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Perficient’s Amazon Connect Team – Mike Nolan

As a member of the Amazon Web Services Partner Network, Perficient combines cloud expertise with the power of AWS to enable quick access to innovative technologies. This allows our clients to spend more time on their core business competencies and less time worrying about the technology behind it.

A product within the Amazon Web Services platform, Amazon Connect creates powerful customer service solutions, providing an easy-to-use, cloud-based customer contact center that scales to support organizations of any size. We’re experts in the implementation, migration and on-going management of Amazon Connect services. In the first of what will be an on-going series about our Amazon Connect team, we interview Senior Solutions Architect Mike Nolan. 

Can you tell us about your education and technology background?

I went to Illinois State University, where I majored in Computer Science. From there, I started working at Clarity Consulting, a custom software consulting firm that would eventually get acquired by Perficient.  Over the last almost 7 years I have been focused on custom development for clients, and in the last year and a half I’ve been focusing specifically on call center solutions using Amazon Connect and AWS.

Speaking of roles, can you tell us a bit about your current role at Perficient?

My job title is Senior Solutions Architect and I’m in charge of delivery on the Amazon Connect Professional Services side of our company’s Customer Engagement practice.

What does a typical day look like for you?

To be honest, it varies a lot. It can range from recruiting, to working on statements of work (SOW’s), to doing quality assurance for customers, to working on internal efforts, to growing our brand on Amazon Connect. It all depends on where our priorities lay that particular week, what our project load looks like, or what our pipeline looks like.

If our pipeline is heavy, I’ll be working on SOW’s and scoping. Other times, we’re focused on hiring, so I’ll be doing a lot of interviews. If we have a lot of projects going on that require assistance help, I’ll focus on solution architecture. I’ll always be a developer at heart, but I now find myself more focused on management and bigger picture work.

What excites you about working with AWS and Amazon Connect?

I like how open ended AWS is. I like to think of AWS as a bunch of Lego blocks. Amazon is really good about giving you those Lego blocks and sitting back and letting you build with them. They don’t try to compose solutions that you think you might want. Instead, they give you the building blocks and the tools, and then let you come up with customized solutions that suit your specific needs.

Can you tell me about a technical challenge a client of yours had and how you overcame it?

We recently did some Amazon Lex work for a large food and beverage company. The way Lex works is you can build a simple bot that will recognize speech and determine a customer’s intention from what they say. We started out with a very simple version where we pre-loaded the bot with pretty common customer questions. But the real value in Lex is you can keep adding to it and iterating on it.

We ended up building a Lex continuous improvement model for the company.  This model would listen to the interactions of customers with the Lex bot and provide a recording to be used later.  Once the customer was routed to an agent, the agent had the ability to add or improve the “classification” of the call.

If the classification was not detected from Lex or the agent marked it as incorrect, it would be sent to an application administrator who could listen to the recording, see the transcripts of what the customer said, and pair that with how the agent classified the call.  The administrator then had the ability to add the utterance to an appropriate Lex Intent, improving it’s efficacy.

The really great thing about this continuous improvement model is we automated so much of it. The administrator doesn’t have to come back to us to update or program the new utterances into Lex. They have the freedom to make those changes on their own.

What do you like most about working with clients?

I like the diversity of work. There’s always a new challenge out there that keeps things interesting. It’s fulfilling to bring past experiences and knowledge together, allowing us to be the subject matter experts in the room. To be able to take all that and then exceed client expectations for what we’re delivering, that’s a great feeling.

One of the best things I hear comes from the people who aren’t necessarily managers, but they’re going to be using the applications we built every day. When they tell me ‘This is going to improve my day so much. It’s going to make my life so much easier.’ Well, that’s pretty fulfilling.

Do you think it’s important for contact centers to embrace change?

Absolutely. Amazon Connect took something that had existed in very traditional way for decades and disrupted it. Just in the way things operate, how quickly you can iterate, the different metrics you can pull out, and how effortlessly you can integrate with your existing systems? That wasn’t previously possible in contact centers.

Nowadays everything is so data focused. That’s how businesses are making their decisions. Contact centers are especially prone to taking direction from their data, so it’s great that Amazon Connect has made it so easy to do this.

Making the switch to using a cloud-based contact center solution is daunting. Do you have any advice to companies that are looking to change but don’t know where to start?

My biggest piece of advice is go get your hands dirty. I would encourage anyone wary of AWS to just sign up for a free account and build out a simple call flow. Once you see how easy it is for somebody that’s not an expert to put something together that meets a business requirement, I think that helps alleviate the hesitation.

Amazon Connect is really about bringing in a software methodology to call centers. It’s agile, it moves fast, it’s so quick to change and easy to scale. For example, I’ve heard about contact centers that wanted to change their hold music. It doesn’t seem like that would be a tough thing to do, right? But they’d have to submit a request and a different team would have to approve it and it would end up taking three months just to change the hold music. That’s not the case with Amazon Connect. You can do that in a minute.

For more information about how Perficient can help you get the most out of Amazon Connect, please contact us for a demo.

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