ACP: The Amazon Connect Podcast

10: Arie Hazekamp, Amazon Connect

May 27, 2024 Tom Morgan Episode 10
10: Arie Hazekamp, Amazon Connect
ACP: The Amazon Connect Podcast
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ACP: The Amazon Connect Podcast
10: Arie Hazekamp, Amazon Connect
May 27, 2024 Episode 10
Tom Morgan

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This week we are joined by special guest Arie Hazekamp, a Senior Partner Solutions Architect from AWS, all the way from sunny Barcelona. Arie shares his journey into the world of AWS and Amazon Connect, highlighting the transformative impact cloud technology has had on customer experience solutions. The episode delves into the essential role of AWS partners and the resources available for partners looking to innovate and succeed with Amazon Connect.

Additionally, the conversation turns to the hot topic of generative AI, exploring its applications within contact centers, including agent assist, supervisor assist, self-service, and operational efficiencies. Arie offers insights into choosing the right generative AI services, like Amazon Q and Bedrock, and emphasizes the importance of companies understanding their use cases and data readiness when adopting these technologies. 

This episode is packed with valuable advice for anyone looking to navigate the evolving landscape of cloud-based contact center solutions and generative AI, as well as existing and potential partners.

Find out more about CloudInteract at cloudinteract.io.

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

This week we are joined by special guest Arie Hazekamp, a Senior Partner Solutions Architect from AWS, all the way from sunny Barcelona. Arie shares his journey into the world of AWS and Amazon Connect, highlighting the transformative impact cloud technology has had on customer experience solutions. The episode delves into the essential role of AWS partners and the resources available for partners looking to innovate and succeed with Amazon Connect.

Additionally, the conversation turns to the hot topic of generative AI, exploring its applications within contact centers, including agent assist, supervisor assist, self-service, and operational efficiencies. Arie offers insights into choosing the right generative AI services, like Amazon Q and Bedrock, and emphasizes the importance of companies understanding their use cases and data readiness when adopting these technologies. 

This episode is packed with valuable advice for anyone looking to navigate the evolving landscape of cloud-based contact center solutions and generative AI, as well as existing and potential partners.

Find out more about CloudInteract at cloudinteract.io.

Tom Morgan:

It's time for another episode of ACP. And I'm joined as usual by Alex. Hello, Alex. How are you?

Alex Baker:

Hi, Tom. Yeah, good. Thank you. You.

Tom Morgan:

Good. Yeah, very well. Thank you. And even better for being joined today by Arie. Arie Hazekamp all the way from Barcelona. I had to check the weather for Barcelona and it is lovely. So we're in the UK is grey and cloudy. Arie, I expect it's sunny and warm there.

Arie Hazekamp:

Absolutely. It's another really great day here in Barcelona. Great to be here with you, Tom and Alex.

ACP_Episode_10-Tom_Morgan-webcam-00h_00m_00s_779ms-StreamYard:

Wonderful. That's great to have you. I'm really excited to get into some of your thoughts and what you do. You know, as a, as a senior partner solutions architect before we do though, I know Alex has got some updates for us. So yeah, over to you, Alex.

ACP_Episode_10-Alex-webcam-00h_00m_00s_439ms-StreamYard:

Thanks Tom. Yeah. One little update to mention from the, the release notes from April. Nice little update for reporting purposes, I guess. Now voice contacts that are rejected by an agent have a state of rejected. So they used to have a state of error, which I think was slightly, that had some ambiguity in that there might be other. Other occurrences where you get that, that error state come up. Now they have their own state of rejected, which matches chat and task contacts. But it just means you can keep that real close eye on if, if an agent for some reason is, is rejecting contacts. If they don't have auto answer switched on, you can specifically report on that in your, your custom reporting applications. And I guess possibly in the, the out of the box reporting, we'll have to take a look at that. But yeah, nice, nice little update there.

Tom Morgan:

Yep. No, that sounds good. Better reporting for everyone is good. And yeah, so it sounds like it makes sense. Put them in the same bucket as rejecting chats and things like that. So yeah, that all sounds, sounds good. All right. So Arie so you work. Inside AWS, you work as a solution architect within Amazon Connect. How, how did that journey happen for you? How did you get into working with Connect in the first place?

