Microsoft’s annual gathering of technology leaders and practitioners was delivered as a digital event experience this year. Obviously, Microsoft Teams was a hot topic, with its possibility to empower a remote workforce. Microsoft particularly focused on presenting ways to maximize the investment in Teams, not just by additional features, but also by added connectivity to third-party applications, e.g. through the Graph API functionality, meeting extensibility, and ISV solutions that make Teams a powerful tool in customer service and compliance recording.
We are excited about the recent announcements at Ignite and the new possibilities to maximize the Teams investment. It’s our core focus at Luware to bring the required customer service functionality to the Microsoft platform. We are proud to support Microsoft boost customer service scenarios and therewith empower everyone to achieve more.
Microsoft Graph is the gateway to data and intelligence in Microsoft 365. It provides a unified programmability model that companies can use to access the tremendous amount of data in Microsoft 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security. The Graph API is one of the three main components that facilitate the access and flow of data. The Graph API offers a single endpoint to the data and insights of Microsoft 365 service, which can be accessed to build apps that integrate across processes and the entire organization.
The current Graph API provides functionalities that allow Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to build apps and bots for various scenarios, e.g. customer service, IVR, bot enabled calling, schedule and join meetings or presence of other users.
The Microsoft Graph Cloud Communications APIs (bundles of API functionality for calling use cases; see table above) was made generally available this year, allowing ISVs to easily integrate their solutions with Microsoft Teams. We at Luware are already using these APIs for our Contact Center, Advanced Routing and Attendant Console.
At Ignite, Microsoft also presented the Beta and upcoming APIs and functionality at the Ignite Session ‘Microsoft Teams Calling and Meetings as a platform’ (video at 11.25):
We have been building our new next-generation customer service solutions that are cloud-native and run directly on the Microsoft Azure Cloud. We are now adopting Graph API beta functionalities above for our first release that will be delivered to selected customers. Working closely with Microsoft and always using their latest beta APIs, allows us to develop our cloud solutions in parallel and roll out the features to the cloud and therefore make it available for our customers as soon as the API is generally available.
“Contact Center and Compliance Recording solutions are one of our top customers asks for our enterprise business and especially those customers who are moving from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams,” points out Srividhya (video at 13:57).
There are different ways of blending Teams and customer service – Connect, Extend or Power:
By extending Microsoft Teams, you optimize the client experience and voice apps for customer cases. This improves integration of customer interaction flows between Teams and the contact center solution. Therewith, Teams can be used to extend the customer connection to every user and bring a contextual experience to the employees.
Luware’s Stratus solutions use the ‘Extend’ technology to offer customer service solutions that are seamlessly integrated into Teams and are available today.
The ‘Power’ approach goes one step further and will offer an abundance of potential and opportunities. With cloud-native, Azure-based customer service apps, companies will be able to leverage the Teams calling infrastructure and client platform to deliver modern and intelligent solutions for customer interaction. Luware is already working on such next-generation applications with selected customers to offer customer service solutions that run entirely on and are fully integrated into the Microsoft platform.
Automatic call recording is necessary in many industries, e.g. due to compliance regulations in financial industries. “Microsoft partner solutions use the Graph API for the recording of communications in Teams which leads to high-quality recording of calls and meetings and full control for the company,” states Srividhya (video at 20.37).
Several partner solutions are already available for compliance recording. In the Ignite session, Microsoft showcases Verint’s solution (video at 23.18) – one of the leaders in compliance recording and Luware’s technology partner. Luware offers Verint’s recording solutions as a managed service.
ISVs can now integrate their apps into Teams meetings and create scenarios that have in-depth knowledge of the meeting context – including roster, roles, and permissions (video at 4.45). New meeting surfaces, such as meeting tabs, in-meeting side panel, and content notifications enable powerful scenarios and provide end users with a richer meeting experience. Various ISVs are offering solutions, such as for translations, polling, project management, human resources and more. The meeting extensibility will become generally available this month and allows customers to extend their Teams client throughout their organization, boost collaboration efficiency, and maximize the investment made.
As with any other Teams feature, Luware will check and leverage the extended meeting capabilities for customer service use cases. The possibility to use customer context information inside a call or meeting offers many possibilities to transform the customer service experience.
As of October 1, 2020, Microsoft expands the number of Microsoft Calling Plan countries and now includes Austria, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. This means that companies can obtain the PSTN directly from Microsoft in countries where the Microsoft Calling Plan is available. While companies can still choose to get their PSTN through their local telco provider, obtaining it directly from Microsoft speeds up the setup tremendously. PSTNs that used to take several weeks to set up can now be up and ready within minutes.
We are looking forward to seeing this list of countries on the Microsoft Calling Plan growing, so that our customers can quickly set up their PSTN which allows our solutions to route external calls to their employees.
“At its core, Azure Communication Services is a brand-new Azure offering that leverages the same enterprise-grade services behind Microsoft Teams,” explains Marry Anne Noskowski, Program Manager at Microsoft at the Ignite Session ‘Innovate with Azure Communication Services’.
It is the base on which Microsoft Teams and Dynamics 365 Customer Service is built and it is now also available on a developer platform. Developers can easily add voice, video, chat, and telephony to their apps, websites and mobile devices through developer-friendly APIs and SDKs. Building apps based on the Azure Communication Service means that they can use the same reliable and secure infrastructure that powers Microsoft Teams.
Azure Communication Services is built for enterprises, ensuring trusted performance, global availability and lightweight client integration. Furthermore, these Azure-based apps can utilize other Azure services, e.g. real-time translations.
Microsoft has been in private preview with selected customers, among them Luware (video at 2.50), and Bob Serr, General Manager at Microsoft states that they really appreciate the customer feedback.
Luware’s next-generation customer service applications for Teams (mentioned above) are built directly on Teams. Furthermore, we are developing additional applications that utilize the Azure Communication Services. Therewith, we can cover further use cases for customer service, e.g. that end customers can contact customer service directly or with scheduled bookings through a website or mobile app.
We appreciate the close collaboration with Microsoft and the mutual feedback to build modern, cloud-native solutions that fully leverage the Microsoft platform and maximize the investment in Teams.
It is great to see Microsoft Teams evolving and becoming more and more powerful. Ignite was interesting as ever, with an abundance of topics, best practice examples and new third-party solutions. We are proud to be among the first ISVs to offer both Contact Center and Compliance Recording solutions for Teams and are excited to grow our products and services even further along with Microsoft Teams to empower employees and facilitate excellent customer service.
You can watch the entire Ignite sessions on the Microsoft website: