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The contact center is evolving. 

Thanks to trends like remote work, new communication channels, and the rise of cloud technology, the old-fashioned call center may soon be a thing of the past. We’re on the road to a new, more diverse contact center, designed to meet the needs of a multi-generational consumer base.  

Microsoft is one of the companies paving the way to this new age of contact center functionality. Through Microsoft Teams, businesses of all sizes now have an effective digital environment where they can collaborate, communicate, and solve complex problems. Though Teams might have started as a simple collaboration tool, Microsoft’s willingness to work alongside communication partners has rapidly taken the platform to another level.  

Now, Microsoft Teams can be full solution for Unified Communications, and Contact Center technology, aligned in the same reliable environment. An evolving ecosystem of communication features and appealing third-party integrations is bringing Teams into the heart of all business conversations. 

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Bringing Microsoft Teams into the Contact Center 

Teams started life as a replacement for Skype for Business – a service that will soon be phased out by Microsoft. As well as offering companies an environment where they could collaborate over tasks in a growing remote-work environment, Microsoft also developed capabilities to support contact center functionality with Teams.  

As a technology company, Microsoft knew that it could offer the best service to customers by partnering with brands that had background knowledge in communication and the contact center environment. Although Microsoft could offer customers some access to communication functionality through it’s “Business Phone” technology, it decided to prioritize giving customers more flexibility. Rather than building a full Microsoft Contact Center from scratch, the company decided to open its technology to developers with the skills to enhance what was already available.  

This progression began in 2018 when Microsoft announced Microsoft Graph APIs for Microsoft Teams. These “Application programming interfaces” makes it easier for partners to access Microsoft Teams technology and implement their own features.  

Today, Microsoft offers a number of platform technologies for Teams Contact Center as a Service integration. These include: Direct Routing Connectivity; Microsoft Graph Cloud Communications APIs; Teams platform and extensibility; and Teams software development kits.  

Microsoft’s Paths for Teams CCaaS 

Today, Microsoft has three avenues to explore for companies interested in a Teams Contact Center as a Service solution. These include: 

  • Connect: The Connect model integrates third party CCaaS technology with the phone system infrastructure built into Teams. This allows for enhanced routing, better system insights, and a wider range of telephony services. You can use the Connect model to create automated virtual agents and unlock skills-based routing strategies. Connect also supports access to Teams Graph APIs where developers can add their own functionality, multi-tenant SIP trunking, and enhanced call features through direct routing 
  • Connect and Extend: This CCaaS path for Microsoft Teams uses the Teams phone system for contact center calls and management. A contact center partner works as a telephony carrier alongside Microsoft Teams, providing access to advanced workflows and routing configurations, along with plenty of customization. Companies can build omnichannel communication strategies through integrated agent experience apps with Teams mobile and web clients too. It also provides for Teams analytics, workflow management, and role-based experiences for agents operating within integrated CCaaS environments. 
  • Extend and Power: The Extend and Power model supports third-party native Azure-based voice applications utilising the Teams calling infrastructure and client platform. This model allows for rapid provisioning, global scalability, and integration through the Azure platform. Third parties can integrate Azure-based analytics, AI, and automation features of Teams through Connected Contact Center SDKs. 

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What About Extra Integrations?

Looking at the three models for CCaaS functionality offered above only provides a partial view of what’s available with a connected Microsoft Teams solution. There are also various ways for developers to add further functionality into the Teams experience too.  

The Microsoft Power platform also opens the door to additional opportunities for third-party vendors and partners.  

Announced in November 2020, Microsoft’s Power Platform integrations for Teams support developers and communications partners in producing new solutions for Teams. Businesses can experiment with automation, AI, no-code development, and even Power Virtual Agents.  

Power Virtual Agents support the creation of intelligent chatbots that can answer questions posed by customers and employees. Chatbots are available to access within Teams without any advanced developer knowledge or skillsets.  

Microsoft has provided access to Teams templates which help companies to better organize their workflow within a digital CCaaS environment. Templates can extend standardized contact center customer handling with knowledge resources, apps, and guidance for each potential scenario. 

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The Benefits of Microsoft Teams in the Contact Center 

With more than 115 million daily active users at the end of 2020, Microsoft Teams is already one of the most popular tools for internal communications. It only makes sense that companies would want to leverage the full benefits of Teams for external communication too.  

Combing Microsoft Teams with the Contact Center means companies can offer their employees a familiar platform whenever they need to serve a customer or respond to a query. The right partner-led solution for MS Teams allows organizations to take advantage of the app’s unique features for things like omnichannel service, AI integrations and bots.  

