IP Communications Provider Angel Launches Customer Experience Platform

By Adam Stone | Aug 2, 2010 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/unified_communications/IP-Communications-Provider-Angel-Launches-Customer-Experience-Platform-3896326.htm

Founded 11 years ago, telecom provider Angel.com recently rechristened itself simply as Angel, in a move the company says will give it greater resonance among enterprise customers.

That change reflects an effort to climb from midmarket to large-scale users. This week Angel bolstered that agenda with the release of Angel 4 Customer Experience Platform, a product meant to improve efficiency and enhance the contact center experience through a multi-modal approach to communications.

The multi-modal interface expands the options for enterprise users looking to connect with their callers. Using Angel 4, a caller "may get a call and text back, they may get an e-mail, they may reply with text," said Vice President of Marketing Don Keane.

The company's enterprise clients already include Pfizer, Macy's, Starwood, and Barnes & Noble. An operating division of MicroStrategy, Angel boasts over 1,000 customers and revenues of about $20 million a year. Its core product is a suite of applications including an interactive voice response system and contact center functionality.

Capabilities of the new offering include a range of channel options and plug-ins to bridge the gap between enterprise and customer. These include SMS, chat, Web, mobile, e-mail, and phone communications. Plug-in options include voice biometrics, name and address capture, phone payment solutions, seamless CRM integration, workforce management, real-time transcription, and computer telephony integration.

The company is especially sanguine regarding its voice biometrics tools, which could help authenticate physicians writing prescriptions over the phone, for example. They might also be used to recognize credit card users seeking account information.

"There is going to be a massive explosion of voice biometrics in the next three years," Keane said. To get a jump on that demand, Angel called in outside help to build out its voice capabilities.

Nuance of Burlington, Mass. provided speech recognition tools, while Boston-based Holly Connects assisted with the speech portal, and VoiceVault supported voice biometrics functions. "We wanted to get the best technology out there as fast as we could," Keane said. "With biometrics, it would have taken us a couple of years to build out that technology."

While eager to get product on the street, the Angel team nonetheless engaged closely with clients to assess the market need, before forging ahead.

Recently for example Angel has worked closely with AstraZeneca to work out an efficient call center system. Angel team members sat in on call center operations, interviewed managers and agents and listened in on recordings to see what functions could or could not be automated.

"They may get call after call after call about X and it is the most basic question, and yet callers have to sit in the queue and the representatives have to take their time to answer this basic question. It’s not a good experience for anyone. That is something we can easily automate," said Angel Director of Marketing Dave Toliver.

Underlying all these efforts is the company's decision to operate on a cloud (remote, virtualized server) platform. While cloud computing is growing in prominence, it still is relatively uncommon in the communications space, compared to standard hosted communications services.

That stance gives the company certain advantages, executives say. Perhaps most significantly, Angle is able to offer an accelerated deployment. "When companies are deploying an on-premise offering, it can take months for them to design, whereas we can deploy much more efficiently because our infrastructure is already so complete," Keane said. "An average time for a fully broadbrand deployment like we did for Pfizer—we can do it in 30 days."

The cloud platform also gives managers on the client side an edge over more traditional hosted plans, where the host may take some time to deploy changes or may limit the number of changes in a given month, Keane said. Thanks to the cloud, "you can access Angel and configure it and change your application design at any given time, anywhere you can get an Internet connection."

Cloud still comes with a price, however, in the form of lingering market uncertainty. Comprehension of the cloud is far from complete, and that still can be a sticking point in the effort to land new business. "There are always questions around security, questions around ownership. There still is an overall education that needs to happen," Toliver said. "But all those things are fading."