AWS Public Sector Blog

UT Austin connects students with answers faster using Amazon Connect

The University of Texas at Austin (UT) offers bachelor’s degree-seekers more than 170 fields of study across 13 colleges and schools. The College of Liberal Arts (CoLA) at UT offers students the largest number of majors of any college at the university. Students can choose from more than 40 majors in the humanities, social sciences, foreign languages, and interdisciplinary fields. Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services (LAITS) is dedicated to providing technology support for instruction, research, and administration throughout the College of Liberal Arts. This includes classroom technology, desktop computers, websites, networks and servers, application development, digital audio and video, and many other technologies, both old and new.

CoLA wanted to make it simple for students, faculty, and staff to contact support agents. It was also a priority to make sure the solution was scalable and could integrate with existing systems. The solution needed to provide visibility into real-time and historical metrics for agent and contact handling. Finally, the solution needed to provide the agility to adapt depending on rapidly changing business needs within a short implementation cycle.

LAITS used Amazon Web Services (AWS) to migrate to Amazon Connect in order to better meet contact center needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon Connect is an easy-to-use, omnichannel cloud contact center that organizations can use to simplify contact center operations. It provides a seamless experience across voice and chat for both customers and agents.

Deploying the contact center

The deployed solution focused on providing students and faculty with an efficient way to fulfill our support requests. This was achieved by providing multiple channels of communication, and integrating external chatbot services with Amazon Connect, thereby reducing chat and call hold times, and enabling human call center agents to focus on handling higher-value interactions.

Figure 1 illustrates the solution architecture. In addition to Amazon Connect, the solution uses AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

Figure 1 illustrates the solution architecture. In addition to Amazon Connect, the solution uses AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

Figure 1: The College of Liberal Arts contact center

The new contact center has simplified the process for students and faculty to request technical support. Students and faculty can use voice calling to reach the contact center for support and be automatically directed to the right queue. Students can use any device to request support using a chat function deployed on the Canvas learning management system (LMS). The chat feature is integrated with a chatbot service, and if the student’s request is not met by the chatbot, it is then transferred to the contact center, which directs it to the appropriate agent.

The contact center is set up to inform callers of university closures during holidays. The system can look up the university holiday list and messages to be displayed, which the university can simply configure and maintain on Amazon S3. The agents use a new custom control panel to handle both voice and chat requests, which allows agents to seamlessly support both communication channels without having to switch between applications. The audio recording and chat transcripts get stored in Amazon S3 for future analysis and review. Real-time metrics of activity in the contact center are available on Amazon Connect. For historical reporting, the call metrics are exported as daily and weekly reports in csv format.

Benefits of contact center using Amazon Connect

CoLA launched the new contact center on Amazon Connect at the same time most of the campus transitioned to working, learning, and teaching from home. Deploying the new contact center has had a major impact on overall student satisfaction, with the services delivered by LAITS. In an end of semester student survey conducted by CoLA for summer and fall 2020, 84 percent of students rated it as easy to resolve technical issues with online tech support. Student wait time dropped to less than 30 seconds to talk to an agent, compared to average wait times greater than 15 minutes before this solution implementation with similar staffing levels.

With the move to virtual learning, contact center call volumes more than quadrupled, but costs went down by nearly 30 percent. The new contact center has allowed LAITS to react more quickly to emerging outages and updates by quickly changing the call tree. We were able to roll out chatbot and chat support without taking on significant additional costs.

The implementation of the new cloud contact center helped the LAITS team with workforce development. This presented opportunities for members of our technology support team to meet and interact with colleagues from our developer team, which is great for career development and planning. This also opened up opportunities for members of the team to grow their skillsets by building reports, writing Lambda functions, and working with NoSQL databases like Amazon DynamoDB.

Creating your own contact center on Amazon Connect

To get started on your own contact center, see Get started with Amazon Connect. This gives you a step-by-step guidance on setting up a contact center in minutes. This can scale to support millions of customers from the office or as a virtual contact center. Amazon Connect has a community of technology partners who provide integrations that can be quickly deployed in a few simple steps. There are partner integrations for workforce management and organization (WFM/WFO), mapping and location services, sales and service (CRM), and more. There is also an extensive API reference guide for Amazon Connect to help you build custom integrations.

Figure 2 illustrates a typical solution architecture seen in higher education contact center deployment. With this deployment, students and faculty can choose between using chat or making a phone call to get their questions or concerns addressed. When they choose to chat with a contact center agent, they can do it at their own pace. Conversation context is maintained across both chat and voice, giving customers freedom to move between channels without forcing them to start all over again. The system can integrate with external systems. To achieve this, invoke Lambda functions in a contact flow, fetch the results, and call your own services or interact with other data stores or services.

Figure 2: Architecture for higher education contact center

While designing your contact center on Amazon Connect, you can take advantage of the integration capabilities represented in the architecture in figure 2. Your contact center can integrate with external systems for lookup and creation of incidents. For details, visit the integration of ServiceNow page. You can implement integration to lookup your holiday calendar and messages, and create a holiday calendar for implementation. You can easily integrate Amazon Lex chatbot to your connect center deployment. Consider enabling monitoring of live and recorded conversation. In addition to transcription of audio recordings, you can implement AI-powered speech analytics. To meet your reporting needs, track real-time details of events in your contact flow, and build analysis and reporting of contact by integrating with your other data sources in a data lake.

Learn more

The team at LAITS is excited to build on the success of migrating our contact center to AWS. We are looking at expanding our chatbot to a larger audience to assist faculty and staff. UT Austin has a data lake that we’re considering feeding our data from Amazon Connect using Amazon Kinesis. This will allow us to integrate contact center data with data from our incident management system, learning management system, and student information system.

For detailed architectural patterns, blogs, webinars, and presentations for building your contact center using Amazon Connect, visit the resources page. To learn more about AWS Cloud for higher education, visit the getting started page.

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Ashoo Shetty

Ashoo Shetty

Ashoo Shetty is a solutions architect at AWS. He is passionate about application modernization and building big data and analytical solutions. He guides customers to design and create innovative solutions that address customer business problems.

Antonino Cummings

Antonino Cummings

Antonino Cummings, PMP, is a technical project manager at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Working within the College of Liberal Arts, he is the principal project manager for LAITS’s desktop engineering team and consults with other units within the college to help them meet their technological needs.