Microsoft Outlines Plans to Fill Key Gaps in Teams Calling

Users will soon be able to place and receive Teams calls with Apple CarPlay.

Microsoft Teams Calling is getting a major facelift that promises to make it more competitive with other UCaaS offerings. A blitz of new features revealed this week will bring an improved app interface and more robust calling features to Teams.

The enhanced Calls app will bring together contacts, call histories, voice messages and the dial pad. Also, iPhone users will soon be able to make and receive calls from vehicles equipped with Apple CarPlay. Microsoft Teams calling will also flag spam, allow users to transfer calls between mobile phones and desktops and call merge. The latter, available for both PSTN and VoIP, lets users bridge together multiple calls.

Usage of Microsoft Teams has “skyrocketed” this year, according to Nicole Herskowitz, Microsoft Teams GM. Teams users made more than 650 million calls in October, according to Microsoft. Calling has increased 11-fold since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. “Speaking with colleagues and customers is more important now than ever,” Herskowitz noted.

Microsoft had announced the enhanced Calls app during its Ignite conference in September, and it is set to roll out this month. Also coming to Teams:

  • Call recordings will be stored in OneDrive and SharePoint rather than Microsoft Stream. Microsoft said this will improve customers’ options for sharing calling content with more storage
  • Apple CarPlay integration will allow users to place or receive calls through their vehicle controls or with Siri
  • Call transfer will let users shift from calls on their desktops to a mobile device or other endpoint
  • Call merge, now available for both PSTN or VoIP calls, allows users to bridge multiple calls into one
  • Data metering will cap data usage or prioritize based on network availability
  • Voice-enabled channels will let a team integrate call queues into a specific channel. For example, help desk teams can share all relevant information about a service ticket during or after a call
  • Contact center integration: Microsoft has created a certification program for contact center solutions with several key players now undergoing certification. Among them are Anywhere365, Competella, ComputerTalk, ContactCenter4All, Enghouse Interactive, Five9, Genesys, Landis Technologies, Luware, Nice InContact, novomind and Tendfor
  • Survivable Branch Appliance (SBA): A new appliance that will go into preview this month will link to certified Session Border Controllers(SBC) vendors. This will provide failover by allowing SBCs to link with the Teams client if it cannot access the Microsoft Teams Calling network
  • Call transfer ring-back: When transferring a call, if the intended recipient does not answer, it will transfer back

Much-Needed Improvements

Customers have sought more robust Teams calling capabilities, according to Scott Gode, chief product marketing officer of Unify Square, a managed service provider and Microsoft Teams partner. “The announcements have generated a lot of questions and enthusiasm from our customers,” Gode said.

While Gartner gave Teams Calling high marks in its 2020 UCaaS “Magic Quadrant” ranking, it included notable caveats. “Microsoft’s telephony capabilities are good enough for many organizations, but not for those that require advanced telephony features,” the report noted. “Furthermore, Microsoft’s availability SLA target of 99.9% is considerably lower than that of most UCaaS competitors.”

Gartner’s report, released last month, also warned that Teams Calling was not suited to customers who require a contact center and telephony on the same platform. “This announcement from Microsoft perhaps wipes away many of those cautions,” Gode said.

Gode said the new support for blending call queues with Teams channels is also a key development. “This combines two worlds that were historically distinct from a workflow standpoint,” he said. “What will be interesting is whether this creates an ecosystem that encroaches into the territory of call center partners, particularly if ISVs begin to add extensible tab applications for telephony enabled Teams.

Unify Square’s larger global customers welcomed the SBA, which will make Teams more resilient. Likewise, “the ability to now store recordings in either OneDrive or SharePoint has also received a lot of praise as a way to help with secure archiving,” he said.

Source: ChannelFutures