A Microsoft Teams contact center enables: 

  • A centralized environment for communication: When your employees can collaborate, and serve customers on the same platform, they spend less time switching between tools and apps.  
  • Fully customizable solutions: Microsoft’s flexible platform means that partners with an API-first architecture can customize the contact center to suit any company.  
  • Improved user management: With all your employees in the same environment, it’s easy to track performance and monitor outcomes. You can even use Power BI reporting with real-time analytics and wallboards for staff motivation.  
  • Out of the box integrations: Your Microsoft Teams contact center will naturally connect with leading apps like Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce, allowing for a better understanding of the complete customer journey.  
  • Access to crucial contact center tools: With the right partner, you get the familiarity of Microsoft Teams, combined with essential features like smart voice and digital routing, proactive reach, and callback services, and even supervisor insights.  

How Microsoft Teams Supports the Modern Contact Center 

Microsoft Teams may not have started life as a contact center solution, but it’s quickly becoming one of the top choices for managing internal and external communications. Through versatile integrations, connections with partners, and extensive access to the Teams platform, Microsoft is transforming the modern contact center. In a world where 74% of customer service leaders feel their employees aren’t properly empowered to deliver the right customer service, Teams could be the answer.  

As Microsoft continues to pave the way for partners to build their customers customizable and scalable contact centers within Teams, companies can address major challenges like: 

  • The shift to remote work: A significant effect of the Covid-19 pandemic was a large-scale shift from central office working to cloud-based home working. For many organizations using legacy on-premises call center technology, this has posed significant challenges. On-premises PBX technology is not designed to handle natively remote working. Using Azure-based Teams Connected Contact Center systems addresses these challenges, with enterprise-wide integrations and automation in the Azure cloud. 
  • Omnichannel customer service: Customers now expect more from service agents than ever before. The omnichannel contact center is the solution of the future, and Microsoft opens the door to this with flexible integration and connection opportunities for all kinds of interactions. Companies can work with Microsoft Teams CCaaS partners to build environments where they can monitor calls, SMS, and chat messages all in the same environment.  
  • Better insights and analytics: As the marketplace continue to evolve, companies rely on insights to ensure that they’re delivering the right outcomes to customers. Microsoft’s ability to integrate with CRM technology and provide insights through Microsoft BI will help companies to make stronger decisions. The right Microsoft Teams CCaaS partner could even offer solutions that are tailor-made to the needs of the customer, offering help with things like compliance recording and conversation analytics too.  

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The Future of Microsoft Teams Contact Centers 

Microsoft says that today’s customers have higher expectations than ever when dealing with customer service teams. That’s why the Microsoft Teams group is constantly rolling out new features and functionality to support brands looking to deliver better customer experience.  

We’ve seen the rise of features like: 

  • Collaborative calling: Collaborative calling allows agents to connect a call queue to a channel in Teams. Agents can collaborate and share information in the channel while taking calls in the queue. IT admins can connect call queues to specific channels, and supervisors can manage the settings. 
  • Streamlined agent environments: Microsoft is also simplifying the calling out experience for agents, with a streamlined screen to showcase everything from call history to contact information in one place.   
  • Channel summaries: Channels is an important feature within Teams that helps connect agents to team members and other workers within the organization. Channels allow users to access valuable information, posts pinned by other staff members and more in a convenient location.  
  • Workplace analytics: Analytics solutions like Workplace Analytics provide business leaders, managers, and employees with a behind-the-scenes look at their activity on Teams, and how they can improve their productivity wherever they are.  
  • Shift management: Shifts and team scheduling is being simplified with the new Power Automate Shifts connector. This allows process automation within the Shifts application, saving time and improving the efficiency of schedule management. The enhanced Shifts application features triggers, and templates enabled by Microsoft Power Platform. 
  • Contact center devices: Microsoft has announced a new class of devices designed for an at-home customer service experience that feels just the same as being in the office for your agents. You can even get phones with dedicated Teams buttons.  

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A New Future for the Contact Center 

Organizations face a rapidly evolving future for the contact center.  

Microsoft is one of the companies adapting to suit this new feature. An ever-transforming roadmap combined with an open environment for partner integrations means the potential of the Teams Contact Center is endless. 

Organizations need contact center technology that is embedded in their core enterprise platform, and offers modern process automation, rapid and easy customization. Microsoft, with the help of the right partners, can offer the contact center of the future. The right Teams solution for your company could be the key to future-proofing your business and ensuring long-term survival.  

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