Arie Hazekamp:

By accident, to be honest the honest So I, 2019, I was working for a global systems integrator out of Cape Town in South Africa as a CX solution architect. So focused on customer experience, very much the traditional, On premise solutions, the time, the business asked me to investigate what AWS was doing in this space, specifically with regards to Amazon Connect, it was still relatively new. On the block at the time I'm sure as both of you will understand, once you start delving into AWS, there are many rabbit holes. You go down. There's a lot to learn. So that essentially is what happened. I started looking at what AWS offered, what Amazon Connect was capable of that led to a whole bunch of certifications and studying and learning. And I realized as. I was on this journey that everything was kind of changing for me, the way I was looking at customer experience and providing customer experience solutions was changing. It, it almost was like a clean slate that, that happened

Tom Morgan:

Changing because things could innovate, like things could iterate faster or like configuration changes were easier or like, what was the difference?

Arie Hazekamp:

So to me, the, the biggest standouts were just, I'll put it in a couple of words was speed, agility, being able to do something quickly, not having to wait for infrastructure to be built or spun up, and then also the ability to innovate really quickly. So by removing that undifferentiated heavy lifting, as we say within AWS of looking after infrastructure, suddenly you could really focus on business value and business outcomes. So, yeah, that, that, that kind of was the spark that went off for me.

Tom Morgan:

Yeah. It is quite freeing, isn't it? To think what would. What would really help this business if we took away all of the, the effort that's associated, or you assume is associated with this, you know, doing this thing. If it's actually, it's, it's relatively easy to configure and get going with, and you don't have to provision servers. You, you don't have to worry about them running and looking after them and patching them and updating them and all those things. It, yeah, it can be quite. Kind of liberating, I suppose,

Alex Baker:

What was your interested? What your, your sort of technology background was before you got into AWS? Arie, the reason I ask, and I, I've probably kind of banged on about this on podcasts in the past, but my background is in Cisco and that sort of game changer moment for me was when I could just put my credit card details into AWS and stand up a contact center and be playing with it within a few minutes.

Arie Hazekamp:

Yeah, look, at the time I was primarily involved with the likes of Cisco Avaya Genesys. You're, you're more traditional contact center people. Players, I would say but yeah, connect, as you say, Amazon connect embodies or provides all the cloud benefits that we talk about when we talk about cloud, you know, agility, cost savings, no upfront costs, as you said, it's all consumption based. So switch on, switch off and you pay for what you use. Elasticity, being able to, to scale as needed, not sitting with, unused capacity in times of, of maybe low usage, and then again, being able to burst when, when you need to. Innovation, being able to innovate quickly, that heavy lifting is removed, focus on solving business problems, focus on providing great CX to your customers, but also great employee experiences. And then, you know, being able to very quickly use the service globally was another thing that really spoke to me. And I think what I would add to that is also the ability to really easily utilize the depth and breadth of services that AWS provides. Especially in today's, you know, I'm sure we'll talk about generative AI at some points

Tom Morgan:

of course, every, every episode it's mandatory.

ACP_Episode_10-Alex-webcam-00h_00m_00s_439ms-StreamYard:

Silence.

Arie Hazekamp:

but these are things that are really easy to hook up with your contact center.

Alex Baker:

It was quite a, quite a bold move by AWS really to have the confidence in it to say, look, we're not going to charge you anything to set it up. We're not going to lock you into any long term contracts. We're really confident that. It brings so many benefits that actually you're not going to need to be sort of locked into anything like that.

Arie Hazekamp:

Yeah. couldn't agree more.

