Over the last few years the telecommunications and call center industries have undergone radical changes. Telecommunications was mainly in the hands of national and regional telecom companies, which essentially owned all the cables in the ground. The call center market was dominated by a small number of vendors that provided on-premises systems to manage and route calls when they arrived at a company’s offices. The telecom model was in effect the first cloud-based service, though almost no one stopped to think about how a call made on one device arrived at another. The arrival of the internet and wireless technologies and the telecom companies’ willingness to lease capacity on their lines changed both models. Now almost any company can provide communication services, and the majority of contact center systems are cloud-based. In this evolution some organizations that previously were hidden behind the telecoms have emerged as suppliers of communications and contact center services.
One such company is USAN, which has been providing hosted communications and contact centers services for 22 years. It provided the foundation of Aspect’s contact center services but now offers its services directly to organizations. USAN aims to support two market segments – midsize contact centers (100 to 500 seats) and enterprise centers (more than 500 seats). The basic difference is that the midsize product is largely prepackaged with little opportunity for customization, whereas the enterprise version is customizable to meet large organizations’ requirements. That said, both versions are based on the same foundation platform, Metaphor Engage. It provides basic services to support multichannel engagement. It offers integration for applications and communication channels (existing and new channels), collects and analyses data from all supported channels, and offers business rules and analytics to personalize interactions, workflow, a user-friendly design tool to create personalized outbound interactions, and security and compliance tools to meet stringent business requirements. The platform was developed to support all known regulations for telecommunications and financial services. On top of the platform are reporting and analytics tools that use the data collected to provide customized reports for different users and uses, including customer journey maps that show which channels customers use to carry out particular tasks.
On top of these two layers are six products, some of which USAN developed and others that are based on third-party products integrated into the USAN suite:
- Metaphor Contact Center is based on the Enghouse Interactive contact center product. It provides extensive contact center management capabilities such as omnichannel management (voice, email, chat and video), routing, recording, quality management and real-time and historical reporting.
- Metaphor IVR+ supports touchtone, voice-activated and hybrid IVR capabilities.
- IVR Fraud Vision analyzes data collected across channels to detect potential fraudulent actives. These services have been enhanced with Positive ANI (automatic number identification) Signature, which facilitates sign-in for trusted customers by recognizing who is making the inbound call.
- Metaphor Workforce Management, based on the Teleopti product, provides capabilities to manage all aspects of the workforce that handles interactions, including performance management, analytics and gamification.
- Metaphor Mobile IVR is a mobile app that provides extensive IVR capabilities, including table setup and management, voice prompts to guide users through the applications, and follow-up via SMS/Mobile.
- Metaphor SecurePay is a mobile app unique to USAN that supports secure collection of payments through a mobile app while the caller is engaging with an agent.
Together these capabilities present what is now being termed a customer engagement platform – an integrated set of applications that manage all aspects of engaging with customers, including channel and workforce management, analytics and reporting, and integration with third-party business applications to access customer data, plus a few extras. The Enterprise version is backed up by extensive professional services to help organizations set up and operate the products, and get full value from them.
Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that organizations face a variety of issues in providing omnichannel customer engagement. Chief among them are difficulty in integrating systems (for 49%), managing channels as silos (47%) and dealing with responses that are inconsistent across touch points (33%). The USAN Engage platform provides a basis to support integration both internally and with third-party products, as well as connecting channels of engagement. It also supports collaboration between users, which if used correctly should help increase consistency of responses. Analytics capabilities that bring together and evaluate all customer data can provide more complete views of customers on which to base actions and decisions. USAN is not a widely known name, but I recommend that organizations trying to improve customer engagement add it to the list of vendors they assess to help those efforts.
VP & Research Director Customer Engagement