And when communications were finally unified, the Teams voice PBX arrived.
For decades, telecommunications operators have been pursuing the dream of unified communications, i.e. that a customer would feel that dispersed technologies such as fixed voice, mobile voice and fixed or mobile data were truly integrated in a company.
This unification involved reducing the existing frictions between the different voice and data technologies that had been built with different transmission protocols and networks. Something that at the user level could be as trivial as transferring a call from a desktop phone (connected to a physical PBX) to a mobile device via short extensions required integrations that were not always easy. The dependency between the service and the device was very high. The total ubiquity of voice in a company (whether mobile or fixed) seemed a utopia.
Well, little by little, year by year, telecommunications operators have been achieving the longed-for unification thanks, to a large extent, to the fact that they have been softwiring the network from end to end, virtualizing their services to avoid the rigidity imposed by the hardware and converging their communications towards IP protocols that can be understood over the Internet.
Then, when the operators were finally technologically ready to sell the customer a real unification, without barriers, between their voice and data communications, it turns out that the paradigm of communications within a company has changed completely, mainly due to the massification of Microsoft Teams as a collaborative work tool.
The modern workplace, the new concept
Voice, mobile or fixed, has taken a back seat, becoming a commodity to be had but hardly providing any differential value in communications between a company's employees or between employees and their customers. Chat conversations, for example, have displaced voice as the main channel for internal communication. The value of communicating in broadcast format is something that voice never intuitively explored in the business world.
Today, a modern workplace is one that enables me to perform my tasks or those of my team regardless of the device I connect to, in the most integrated way possible and with a consistent user experience. This is what Microsoft Teams offers and that is why it has become a de facto solution at the enterprise level.
As users in most companies have embraced the collaborative culture of Teams, IT teams in those companies are now wondering if there is any point in keeping the voice PBX separate from the modern workplace.
Before you dive in, consider the following...
What is the Teams PBX?
A virtual voice PBX in Teams is a Software as a Service that is configured from the Teams administration panel and has the typical functionalities of call queuing, call transfer, call parking, auto attendants, different logics of handling calls between groups of agents (round robin, ring all at once, etc.).
Can I port my landline numbers to Teams?
Yes, you can port your current operator's phone numbers and associate them to call queues, teams or individuals within Teams.
What device do I need to answer or send voice calls?
Any cell phone, PC or tablet with Teams installed. In addition, there are traditional-looking desktop phones on the market that have Teams software installed.
How should I license the Teams voice PBX?
Per user. In addition, to understand which licenses should be purchased, it is important to know that Microsoft distinguishes between these two functionalities:
For a user to be an agent within the voice PBX so that he/she can belong to call queues, transfer voice calls, park them, etc. = Microsoft Teams Phone Standard license (approx. 8 €/user/month).
That is, for about 14 € you can provide a user with 120 minutes of national calls and belong as an agent to the Teams voice PBX. It should be noted that the 120 minutes are not for individual use but are added to a pool of minutes to be shared among all those users of the company who have that license assigned.
On the other hand, those users who want to contract these licenses must first have an activated Microsoft 365 license (Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Standard, Premium, E1 or E3). Office 365 E5 or Microsoft 365 E5 licenses incorporate these functionalities.
Finally, Microsoft recently created a license called Microsoft Teams Phone with calling plan (approx. 20 €/user/month) that combines the two features described above in a single license. This license includes 1,200 minutes of national calls.
"The price of the calls seems expensive to me, with my current operator they are practically free"
In that case you should know that Microsoft Teams can be connected to your current operator so that you make use of the Teams PBX but that the minutes are billed by your telecommunications operator.
In this case your users would only need the Microsoft Teams Phone Standard license.
Currently, of the three main national operators: Telefónica, Orange and Vodafone, only Orange provides this service. That is, if you have negotiated with Orange a special pricing plan for your national calls, you can ask them to connect you to your Teams PBX so that calls to mobiles or landlines made or received from Teams are routed/billed by Orange.
"I don't want to get rid of my physical PBX yet, can I integrate it with Teams?"
There are companies that for whatever reasons do not want to or cannot yet part with their physical PBX. In this case, there is the possibility of integrating the Teams PBX with the physical PBX. In this way, calls answered from an old desktop phone could be transferred to a Teams user or vice versa.
The integration involves deploying a server in Azure or on premises called an SBC (Session Border Controller) and configuring it to route calls from the operators' public network to Teams and vice versa.
"Using Teams as a voice switchboard is not worth the effort of the change..."
Well, in that case I'd like to share my vision with you on where I think the unification of technologies in the modern workplace is headed.
Consider who safeguards your work identity
The custody of the digital identity of employees resides in most companies in the Microsoft Active Directory (or Azure Active Directory). On this bastion, services are being enabled under Microsoft Defender for 365 that try to protect identity against cyber-attacks where the perimeter is not limited to the local VPN.
Teams PBX access and security policies are built on top of the Azure Active Directory of the customer's Microsoft 365 tenant. This means that voice PBX security is intimately tied to identity security.
Virtual assistants aren't just chatbots
Companies have started deploying chatbots on their websites to answer all kinds of customer questions. You should know that the logic of a virtual assistant does not change if you want to give a voice to the chatbot you already have. That is, the virtual assistant you have developed can also be used as a voicebot so that the virtual assistant could answer calls in real time without much technical complexity.
If you really want to expand your voice PBX capabilities, you should think about how to integrate those virtual assistants that you have created within the company and that can be able to automate customer tasks that are normally performed through voice calls.
Omni-channel is about serving your customer and knowing their history in an intuitive way regardless of the channel from which they contact you. The module of a CRM that enables omnichannel is "Customer Service".
Dynamics 365 is Microsoft's CRM which natively integrates Teams so that collaborative work in customer service is as agile and easy as possible regardless of whether it is attended by voice by a human, by a virtual assistant, by chat or by social networks.
In short, the Teams voice PBX service is a flexible, scalable and secure software that not only unifies but has been incorporated into Teams and Microsoft cloud services to modernize our day-to-day work.
If you have any questions about Virtual PBXs in the cloud, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to help you😊