In the words of Michael Corleone, ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’
I spent 20 years in the contact centre world before jumping ship at the end of 2020 and joining Callroute. For the first 12 months I barely looked at a contact centre project but as more and more customers migrated to our service I started to get asked for advice. The theme of most of the questions was ‘if I move to Microsoft Teams, what are my contact centre options’. I thought it was a simple question, was happy to help, but thought I’d better do some research to get back up to speed. What I found was not simple at all!
What Are Your Options?
Go back 3 years and the telephony world was simple. You had a myriad of options to migrate to a cloud PBX with an established provider and even more options for the contact centre to go with it. You could rest assured that all of the required functionality would be available and your migration path to digital customer interaction was clear. Jump forward to today and the telephony world has been turned upside down. The pandemic changed the way we work forever and Microsoft launching Teams voice has disrupted the established telephony landscape.
From a basic telephony perspective you’re spoilt for choice. Microsoft Teams alone has 4 options to connect you to the PSTN and the established players have jumped on the train with integrations and hybrid setup capability. Migrating your voice to Microsoft Teams makes sense. It’s already on the desktop, your people are used to using it for internal communication, so why not consolidate internal and external communication on a single platform?
It’s a straightforward choice for back office staff and organisations who don’t have a formal contact centre function. But if you’re running a busy customer contact centre the choice of vendors with different levels of Microsoft accreditations, different methods of integrating to Teams and different functional capability means it’s much less straightforward.
Teams itself doesn’t have full contact centre capability (yet….I’m discounting MSDCC for now). You can configure IVR’s, Auto-Attendants, Hunt Groups etc. but nothing that would work in a fully-fledged contact centre situation.
Here at Callroute we don’t add any contact centre functionality over and above what Teams can offer, so we partner with best of breed vendors based on the customers requirement. But that’s where it gets interesting. Customers who want to put all their eggs in the Microsoft basket want a contact centre solution that’s as integrated as possible with Teams. There are currently 12 contact centre vendors with the highest level of Microsoft Teams certification, but their solutions and capabilities vary hugely.
Choosing The Best Contact Centre for Teams
There are, of course, plenty of contact centre options from vendors who don’t have the highest levels of Microsoft Teams accreditation, but can still deliver an overlay solution that will work well with Teams. But the varying capabilities and varying levels of integration make the landscape even more complex.
One area where there’s a big difference between all vendors is in agent experience, and this is where the ‘how integrated do you want it’ conversation is most important. Do you want your agent experience to be in the Teams client, or would a pop out window work better? Do you want your agent experience to remain entirely in the CRM? If so, how do you want that to interact with Teams? Where do you want the reporting to sit? Do you need outbound capability?
Architecturally there are options too. Do you want the contact centre service to sit in Azure? What failover options do you need? Do you need hybrid working capability? What happens if Microsoft goes down? I’ve seen plenty of differences of opinion between IT and the contact centre itself on just how ‘Teamsy’ the contact centre really needs to be. Often the purest technical solution limits functionality at the front end either from the point of view of the agent experience or in terms of required capability. There needs to be strong cooperation between technical and operational teams.
From a Callroute perspective, we can work with any vendor, but it’s the ones who are letting the customer have a say in how their contact centre should work with Teams, rather than dictating a single path, who are making the transition from the old world to the new world more straightforward. In a world where digital communication is increasing, digital first strategies mean that voice traffic continues to decline, so, whilst Teams is the obvious choice for your voice platform across the business, the contact centre needs to be free to make their own choices about customer, agent and supervisor experience.
So, taking all of that in to consideration, there’s a lot to think about before making a decision about which is the best contact centre for your Teams environment. My initial recommendation to our customers is always to look across the board. Don’t get blinded by accreditations. Make decisions based on your current and future operational requirements and beware of some of the compromises with a fully integrated solution.
Ultimately, the options are many and varied, but there’s a lot of homework to do before you select your vendor!