Tom Morgan:

And so, so, so you went, you went from looking into it to loving it, to working there and, and, and is that how that journey went? Like, was it just like that?. Arie Hazekamp: well, again, it kind I I left the GSI I was working at. I joined a AWS partner based out of Australia who provided solutions on top of Amazon Connect. I was with them for probably about nine months, and I got a call from AWS saying, we've got an application from you that's a few months old, but are you interested? My nature is. Pretty much to always kind of test myself, look what's, what's on the other side of the door. It's not easy to get into AWS. It's quite a process which I went through and I am now where I am. You know, part of the, role was also relocation from Cape Town to Spain, to Barcelona. Which is an adventure on its own, learning a new language, That feels like that could be a whole different episode for like, probably a different podcast, but yeah, that must I sent up people, right? Yeah. Yeah.

ACP_Episode_10-Arie_Hazekamp-webcam-00h_00m_00s_515ms-StreamYard:

So yeah, I

ACP_Episode_10-Alex-webcam-00h_00m_00s_439ms-StreamYard:

Sorry, just interested on in that point, was it that sort of Barcelona was the target location or did you have a sort of choice of somewhere in, in a mirror or, or the Europe should I say?

Arie Hazekamp:

think the original target location was in the UK. I've lived in London, kind of late nineties, early 2000s for a few years, I didn't really want to go back to London. I personally like the cold. My kids like the cold. We like to ski. I would have opted for a location in Northern Europe, but my wife really loves the sun. She loves beach. Spain offers us that and it's central. So, so Barcelona was, was a good choice.

Tom Morgan:

Yeah. Yeah. It's good. Easy to get to lots of other places from Barcelona for sure. But yes, and it is a beautiful city. You're right. Yes. Not jealous at all. Yeah. So now you're, so now you're a senior partner solutions architect. What is that?, what does a partner essay do?

Arie Hazekamp:

So for AWS, partners are incredibly important. You know, partners allow us to scale partners provide really valuable services to customers. Partners build amazing solutions on top of AWS services as a partner solution architect, my role is, you know, if I could put it into one sentence, it's to make partners successful.

ACP_Episode_10-Arie_Hazekamp-webcam-00h_00m_00s_515ms-StreamYard:

So partners like yourselves that are focused or not solely focused, but are focused on Amazon Connect as an example, I'm there for technical assistance, technical enablement, helping you understand roadmap, helping you with your strategy on solutions you may build. Building your center of excellence. So your practice, a big part of the role is also helping partners achieve competencies. So in Amazon connect space, that would be service delivery program. It could be connect ready. It could be helping a partner get a solution, through technical review and get it published on our marketplace. Where customers can easily transact and consume. We also have quite a big role of acting as trusted advisors, not only to the partner, but to customers too. Providing thought leadership through things like a podcast like this, maybe summits blog posts. These are all areas where we try and contribute to the community. We run an office hours with partners monthly to again, try and build that community. And I think lastly, we are also a mechanism for partners. as well as customers to feed back to the service teams who build the solutions. You know, within Amazon and AWS customer obsession, it's one of our leadership principles. Up to 90 95 percent of our roadmaps are built based on customer feedback. So it's really important for us to be able to bring that through to the service team as well as bring the service team closer to partners. Absolutely.

Alex Baker:

you get that. Customer feedback from the, the preview stage, which is probably a good few months where they're sort of putting it into POC and possibly even production workloads. We were speculating on whether that that customer input really drives how it looks when it comes to generally available, whether it sort of changes the features at all.

Arie Hazekamp:

The customer feedback is incredibly important.

Tom Morgan:

It's such a good position to be in. I think as a solution architect, you've kind of at that linchpin of that triangle of partners, customers, and then in the internal engineering teams. Cause I imagine you have great access into those teams as well , it's quite hard for each of those groups necessarily to talk to each other. You know, all the time, certainly openly and technically. But actually you, you can do that translation if you like between what the customers are saying, what the partners are offering and where, you know, Amazon can fill in the gaps., Arie Hazekamp: Yeah, Great summary. Sounds like a, sounds like a good job. How does it work? It's a, presumably it's a worldwide thing that the idea of having partner essays there's a, I know there's something about partnership tiers. Should you worry about that as a company or is it just based on your size you fall into a particular tier or is it something companies should take note of?

Arie Hazekamp:

I don't really, I don't think so. You know, the partner essay team is, as you said, it's global. So there will be equivalence of me in North America, in APJ. And we are, you know, as I said, we are there to help make partners successful. So as long as the partner is part of our partner network we are there to help now. The level of help might be different, right? Someone that is relatively new and just starting off with connect might get certain focus where another partner that's kind of well established and is diving really deep into certain features might get a different level of But ultimately I want the customer using our CX services to be happy and to do that, I help the partner to deliver the best they can.

Tom Morgan:

I think that totally makes sense as well. Like if you're, you know, if you're a small size organization, you're just starting out, like you, you need to, you need to dig into like the, the work that you do in the community, like the, the stuff you do that has broad reach as well, because like that stuff really helped.

ACP_Episode_10-Tom_Morgan-webcam-00h_00m_00s_779ms-StreamYard:

There's a lot of resources out there as well. It's unrealistic to expect like a dedicated one on one time all the time. But as you grow, like, yeah, as you say, or you get into specialisms, like we know partners we know we've spoken with partners on this podcast that have deep specialisms in particular areas. So yeah, that completely makes sense.

Alex Baker:

The great thing is that you mentioned your, your office hours sessions that you run Arie, and as far as I'm aware, they're, they're open to any, any partner you know, irrespective of size experience, they can join those and get that great insight into what's going on in the world of connect at the moment,

ACP_Episode_10-Arie_Hazekamp-webcam-00h_00m_00s_515ms-StreamYard:

Absolutely. And, one of the things any partner out there that is, is kind of thinking of starting to look at what AWS does. We have so much free training, free capability for you to onboard and upskill yourself. Thank you. And that, you know, goes from kind of skill builder training modules to workshops to blog posts. Our admin guide is really, really good and thorough. So there's a lot for a partner to consume. And then on top of that, as you said, you know, you need a credit card to set up an AWS account. It takes you 10 minutes to spin up Amazon Connect. And off you go, build and explore.

Alex Baker:

the skill builder one's a great one as well. I, I find it amazing that, you know, I could spend all of my time every day, every week doing skill builder courses. There's, there's just so much stuff in there. It's, it's quite incredible.

. Arie Hazekamp:

Keep an eye out. There's in, in, in the next 12 months or so, there's a lot of new content that'll be specifically in CX coming

ACP_Episode_10-Tom_Morgan-webcam-00h_00m_00s_779ms-StreamYard:

Nice. Nice. Okay. Definitely. Definitely. Keep an eye out for that. I don't want to give you more work. But , do you think companies and this might be partners might be customers? Do you think they use their partner? I say, effectively, like in general, or do you think they could do more? And if so, what, what should companies do to make the best use of their, their partner? I say, Okay.

ACP_Episode_10-Arie_Hazekamp-webcam-00h_00m_00s_515ms-StreamYard:

It's a difficult question. We have many partners like yourselves that really lean in and really engage a lot that is built on mutual trust between the partner SA and partner. I think one of the things that, that is, is fairly important for partners to understand is as a partner SA, I'm really there to help the end customer. Help the partner solve for the end customer. I'm not involved with commercials. That is something for the account management team. So I would encourage partners to, to definitely lean in, even if it's just to check in and keep those relationships going, it definitely helps. Do that, if I'll give you an example that maybe there's a new opportunity that AWS knows about, we have various mechanisms, obviously, to look at which partners are best suited for that, but a partner that is not engaging is almost invisible, essentially.

ACP_Episode_10-Tom_Morgan-webcam-00h_00m_00s_779ms-StreamYard:

Yeah, absolutely., it completely makes sense to engage. I think it, if only, I mean, for so many reasons, like the technical just stay on top of what's happening, having a technical ear to bounce ideas off and just say, look, with this, like, if we did, we think you're doing this is. Do you, you know, would you hate us if we did this? Like, you know, or yeah, like, and you might be like, well, I can't really tell you about a roadmap, but you know, like maybe don't do that. You know, or like, you know, look out for things that are coming or yes, that's a great idea. And by the way, I've got three customers who asked for that last week. Great, you know so absolutely I I'd second that, you know, use your partner. I say, I think because you're certainly for us, you're a very useful resource

Alex Baker:

It's sometimes nice to, to know where or where not to focus your, your effort, perhaps if you're developing something you might find out is, is then in the roadmap, which might be released as a native product. It might mean that you, you spend a little bit less time sort of fully developing that. It's useful to get that, that view of what's coming, coming down the pipeline later on.

