completely Amazon-built, starting with the contact center solution that the company built in house to support its own customers. As an Amazon-built product, it has direct access to Lex (speech recognition from Alexa) and the wide variety of AI capabilities that Amazon is building, as well as other Amazon services.

Google’s initial CCAI offering, released in late 2019, was all about AI. CCAI leverages Google’s Dialogflow to deliver customer-facing bots and agent assist applications. In the two-plus years since this announcement was made, Google has aggressively courted CCaaS vendors to leverage its offering to help bring AI to the contact center for many different uses. With this new announcement, it will have a comprehensive offering that it can sell directly to the contact center.

The difference in these announcements reflects how different the companies’ approaches to the contact center market are. Amazon has built and added workforce management to its own relatively mature and differentiated platform. This is a nontrivial function, important to contact centers. It has built up significant sales and marketing teams around the offering and has become a significant competitor in the core CCaaS space.

Amazon’s commitment to the CCaaS market continues to be clear. It is taking its own path as behemoths are wont to do, but it has been on that path steadily for the past five years. Adding WFM is a significant continuation of that journey. In addition, Amazon stands to gain from the ancillary products and services that companies will use to support their systems, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosting, AI capabilities, storage, and other services.

Google’s time on this path is shorter, only two years, and so far, its journey has been more tenuous. Through its OEM arrangement with UJET, it has become a full CCaaS provider in direct competition with its current partners. Like Amazon, Google stands to win on multiple fronts for any deal that includes CCAI. This will help it sell Google Cloud, Dialogflow, and Chromebooks, among many other things.

In informal polling of folks at Enterprise Connect on Google’s announcement, I heard two different comments repeatedly. One was that Google’s primary motivation was to drive more Dialogflow sales and that a fuller solution should help with that. The other thread was to wait and see how real its commitment is. Is this the start of Google doubling down on the contact center or just a quick experiment to see what happens? At the moment, this feels like a toe in the water. Will Google “fail fast” and move on, or is this a significant step on a committed path to being a contact center vendor? Let’s see what next year’s Enterprise Connect brings.

The original article by Max Ball, Forrester's principal analyst, is here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/rudall30