16 October 2020

Teams Contact Center. What are the costs, and where is the value?

By: Geomant

In 2020, the need to reappraise the way we approach contact center technology is more significant than ever before. Traditional PBX type contact centers, designed around lots of agents in the same room using an on-premise infrastructure, were already starting to look outdated with the proliferation of cloud-based solutions coming on to the market. However, the global pandemic has supercharged the adoption of collaboration tools, with Microsoft Teams the clear leader from SMEs all the way to enterprise.

Microsoft has also made it clear that Teams and the Azure cloud is at the heart of its technology roadmap, which makes a Teams-based contact center the natural choice for many businesses today.

In this article, we will uncover what it will cost to install a Teams contact center and where the value lies for businesses of all sizes.

What makes up the costs of a Teams Contact Center?

A Teams-based contact center has four components that make up the cost:

1. An M365 user license

2. Voice add on or a direct routing solution

3. Microsoft Advanced communication license

4. Teams Contact Center SAAS subscription (and any options you pick)

Let’s explore each one of these components in turn:

To support a voice channel, you need to have the voice feature either included in your plan or you need to buy it as an add-on. As things stand, this means an E5 or E1, E3 M365 user license with a voice feature. You’ll find more information and a list of options at docs.microsoft.com.

If an out-of-the-box voice add-on doesn’t suit you (maybe you have a large amount of international calling to do or you have the requirement to use your own SIP trunk), then it is also possible to enable voice using a direct routing solution. For many traditional contact center users, this can be an attractive option as it will enable you to continue using some of your existing infrastructure and amortize this investment over a longer time frame.

To support the advanced features, of which a contact center system uses many, and to enable recording, you also need the Advanced Communications license. This costs $12 per user per month and you can read more about it here in another of our articles. Plenty of rumours are circulating that suggest there might soon be changes here, but this is the way things stand right now.

As Teams is a subscription-based SaaS solution, the connected contact centers follow the same pricing pattern. However, there are quite a few pricing models on the market and we can help you navigate them.

How to use Microsoft Teams for Customer Service

What are the pricing options of a Teams Contact Center?

So, let’s take a closer look at the two main pricing models on the market.

Base price [plus users]: In some cases, there’s a system-wide base price with the solution and user-based licenses combined. This system-wide price is usually governed by channel types or the number of concurrent channels. Although, it can just be a core license regardless of the number of agents or channels.

Per user [plus options]: So, what about the solutions that do not have a core pricing model? These usually come with a minimum number of agents. (Either way, the provider is simply trying to cover the cost of its initial investment in the infrastructure.)

There are other solutions that will charge you extra for access to supervisor and reporting functionality, but often, subject to the number of agents you have, you will receive access to a number of supervisor licenses as part of the deal.

Digging deeper into user-based licenses

With user-based licenses, you’ll often find you have lots of options to choose from. It’s quite common to have an assortment of different features wrapped up into bundles. Some offer a menu and the opportunity to cherry-pick any of the features you want for a bespoke solution. While others offer a mix of the two with set bundles and additional add-ons such as CRM integration or API access.

It’s worth noting the difference between concurrent and named licenses. The former invariably cover the highest number of agents who are using the system at a given time, while the latter requires you to have a license for every user – each one having the freedom to log in at any time.

Utility licenses

Would you like even more options? There are ‘utility’ licenses, based on the amount of traffic. This could apply to voice minutes or the number of messages for digital channels.

Whichever option you find most appealing, it’s worth remembering that, notwithstanding special offers, a solution cannot be sustainable if the cost of providing it is not covered. So, always take a good look at what is and isn’t included in your preferred package before you commit.

It isn’t just about adding - you also have to remember to take things away!

As most Teams contact centers are delivered from the cloud, all the costs that would have to be paid separately with an on-premises solution are, not surprisingly, covered in the license.

This includes server hosting (rack space, cooling and electricity), hardware, OS and prerequisites such as database or storage. Plus, of course, the required IT operation and initial internal implementation cost. It is easy to forget the internal cost savings and costs that can be removed from central IT budgets and these need to be taken into account when assessing the true cost of a Teams Contact Center system.

Scalability

The better SaaS solutions use an infrastructure that’s scalable both horizontally and vertically, with the cost of hosting matching the number of users. Infrastructure is now easily scalable on platforms like Azure, enabling different levels of CPU, memory and storage on demand. This provides more flexibility with costs than an on-premises solution.

On top of the basic hosting architecture, there are some additional resources like traffic management, API Management and security resources that are likely to incur an extra cost. Again, unlike an on-premises solution, these can be scaled according to your business needs.

These services can always be consumed from the cloud as part of your Teams contact center solution. In most cases, the charges will be based on usage and won’t be separately itemized on the invoice.

Instead, they will be included in the core, agent or usage-based license. This applies to services like Azure Bot Services and Azure Cognitive Services. There are some digital channels like WhatsApp where the cost will depend on the region, so if you are targeting any international markets then that’s something else you’ll need to consider.

How will a Teams Contact Center provide value for my business?

We can summarise the value a Teams-based system provides into six main areas:

1. Value: We have talked a lot about costs, but it is worth remembering that the overall cost of a Teams-based system will be significantly lower than that of a traditional contact center because we rely on the UC that is already being used.

2. Better integration with the rest of the business: Rather than being marooned on a separate system or reliant on call transfers, agents can access the same channels, features and internal chat functionality as all other employees, putting people and information at their fingertips (within the user permissions you set, of course). This results in faster time to close cases or tickets and a higher percentage of cases resolved first time, which is great for internal KPIs and also for customers.

3. Home agent functionality: 2020 has seen rapid adoption of Microsoft Teams in businesses globally to facilitate effective home working during the pandemic. A Teams-based contact center is delivered entirely from the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere. Contact centers that are embracing this new way of working are taking the opportunity to modify their processes and make their workforce more productive. Data from a recent survey by Microsoft reveals that working from home gives everyone the flexibility to put the hours in when they feel most productive, which could be early in the morning or late at night.

4. Ease of adding additional channels: Many Teams contact center systems, such as Geomant’s Buzzeasy Contact Center for Teams allows you to easily integrate other channels, such as WhatsApp, live chat, AI & bots, SMS and other messaging tools. This gives you the ability to have your agents handle contacts across multiple channels simultaneously to increase productivity further, but also allows you to offer customers the ability to speak to you via their channel of choice increasing customer satisfaction.

5. Call quality: One of the reasons cited in a recent report by Gartner talking about why businesses were adopting Teams contact centers was the increased call quality they have experienced over traditional systems. Naturally, better-quality calls will increase customer satisfaction and potentially reduce time to resolution.

6. Seamless strategy integration: A Teams contact center brings your Digital Experience (DX), Customer Experience (CX) and Employee Experience (EX) strategies together. Putting your contact center into Teams allows you to unify all of your communications tools and the corresponding approach to training and adoption under a single platform.

Geomant are here to help

Geomant are a systems integrator and a software vendor with over two decades’ experience in integrating contact center software with CRMs and line of business applications. As a result, we offer an impressive professional services skillset to help with the implementation of a Teams contact center. We also offer our own market-leading contact center product – Buzzeasy Contact Center for Teams.

As outlined in this blog, there are several factors that influence the price of a Teams contact center solution. To understand the cost of a project for your business, please contact us today.

 

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