Tom Morgan:

absolutely. I wanted to touch a little bit on, on how. You see the market cause you see it from lots of different lenses. As we sort of talked about earlier, you, you've got these different views into partner, partner world, customer world, and then internally to the engineering team. How do you see this market and how, how has connect, I mean, you've sort of referenced your, where you've come from and coming from those kind of on premise sort of legacy contact centers. How has connect changed how people buy contact centers? Like, are you seeing that? That shift still happening, speeding up, slowing down. Has it completely happened now? Like where, where are we on that? You know, what's your take on the market?

ACP_Episode_10-Arie_Hazekamp-webcam-00h_00m_00s_515ms-StreamYard:

Look, I think we are kind of still at early days of cloud adoption across the board, right? One thing that COVID did was. Suddenly there was this need for these contact centers that didn't exist a week before dealing with, with COVID related requests, a service like Amazon connect was perfect for that, spin it up very quickly, you know, within days or hours getting something going that served the public. So I still see that today. We, we had a A big financial institution in South Africa who recently switched their entire customer experience or client care facility from a legacy system to Amazon Connect within five days. Incredibly hard to do with the old environments. But connect and cloud allows you to do that. The important thing, though, is you need to look at it almost with a clean slate. I used to have the slide that I used to show of a blackboard with just some, you know, chalk wiped off. It's so different from the traditional way of doing business of implementing a contact center that it's important for customers to just keep that in

Alex Baker:

Do you find that. Because of the nature of connect and how it works and the billing model and everything that there is more of a shift from that traditional RFP type approach, which I'm sure we've all sort of sat through these massive questionnaires of does your product do this, that and the other. Is it more that, that people will try and source a contact center and kind of do it incrementally by smaller, doing smaller POCs and sort of taking a, taking a bite off that, that bigger transformation, or do you still see both?

Arie Hazekamp:

We definitely still see both. I think a lot of that traditional RFP style approach is, driven by holding on to the way things have been always done. Being trapped in that, that kind of way of thinking, right? For Connect, , we try and make it as easy as possible for a customer to spin something up, to move a bit of their workload to cloud while still keeping on premise going. As we said, no upfront costs, it's easy and quick to do. Switch it off if it doesn't work. It will work and it, it, it does a really good job and we've got many mechanisms to help that migration to happen quicker. I think we're going to see less of that traditional RFP. But at the same time, you know, it's still there, unfortunately.

ACP_Episode_10-Alex-webcam-00h_00m_00s_439ms-StreamYard:

Yeah, you've kind of got to, got to deal with that. If it's, if it's a way of going out to market, that's cool though. That's interesting. Getting your take on it. Thank you. We can't, well, you mentioned it earlier anyway, Arie, we can't, we can't sort of round off a podcast without having gone into AI and gen AI a little bit. I had one question around that in particular around the sort of contact center use cases. So we we've got, we know that we have Q, which is, Really nicely embedded within Amazon connect. We've also got services like Bedrock in the background , as a wider AWS service, which we know we can also integrate with connect. Talk to us a bit about which service makes sense perhaps for, for which application in the contact center, if you can.

ACP_Episode_10-Arie_Hazekamp-webcam-00h_00m_00s_515ms-StreamYard:

So within the Amazon Connect space, we look at a couple of use cases for gerontive AI. You've touched on one of them being agent assist. So Amazon Q and connect gives you a really nice way to use large language models and generative AI without needing the expertise to kind of build everything for agents assist capability. So as the customer, I say something large language model understands what that was, looks through your, your data and presents the agent with some information. The other view is supervisor assist, things like call summarization agent evaluations I'm sure I'm missing a few here, but so supervisor assist is another big area. And then you've got self service or customer assist, which I think for most businesses is the one that they're kind of all lean to initially. I would. Caution and make sure that your generative AI solution works internally before you focus it outside. Once someone's had a bad experience with, with, you know, maybe a chatbot that goes rogue, very

ACP_Episode_10-Tom_Morgan-webcam-00h_00m_00s_779ms-StreamYard:

true. So true. You get one, you get one chance to make a good first impression.

