It is now around two years since Microsoft launched the Phone System app for Teams. Initially thought to lack key telephony features, the take up from businesses was limited with hosted phone systems being the go-to solution, but that has changed in the last year.
If you are unfamiliar with Teams, you may wish to view our recent video: Why businesses are using Microsoft Teams as a telephone system which gives a brief overview of Teams’ benefits.
When you realise what benefits there are to gain, telephony seems to be the next logical step. Analysts like Gartner have forecast 40% of new enterprise telephony purchases will be based on a cloud office suite by 2023.
In line with this research, Teams has developed into a very good hosted telephony solution that will meet most businesses’ needs.
All calls are managed in the ‘Calls’ tab along with video and conference calls. You have control of where your extension rings, you can add your mobile after a predefined number of seconds, forward calls to a colleague or get voicemail to answer the call for you.
If you are in a call, you can choose to still see incoming calls or send the call to voicemail. Voicemail is unified, so you get an email too. The really clever thing is you also get a transcript of the voicemail as well as the WAV sound file, so you can choose to read or listen to the voicemail and if you delete the voicemail, it is removed from all devices
Ring tones, on-hold and call groups
You can have multiple ring tones to differentiate between calls for you, calls forwarded to you and calls delegated to you. You can use a shared line appearance for manager/secretary working. If you are part of a call group, you can pick up calls for others in the group. Call groups can be formalised with a choice of calling all members at the same time, sequentially, round robin or to balance call count. You can opt in and out of groups if the admin allows you to and you can overflow calls to other groups.
Queuing callers can hear music or customised messages. If reception is busy or the business is fronted by an automated attendant, you can use the usual: “Press 1 for sales” etc. functionality, but the really clever bit is that speech recognition can also be used to route the call with an option to “Say the name of the person you would like to talk to.” Most businesses would not want key members of staff like the MD available to everyone and you can hide these users if you wish.
As a Microsoft 365 user, you can use your licence on five mobiles, five tablets and five PCs all at the same time, so any device you are logged into will ring as you receive an incoming call. If you answer the call on a mobile and then arrive at your desk, you can park the call and retrieve it on your PC client. In my opinion, the PC client is the most feature-rich interface and a headset added to the PC is the most productive way to use Teams.
If you are a traditional user who likes a handset, there are a number of handsets available from vendors, such as Polycom, Yealink and AudioCodes. Administrators and receptionists can use handsets with additional button boxes to enable them to monitor the presence of key colleagues.
By adding Power BI, you can build reports that can show almost anything that you might need to monitor and these reports can be embedded into Teams for management reporting.
With Teams managed from within the Microsoft 365 portal, an administrator can make changes to the routing, schedules, automated attendant and queues.
There are a few shortcomings. You cannot connect door phones, tannoy equipment or page to handsets. You cannot share a mailbox, cascade mail, use voice forms, get the voicemail to introduce a caller or use ad-hoc call recording. Extension dialling, direct dial-ins (DDIs) and caller line identity (CLI) presentation also need careful consideration especially with some direct routing implementations and trunk providers.
That said, Teams has kept me very busy in the last eight months as businesses have sought a flexible telephony solution that works equally well remotely as it does in the office. It definitely does not lack telephony features! I would be more than happy to give you a demonstration of the above if you would like to contact me.