What is a Microsoft Teams contact centre?

For organisations requiring a rich feature set for their contact centre, Microsoft offers contact centre integration or “Bring your own contact center solution” which works with Microsoft Teams Phone System.

A light-level feature set is available with Microsoft Teams “call queuing”, a function with three main features: businesses can build custom greetings, play music to their callers waiting on hold, and configure a shared voice mailbox. In late 2021 Microsoft also released a CRM-based queuing system.

In Microsoft’s own words, “For organizations that want solutions with business tools and workflows to drive the customer journey” a Microsoft Teams contact centre is typically a contact centre solution provided by a company other than Microsoft. This solution is integrated with your Microsoft Teams platform, for example from a specialist third-party contact centre provider like Enghouse. A Microsoft Teams contact centre provider should be a Microsoft-certified Partner who can deliver a natively integrated contact centre solution on the Microsoft Teams platform.

How does a Microsoft Teams contact centre work?

A Microsoft Teams contact centre via a third-party provider works in the same way that contact centre or call solutions have always worked with legacy telephone systems (for example, Cisco, NEC, Avaya etc), that is, via a unique API (application programming interface) from the platform provider. In practice, the phone system or voice platform receives the call, and passes it to the contact centre solution, which then uses its own more sophisticated routing engine to deliver the call to the right person. While a basic phone system, and even Teams, can only provide very simple call routing, a designed-for-purpose contact centre solution can do much more. There are several features that a telephony platform can’t provide, that can only be offered in Teams via a third-party Microsoft Teams contact centre.

What are its benefits?

A Microsoft Teams contact centre allows agents to easily seek and obtain assistance from colleagues, either individuals or teams. For example, an agent who needs expert help from the Marketing department about the website can simply send a chat to a specifically created Marketing group on Teams, to be picked up by one of the group members.

Benefits of using a Microsoft Teams Contact Centre that is integrated with Teams include:

  • Contextual voice announcements (as well as music) for callers while they wait
  • Intelligent rules-based routing (dynamically routing calls differently based on predefined priorities for different dial-in numbers and/or recognised callers, times of day, call volumes etc – not just the next person in a group)
  • Omnichannel queuing across a range of channel options such as email, SMS, webchat, video, messenger apps and social media – as well as voice
  • Call monitoring (authorised supervisor listening) and whisper coaching
  • Real-time activity dashboards
  • Contact centre activity and performance analytics across all channels

Who is a Microsoft Teams contact centre suitable for?

A Microsoft Teams contact centre especially suits organisations looking to:

  • Maintain a single voice platform across all parts of the business including the contact centre
  • Enable staff to work effectively wherever they are located, including contact centre staff
  • Enhance Teams’ out-of-box standard routing with advanced, intelligent routing
  • Extend Teams’ native AI and analytics with built-for-purpose business intelligence providing real-time and historical performance and activity data
  • Widen the reach of the contact centre team to middle and back-office staff using Microsoft Teams’ collaboration tools
  • Unite the organisation to work together towards customer satisfaction and supporting your brand
  • Monitor, track and build actionable intelligence to improve outcomes

What is Teams calling for contact centres?

Microsoft Teams Calling for a contact centre is essentially the method used to empower contact centre users to make and receive calls in Microsoft Teams. Calls can be delivered to (and from) a Microsoft Teams contact centre via three primary models: Microsoft Teams Calling Plans, Microsoft Phone System Direct Routing or Microsoft Operator Connect. Each of these is described in more detail below, along with some considerations to help ensure you find the right model for your organisation.

Microsoft Teams Calling Plans

If you are thinking about a Microsoft Teams Calling Plan for your contact centre, you first need to understand if this option is available in your region.

Secondly, you need to consider the level of contact centre functionality your contact centre is looking for, to service your customers effectively. This is a critical consideration, because connecting a Teams contact centre via Microsoft Calling Plans uses Microsoft’s native Teams calling API (application programming interface) which may not necessarily provide the functionality your centre is looking for. Microsoft is actively developing this API, with regular updates being released, however it will take time to reach parity with the experience delivered to contact centres using, for example, the legacy Skype for Business API.

In the meantime, a fully featured contact centre to Microsoft Teams IS available right now from a small number of Microsoft development partners, fully endorsed by Microsoft, that uses the alternative model of call delivery to Teams, see below. Depending on the provider, this certified alternative already has a mature feature set that enables organisations to migrate seamlessly from their current platform to Teams.

For this reason, even if a Microsoft Calling Plan is available in your region, organisations who require rich contact centre functionality – will want to look at one of the other options for Teams Calling: either Microsoft Phone System Direct Routing or Microsoft Operator Connect.

Microsoft Phone System Direct Routing

Essentially this option allows you to use your own preferred telephony carrier to connect PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) calls to Microsoft’s Phone System Direct Routing. From here the calls will be delivered to your Enghouse contact centre (or other solution of choice).

With Direct Routing, you would also need to connect an SBC (Session Border Controller) to Microsoft Phone System. Depending on your Microsoft delivery partner or Systems Integrator, different options are available. Some will provide the SBC themselves while others opt to work with you and your own SBC.

Microsoft Teams Operator Connect

Microsoft Teams Operator Connect is another method of connecting PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) calls to Microsoft Phone System for Teams. Very simply, this option sits between Direct Routing and Teams Calling Plans, providing some of the benefits of Direct Routing while allowing organisations to choose their own carrier (from the list of operators in the Microsoft Operator Connect program) and manage their own communications, or have their integrator manage them on their behalf.

Learn more about Enghouse Interactive’s Microsoft Teams contact centre.