There’s no question Microsoft Teams has become a key pillar of business operations. It was already happening, but the global pandemic of 2020 heightened the need for effective communications and collaboration tools as companies adjusted to support remote workforces. Microsoft has been one of the key beneficiaries, seeing significant uptick in its Teams user base, which is up to 115 million daily users. Its Office 365 business user base is ever larger, making additional growth very likely, not to mention a large number of companies that are still trying to figure out how to proceed.
In my previous conversation with Shams Kahn, Principal Solutions Architect at SCB Global, we talked about how companies have been handling the shift to remote workforces leveraging UCaaS, CCaaS, and Teams, where he explained how the shift has impacted businesses and how they have adjusted to support their workforces. One of the key points he made is the native Teams integration SCB Global has been working on since well before the pandemic.
In the second part of our conversation, we dig a little deeper into why native integration is important, and the role Ai and speech analytics play in delivering a better contact center experience. Kahn also talks about SCB Global’s approach to security – an absolute necessity in today’s climate – and, importantly, since there are still so many companies not ready to give up their existing PBXs, how SCB is bridging the gap between their current technology and Teams to allow them to enjoy the Teams experience.
Khan explains one of the keys is a number of features SCB Global add natively to enhance the Teams experience, which Microsoft doesn’t provide:
- Full-stack1 global calling in over 49 countries & 2-way voice2 in 90+ Countries
- Direct Routing enablement via Hybrid OPTO4Teams in 181 Countries
- Flexible calling plans in multiple locations (i.e. pay as you use, per user package, etc.)
- FCA- and MiFID II-compliant omnichannel recording
- Full omnichannel contact center functionalities
- CRM integrations
- Fraud protection and proactive monitoring
- Integration with ANY existing PBX or phone system
- Security & compliance to supercharge ethical, DLP & eDiscovery needs
- OPTO4Edge SD-WAN solution to optimize and secure Microsoft Teams traffic
1 Support for Local Dial Plan, Number Porting, Emergency Calling & Legal Call Intercept
2 Inbound and Outbound calling & Legal Call Intercept but may not have support for Number Porting and/or Emergency Calling
Erik Linask: You’ve mentioned native Teams integration several times. Why is that so important?
SK: In the last few months, we have seen many UCaaS vendors in the global arena jumping on the Microsoft Teams bandwagon in response to the pandemic. This has created confusion by bringing a lot of noise to the conversation about Teams Voice. With many vendors claiming to offer calling for Teams, it has made it much harder for both enterprises and the channel to differentiate between the various flavors of Teams integration and understand what it means to have a truly native solution.
Outside of Microsoft Calling Plans, Microsoft has only one way to ensure their PSTN calling solution is native to teams, which is via Direct Routing. This space requires adherence to a certified carrier-hosted architecture that Microsoft recognizes. After many failed attempts with a bots and connectors approach, the majority of the UCaaS vendors have opted to go down the direct routing path via a third-party connector to deliver the solution. While this may achieve the necessary compliance, it doesn't achieve “nativeness” within the Microsoft stack. It is also important to note the potential risks and SLA metric impact that comes with relying on a third-party for a critical piece of the solution.
EL: Understanding that, what has SCB Global done differently to improve Teams integration?
SK: SCB Global has architected and built from the ground up an elastic native Teams platform, hosted in Azure, managed and maintained by SCB with our own interconnects peering to the platform. Moreover, we further leverage the Microsoft stack by delivering reporting and analytics using Power BI, SQL server for security and compliance (OPTOShield), Microsoft Cognitive services for NLP and AI and Native call recording using the Microsoft Bot framework (hosted in Azure).
EL: How are companies using advanced speech analytics capabilities to improve customer relationships?
SK: With people increasingly basing their purchasing decisions on how they feel about a business, ensuring that customers are happy at every point of the customer service journey is becoming a huge priority for organizations everywhere. Advanced speech analytics are enabling enterprises to truly understand what their customer is saying, while supporting contact center agents in real-time to provide key insights into which aspects of interactions are received well or not so well.
EL: How have you integrated speech analytics into OPTO4Contact?
