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. Clients can 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 our on-going series about our Amazon Connect team, we hear from Senior Technical Consultant, Jack Sombeck.
Can you tell me a bit about your education and technical background?
I went to the University of Illinois where I started out studying civil engineering. I took a computer science class and I really liked it, so I ended up switching my major to computer science.
Afterwards, I worked at a small company that wrote IVR software that automated refills for pharmacies. Basically, people would call in, punch in a prescription number on their phone and the system would know what medication to refill. After a few years of that, I moved to Chicago and took a job at Clarity Consulting, which would eventually be bought by Perficient. That’s where I am currently, where I focus on building custom development solutions for clients.
What is your job title and can you explain a bit about what you do?
My official title is Senior Technical Consultant. It’s largely a developer role, but I do have the opportunity to lead projects in terms of the architecture and what technologies are used. I also have the chance to mentor, which involves getting new developers up to speed and giving them direction on features they’re building.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The first thing I’ll do is review my to-do list. Then I’ll jump into stand-ups, where we make sure everyone is on the same page about their work and that there’s nothing blocking them from progressing.
If there are any client meetings throughout the day that deal with technical requirements, I’ll attend those. The rest of the time I’ll be focused on my tasks. That could involve anything from setting up architecture, doing development work, working on contact flows, etc.
What is it about AWS that excites you?
As a developer, the fact that you don’t have to buy hardware or anything like that is nice because it makes it easy to experiment and set up solutions. You don’t need a large monetary investment to start. But the most exciting part about AWS for me is the ability to integrate with other services. With Amazon Connect, you can integrate with Lex bots or transcription services to improve the customer experience. That wasn’t really possible in contact centers before.
Can you tell me about a technical challenge you faced and how you solved it?
Learn the six most common pitfalls when upgrading your contact center, and how Amazon Connect can help you avoid them.
The biggest challenge I’ve worked on dealt with databases. A client had an outdated software system they were using for a pilot project. What happened was they ended up using the pilot in production and that’s where things got tricky. They kept storing huge amounts of data. Eventually, it reached a point where SQL couldn’t keep up with it and the application slowed to a crawl.
That’s when they pulled us in to help. At the time, I didn’t have a lot of experience with SQL. Having to come in and figure out what exactly SQL was doing – how the statistics worked, how the indexes worked, how it stored data – was a fairly complex challenge.
At the end of the day, the solution was that the client had to delete the data. There was no way for them to keep 20 terabytes of data stored away. In turn, that presented another challenge. We had to figure out how to delete it without having a lot of downtime. It’s not possible to delete large chunks of data without taking down the server.
That was the first time I’ve hit a problem where I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a solution going into it. This was an on premise solution – it didn’t involve Amazon Connect – but I wanted to share this because it’s an example of how our team was able to solve a very complex technical problem. It demonstrates that no matter the language, framework or database specifics, the Perficient team is solution-oriented above all else. If we don’t immediately know the answer to something, we’ll dive in and keep working until we arrive at a resolution.
What do you like most about working with clients?
When you’re a developer you sometimes forget there’s another person on the other side of the code. At the end of the day, there are people using the software, there’s someone who’s managing it and someone you’re solving a problem for.
What I’ve always liked about interacting with clients is the opportunity I have to get to the bottom of what their problems are, and then give them great solutions. A lot of the time, they’ll be thinking about their challenges in a different way and won’t know how to approach tackling them. I’m able to bring a different perspective to their challenges and together we’re able to figure out the best way to solve them. That’s always been my favorite part – the chance to make a client truly happy through problem solving.
Why is it important for contact centers to continue to evolve?
As with any industry, it’s definitely important to change with the time. The interesting thing with voice is if you’d asked me a few years ago “Do you think people will be phoning call centers?”, I would’ve said no. I didn’t think people would still be calling in. At that point, the push to build mobile apps and websites was the big trend.
However, all the natural language processing, things like Alexa, and the voice control that we have in our homes has kind of pushed the focus back to voice. Building contact centers that allow a customer to say what they want and then route them appropriately using AI is huge. It’s a cost-effective, scaleable way to create a better customer experience.
Do you have any advice to companies looking to switch to Amazon Connect but who might be hesitant to take that first step?
The easiest way to change anything is to start small. Nobody makes a big change in anything overnight. Amazon Connect is perfect for starting small. It doesn’t require a licensing fee, there’s no upfront equipment to purchase and maintain – you just jump right in, try it for a little bit, and then jump out.
I think the best thing to do is if your company has an interest in it, take one developer and go play around with it. Take one small feature of your business and see how it works within AWS. You can even create a really low cost pilot and track how that performs. Based on your experiences with that, you can then begin adding features and/or moving your larger contact center over.
People get into trouble when they try to do a full shift of anything all at once. If you try to take your entire business model and move it over in a week, that’s going to be difficult. That’s why I always recommend companies start slow and then scale.
I understand the hesitation. Contact center companies are used to owning their phone lines and systems. There is so much new technology involved these days, it can be overwhelming. In order to tackle that overwhelm and build up confidence, don’t try to run before you can walk. Get one tiny part of your business working, put it into production and then start adding to it.