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CRM Service Awards: Rising Stars
For the rest of the March 2013 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Businesses that are not meeting customers on their preferred interaction channels or making transactions easier for them are going to find it harder to survive. Whether they create products specifically for mobile platforms or craft solutions for multichannel environments, companies offering innovative answers are clearly the ones to watch.

Not surprisingly, our 2013 Rising Star awardees are meeting these customer demands—and more.

A nearly 130-year-old company shows it isn't set in its ways by debuting a banking innovation that offers the benefits of a teller with the convenience of an ATM, and giving restaurants immediate access to customer concerns so they can address them more quickly.

A firm best known for cloud-based IVR and contact center solutions is "catapult[ing] into mobile customer care," one analyst says, by bringing a virtual personal assistant into the business realm, enabling companies to have conversations with customers in whole new ways.

With consumers reaching out via multiple channels, another Rising Star offers customer service departments "a seamless integration" between live chat, social media, online communities, email, and the telephone.

Smart acquisitions can be just as important as offering innovative solutions. Our fourth Rising Star boosted its contact center offerings through three acquisitions this year, and introduced a tool to help contact center managers do their jobs more effectively.

With on-the-go consumer and business environments becoming more pervasive, companies that can not only keep up with customer needs, but anticipate them, will come out ahead. This year's Rising Stars are prime examples of how to do just that.

A Siri-like Voice for Business

Angel's Lexee virtual assistant application could do for businesses what Siri did for the consumer market

In an increasingly dynamic and mobile world, our mobile devices have become extensions of ourselves, providing 24/7 access to information, entertainment, and, of course, one another. For many, a speech-enabled virtual assistant, such as Apple's Siri, offers a quicker, easier, and more fun way to get driving directions, weather reports, flight information, restaurant recommendations, and appointment reminders.

While Apple is credited with bringing these apps to the mainstream, its Siri for the iPhone is largely a consumer application.

That's where Lexee is different. Launched in August 2012 by Angel—a company best known for cloud-based interactive voice response (IVR) and other contact center solutions—the Lexee personal assistant app goes beyond the usual virtual assistant and empowers businesses to have conversations with their customers in a whole new way. Lexee is a self-service application for iOS and Android mobile devices that voice-activates any company's mobile applications. And Lexee is backed by Angel's Caller First Analytics, enabling businesses to measure the effectiveness of their mobile apps in real time.

The app also comes with the Lexee software development kit, a Web-based point-and-click application that leverages Angel's Site Builder to help companies build conversational, personalized voice solutions and adjust mobile solutions depending on customer needs or market changes. Lexee also offers multichannel support to ensure that any interaction a customer has with it will be reflected on any of the other customer service channels. It can even accommodate voice biometrics to authenticate each user's voiceprint.

"Angel is doing groundbreaking work surrounding natural interfaces for phone-based self-service, initially by leveraging its links to MicroStrategy analytics and business intelligence," says Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research. "Lexee is designed to catapult them into mobile customer care, providing tools and a run-time platform for Siri-like personal virtual assistance services originating from the growing population of smartphone users. Lexee gives a high-profile presence to some very interesting initiatives at Angel to leverage Angel's long-standing, cloud-based resources for multichannel customer care."

And while Lexee is an entirely new product, it was just one of several innovations to come from Angel in the past year. The company in December introduced Angel Outbound Campaign Manager, a new Web interface that enables businesses to build, manage, and measure proactive outbound customer communications. With the cloud-based interface, powered by Angel's CX Analytics, businesses can create conversations with customers, gain valuable insight into customer preferences, and provide a more personalized customer experience.

Also new this year was the Angel Cloud CTI Adaptor, which sends a screen pop that includes relevant customer information, such as product history, preferences, and past conversations, to an agent's desktop during customer calls.

Earlier in 2012, the company released Angel Caller First Analytics for the iPad and expanded its business intelligence reporting suite with a map dashboard. With it, businesses can access valuable historical and real-time customer call data on the go, see how voice applications are being used, identify application performance issues, and drill down to the individual call recording level to listen to specific customer interactions.

All this came after Angel completed 2011 with 35 percent year-over-year revenue growth. With a focus on innovation through the creation of Angel Labs, expect the company to pioneer many other breakthrough technologies in the future.

Angel, a subsidiary of MicroStrategy
President | David Rennyson
Founded | 1999
Headquarters | Vienna, Va.
Revenue | $27 million
Employees | 150
Customer count | 1,600

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