ACP_Episode_10-Arie_Hazekamp-webcam-00h_00m_00s_515ms-StreamYard:

Yeah. So and then lastly is around operational things. So we are seeing generative AI capability being used as an example with Amazon Lex, our chat bot, natural language, understanding service, using natural language to describe what you want. And then the bot gets built automatically in the backend being able to use. Generative AI to inform routing decisions. Also something, you know, it's kind of foundational. It's not the bright, sexy thing, but it adds a lot, a lot of value to answer your question, Amazon queue and connect very much internal facing. If you make use of Amazon bedrock and the large language models that sit behind that, it's a lot easier to expose that out to your customers.

Alex Baker:

Yeah, great way of looking at it. Yeah. And I love that it's made so easy with Q in connect just to, you know, it's, it's as easy as sort of taking a couple of boxes and maybe, Adding a block into a contact flow and you can set up your your, your agent assist using Q, which is great. Also like the way that Bedrock is kind of exposing all those different LLMs so that you can sort of experiment with the best one for, for your particular use case.

Tom Morgan:

yes. it's definitely, definitely exciting times, isn't it? And it feels like we're just getting started as well, which is interesting to see what the next 12 months brings.

ACP_Episode_10-Alex-webcam-00h_00m_00s_439ms-StreamYard:

It's

Arie Hazekamp:

Absolutely. Early days.

Alex Baker:

was a real kind of game changer, wasn't it? And you, you look at kind of Lex bots before the, the sort of introduction of gen AI to them sometimes looked a little bit prescriptive and maybe a little bit sort of one dimensional. Now you sort of throw that, that little flavor of gen AI into the mix. They, they become massively more interactive, I think.

ACP_Episode_10-Arie_Hazekamp-webcam-00h_00m_00s_515ms-StreamYard:

I would, I would definitely also just add that generative AI is not the answer to everything, right? So anybody looking at making use of these services, understand your use case, understand where the generative AI is the right thing. Understand which model is the right one to use. Look at the costs, look at the security, look at, you know, everything that surrounds that. And very importantly your solution's only as good as the data that you, you give it, right? So make sure your data's structured correctly, it's in the right format, it's not conflicting information, that type of thing will, will make your onboarding and the solution you present a lot easier to consume and a better, better experience overall.

ACP_Episode_10-Tom_Morgan-webcam-00h_00m_00s_779ms-StreamYard:

Absolutely. Yeah. Great, great advice. Yeah, definitely. This has been one of the fastest 30 minutes I've ever experienced. Could carry on talking about this all the time, but it is time to bring this episode to an end. Arie, thank you ever so much for your time.

ACP_Episode_10-Alex-webcam-00h_00m_00s_439ms-StreamYard:

Yeah. Thanks.

ACP_Episode_10-Tom_Morgan-webcam-00h_00m_00s_779ms-StreamYard:

Yeah.

ACP_Episode_10-Arie_Hazekamp-webcam-00h_00m_00s_515ms-StreamYard:

Absolute pleasure. Anytime, gents.

ACP_Episode_10-Tom_Morgan-webcam-00h_00m_00s_779ms-StreamYard:

Thank you very much, Alex, as well. And thank you all for listening today. We've been talking about AWS partner enablement with Arie Hasekamp. Next time on ACP, we're going to be talking to another Amazon Connect staffer. So be sure to subscribe in your favorite podcast player. That way you won't miss it. Whilst you're there, we'd love it if you would rate and review us. And as a new podcast, if you have colleagues that you think would benefit from this content, please let them know. To find out more about how Cloud Interact can help you on your contact center journey, visit cloudinteract. io. We're wrapping this call up now, and we'll connect with you next time.

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