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4 Ways to Get Contact Center Capabilities into Microsoft Teams

For enterprises that are looking to get the most out of their current (or future) contact center service and Microsoft Teams environment, integrating these systems might seem like a natural next step. But as Microsoft MVP Randy Chapman, solutions architect & consultant for Symity, shared at Enterprise Connect, understanding the pros and cons of the different ways to integrate contact center capabilities into Teams is crucial to realizing the benefits of a combined system.
 
Just as integrating other systems together — like contact centers and CRMs — integrating contact center service into Teams comes with several potential benefits, Chapman noted. In time, contact centers can potentially leverage Teams features in their operations. For instance, agents could receive calls, emails, chats, and SMS within Teams as a chat, and supervisors can view the number of agents working and calls in the queue from a single window.
 
But integrating contact center and Microsoft Teams is more than just leveraging Teams voice options, Chapman explained “The fact that you use Teams for your telephony really doesn’t matter,” Chapman said. “It's just a PBX at the end of the day, but there are ways to integrate [contact center into Teams].”
 
When it comes to integrating contact center into Teams, Chapman notes that enterprises have several options which can be sorted into four categories. These include:
  1. Native Teams: Currently, Microsoft has two pathways to get contact center capabilities into Teams, including Auto Attendants & Call Queues and Voice Enabled Channels. The Auto Attendants and Call Queues options have been around since voice-enabled Teams was called Cloud PBX Phone System, Chapman says. For native Teams options, Microsoft recently released Voice Enabled Channels, which Chapman said, “lives on top of the auto attendant and call queues” and provides a call queue for Teams channels. With this option, users will have access to a calls tab, a dial pad, call history, and able to view agents’ status within Teams.
  2. Connect to Teams: With the connect model, enterprises use a combination of session border controllers (SBCs) and Direct Routing to get calls into the contact center and hunt for an agent in Teams. This can be done either with a web-based contact center app within Teams or with an installed client. For pros: this option has a range of solutions to choose from, offers both on-prem or cloud options, it’s not dependent on API releases, and it comes with established features. The cons to this model include needing an SBC, paying for two SIP channels (a SIP channel to go to the contact center and then one from the contact center back to Teams), and it’s reliant on older technologies so it’s not a forward-thinking solution, Chapman explained.
  3. An extension of Teams: The extend model uses APIs and the Microsoft Graph to integrate the contact center into Teams, allowing contact center providers to deliver calls directly to Teams at the backend. This can be done either in the Teams app or a contact center vendor app within Teams. Pros for the Extend model include: no need for an SBC or routing, a cloud-first option, speedy deployment, a host of existing and forthcoming vendor services, and compatibility with Direct Routing, Calling Plan, and Operator Connect. However, the cons include a longer roadmap, the service is dependent on APIs that might have an uncertain timeline, and it could be missing features due to the lack of APIs.
  4. Powered by Teams: With the power model, solution providers can create native Azure-based voice applications using the Teams calling infrastructure and client platform. This allows providers to create interfaces that are familiar to the company’s Teams users. Pros for this solution include: no need to have an SBC for routing, speedy deployment, a Teams foundation, a cloud-only solution, and the abilities to work with with Direct Routing, Calling Plan, and Operator Connect. Cons for this model: it's dependent on APIs and SDKs with uncertain timelines, and vendors are currently waiting for SDKs, which means a company could be missing workflow-specific features due to the lack of APIs.
When deciding on which option to go with for your enterprise, Chapman said you should consider several things before going all-in on an option. He highlighted the importance of taking into consideration three separate implementation steps: rolling out training and adoption of the new service, assessing the product roadmap for the future, and assessing your resiliency and disaster recovery plans.
 
“It's not just a case of designing a training course that kind of fits all of your users,” Chapman said. “You need to make sure that it's actually effective. And when you're using Teams, you need to make sure that they're getting the most out of all the features you'd want to leverage in the organization.”
 
When it comes to making a contact center decision, you need to consider the whole customer journey, Chapman noted. "That's the way you should design an effective contact center — put yourself in the shoes of the caller." Only then can enterprises make the most of their combined contact center and Teams environment.

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