SK: When handling customer interactions through SCB Global’s OPTO4Contact, enterprises can use integrated AI features to benefit from chatbot engagements that efficiently deliver solutions to customers, reducing the need for human agents. Additionally, speech analytics and sentiment analysis can automatically capture the language, tone and emotions expressed within a conversation via any communications channel. Data reports allow businesses to pinpoint exactly where customers are dropping off or not responding positively to engagements, enabling businesses remodel and improve future interactions accordingly.
The ability to automatically review the success of every interaction is transforming the contact center experience. Speech analytics enables businesses to adjust and refine their customer service training according to what is most successful and streamline their customer engagement processes. With SCB Global’s intelligent OPTO4Contact solutions, businesses are regaining ownership of the customer journey. By better understanding their customers, businesses are equipped to deliver a next-generation customer experience and improve overall business reputation.
EL: With so many people working remotely, bad actors have many more potential entry points into corporate networks. How do you help secure remote workforces?
SK: Coming from the carrier world, SCB Global has decades of experience of handling and dealing with VoIP and toll fraud. The exponential rise of SaaS applications has also given birth to many bad actors. SCB are acutely aware of the increased threat to cyber security over the past eight months, with the pandemic forcing many businesses to deploy remote systems and, thus, increase their online dependency. The rapid nature of the disruption meant that businesses were required to adopt new remote working solutions very quickly, sometimes skipping the usual protocols, leaving many organizations vulnerable to the sudden surge in targeted cyber attacks.
In response to this, SCB Global have recently expanded our product portfolio to include our SD-WAN and SD-Security solution, OPTO4Edge, which enables enterprises with remote workforces to deliver scalable and secure connectivity to everyone in the network. In addition to improving network quality by facilitating fast and direct local connectivity to critical applications, the software-defined architecture provides additional built-in security via isolated private connection. Encryption ensures optimal protection, even on untrusted Wi-Fi and other public access networks, ensuring that disparate workforces can collaborate safely and securely from anywhere.
EL: Explain your “full house” strategy.
SK: As the remote workforce continues to endure, and effective communication remains more business-critical than ever, enterprises are finding it increasingly challenging to manage multiple vendors for different aspects of their remote collaboration. SCB Global’s single supplier approach breaks down these operational and procurement silos in the technology space. The addition of SD-WAN to our range of OPTO products plays into our “full house” strategy, allowing enterprises to deal directly with one provider for both their application layer (UCaaS and CCaaS solutions) and their underlying network functions (such as WAN, routing, security and analytics). This removes pain points for businesses by eliminating complexity and reducing the cost of disparate vendors within their corporate infrastructure – delivering a more robust and cohesive solution that is fully equipped to support this new digital economy and respond to a greatly dispersed work force.
EL: How do you handle customers who aren’t ready to move to the cloud yet, such as businesses who would prefer to leverage their existing PBX investments?
SK: The rise of cloud telephony in the recent years has seen a notable shift away from the on-premises PBX. For the enterprise whose PBX lifespan is coming to an end, the move towards a cloud-based UC platform is an easy decision. However, for those who have just made an investment in the last few years, shifting away from on-premises hardware is challenging. To go back and get approval for a replacement remote-friendly cloud solution will likely be met with closed gates, especially with telecoms funding seeing notable declines following pandemic-related budget amendments.
SCB Global explored this challenge of wanting to move telephony over to Microsoft Teams, while retaining the investment in a current PBX. We came up with a solution to enable businesses to have the best of both worlds. OPTO4Teams uses a middle layer to provide a hybrid solution that allows enterprises who want to keep their existing PBX and phone system, no matter what make or manufacturer, to fully migrate over and integrate to Teams in accordance with remote working needs. This reduces the need to prematurely retire recent telephony investments by empowering businesses to make the transition to full cloud-based Teams enablement at a pace that suits their unique timescale and capabilities.
EL: What are your plans for the competitive North America market?
SK: SCB Global are already serving the North America market and have recently opened a new office in Las Vegas, in addition to our Chicago office. For us, strategic partnerships are essential to be able to provide more of our innovative Microsoft Teams offerings to clients. We are looking to further expand our presence in America by adding more US-based master agents and value-added resellers to our global family of partners. Our primary focus is to help more channel partners achieve true value for their clients, by leveraging our experience in augmenting and optimizing the Microsoft stack to deliver unparalleled Teams solutions and break silos in communication.
If you missed the first part of my conversation with Shams Kahn, you can read it here.
Edited by Erik Linask