Get to grips with the options for adding calling into Microsoft Teams
In 2021, CX analyst Metrigy surveyed 395 companies, across 39 verticals, in 11 countries, predominantly located in North America and Europe.
Of these 395 firms, 70 percent used Teams in some way, primarily for meetings and messaging. Yet, only six percent were using the application for calling.
Introducing this research during a recent RingCentral webinar, Irwin Lazar, President & Principal Research Analyst Metrigy, stated:
These statistics indicate that the market is at an inflection point, in that companies are starting to adopt Teams and harness the platform as their work hub, but they are yet to approach it from a telephony standpoint.
As such, many companies are beginning to ask themselves: how can we integrate calling into the Teams environment? Then, once we have integrated the calling features, how do we enable connectivity to the public switch telephone network (PSTN)?
In addition, there are likely many features that firms wish to include when introducing call management to Microsoft Teams. According to Lazar, the following are typical examples:
To integrate calling into Teams, ensure PTSN connectivity, and embed these capabilities, companies have two fundamental options:
Many companies choose to leverage the native Microsoft Teams Phone System and call management capabilities as a licensed add-on – instead of integrating with another UCaaS system.
Why? Primarily due to the assumption that it is cheaper. Yet, Metrigy’s research finds it to be the more expensive option. Indeed, annual OpEx (per license) through Microsoft is typically £1,139. Yet, the average UCaaS integration is £910. Across a large operation, this extra cost adds up, with a 1,000-person company saving more than £220,000 every year.
These operational costs include licensing, staffing, and maintenance, alongside additional PTSN charges, which are almost always included with a UCaaS provider integration.
Additionally, as Lazar points out:
Microsoft PTSN currently only supports 33 countries. So, for many global operations, native Teams calling requires additional third-party integrations – offsetting the benefit of only working with a single provider.
What’s more, native calling is also less reliable. So, if Teams has an outage, firms lose access to Teams’ calling, meetings, and messaging features. With a UCaaS integration, companies can benefit from a simple backup option.
Then, there is also the matter of integrations. Native calling can integrate with other Microsoft apps, but integrations outside the Microsoft ecosystem are tricky. Fortunately, a UCaaS integration – with a vendor such as RingCentral – opens the door to another feature-rich marketplace.
Taking this example further, users can also benefit from the RingCentral CCaaS solution, which is currently much more advanced than the Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service solution.
By accessing the RingCentral Contact Centre, companies can open the door to many other contact center capabilities, including numerous customer engagement channels, speech analytics, and security software.
So, generally speaking, a UCaaS integration with a prominent player like RingCentral provides lower cost, greater reliability, and more features.
After making this point, Lazar states:
If you’re a Microsoft Teams user today and are yet to embrace the telephony capabilities, look for alternative approaches that natively integrate with the Microsoft Teams app. However, if you really want to use the native Teams phone system, consider the UCaaS providers for PTSN connectivity through direct routing.
When considering these UCaaS providers, he also suggests evaluating them on features reliability, cost, global availability, and user experience (UX).
By enhancing UX alongside customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX), and multi-experience (MX), companies can improve the total experience by integrating calling into Teams. Here is an excellent example of how one company did precisely that.
The COVID pandemic forced businesses to embrace new ways of working, bringing technology challenges to the fore. London-based mid-sized law firm Howard Kennedy was no stranger to this phenomenon.
Having overall responsibility for the company’s technology architecture, Chief Information Security & Technology Officer Jonathan Freedman describes the rush to remote working as a “very difficult” time. He said:
We had seven primary customer communication technologies, all of which required separate maintenance and had no integrations with one another.
With these siloes forcing the company to resort to actions such as forwarding calls from mobiles, it became very apparent that these legacy systems could no longer cut the mustard.
As such, finding a way to link these disparate solutions together and make them location-independent sharply rose to the top of the agenda.
Howard Kennedy had planned to integrate Microsoft Teams as the standard audio conferencing platform for the firm in the Summer of 2020, already implementing Office 365.
Moving down the Microsoft route, the company opted to use Teams as the telephone client, not wanting to harness third-party add-ins and build complexity into the new technology ecosystem. “We wanted our userbase to have the most seamless experience possible,” adds Freedman.
Yet, making the transition was no simple stroll in the park, as Microsoft lacked the rich feature set that Howard Kennedy required, such as a service level calculation through a softphone. Also, the firm focused on ensuring high system reliability, which – in the business of law – is paramount and safeguards CX. A backup phone system was mission-critical.
So, the firm turned to RingCentral for PTSN connectivity through direct routing.
The company was ready for full deployment within six weeks, opening up the communication lines to allow support staff to assist the lawyers as they had previously in-office. As such, it improved EX and added flexibility, also allowing team members to make and receive calls on their personal devices – without sharing their phone numbers. In doing so, the firm bolstered UX.
Yet, according to Freedman:
The biggest benefit for us is that it supports our hybrid working strategy. It stopped our team from engaging in activities such as forwarding and “unforwarding” calls to their phone – internally using the strapline of “one number is all it takes”.
Having a wireless-first strategy has also enabled more flexibility in how the firm uses its office space, while the firm also benefited from RingCentral’s full feature set.
“When we worked out the costs of maintaining all of the platforms we had – including our old telephone system, SIP trunks, call charges, and everything else – we saved money by switching it all to RingCentral,” concludes Freedman.
As a result, Howard Kennedy maximized business outcomes, alongside integrating its voice and digital channels to improve MX.
“Find a partner who you can work with and work with very well,” said Freedman when asked about his most significant takeaway from integrating calling into Teams.
After assessing the many UC partners available, many companies – like Howard Kennedy – turn to RingCentral and improve the total experience.
Indeed, RingCentral-Microsoft Teams integrations recorded a 500% uplift in year-over-year sales in the first quarter of 2022.
Find out why by checking out its Advanced Phone Solution for Microsoft Teams for yourself.
Or, if you’d like to hear more from Freedman and Lazar, take a look at the recent webinar: Why is UCaaS the right choice for Teams calling?