Why does everyone say that Microsoft Teams fits customer service organizations perfectly? What is Teams, by the way? And what is cloud? I needed some answers, so I asked Hans Ulrik Madsen, Zylinc’s Channel Management Director:
Hans Ulrik, everyone’s talking about the cloud, but I honestly don’t think that everyone knows what it is. So, what is cloud?
– It’s your opportunity to get someone to run your infrastructure and applications over the internet, so that you don’t have to bother with it yourselves. It’s a service that you buy from someone who specializes in providing it. That service can easily scale, so you can easily get more of it, for example if your organization grows or you want to try out new ideas.
– In the old times you had to get your water from the well. If you wanted heating, you had to light a fire. If you wanted light, you went to the fireplace to light a torch. Today, you flick a switch to get electric light, a thermostat controls your room temperature, and water comes from a mixer faucet. While past generations were deeply involved in obtaining such things, we can just lean back and enjoy those services today. We don’t have to worry about how they were made, or through which infrastructure they get into our houses.
– That’s exactly what cloud does for IT: With cloud, the functionality is just there for you to use, when you need it. That allows you to concentrate on other things, such as providing excellent customer service. When you don’t have to face the hassle of dealing with IT infrastructure, hardware, installation, upgrades, operations, etc., it also becomes much easier to draw up a budget, because you’ll have a much better ability to forecast your financial situation.
– To wrap up my analogy: With cloud, all the many wells and fireplaces have been replaced by power plants, and everyone involved benefits from economies of scale.
What is Teams, then?
– Microsoft has unified applications and features like Skype for Business, SharePoint, Exchange, OneDrive, etc. They’ve joined all the smaller pieces into a single solution, which they provide as a cloud service. They’ve broken down the old notion that applications need separate silos. With Teams, you have everything you need to communicate, collaborate, share stuff, work with data, and quickly gain insights.
– With Teams, information is for everyone. It’s not just something that’s reserved for individuals, like it has traditionally been the case with, for example, e-mail. Teams’ inherent project orientation perfectly fits today’s workplaces, where we work together as required in ad-hoc teams rather than working in parallel, like we did in the traditional department structures. That new approach really nurtures new ideas, innovation, and growth.
– Take an example from my own world: I work with sales and customer projects, and my colleagues and I benefit enormously from using Teams channels, where we can bring in partners, engineers, customer representatives, etc. as needed. Teams provides us with a full history of each project, so that we can analyze them together and become better at what we do through looking at how we do it. That continuous improvement aspect has great potential for machine learning with Teams.
Will Teams replace Skype for Business?
– Yes, it will. Microsoft has in fact announced that they’ll close down Skype for Business Online. Teams isn’t going to be a direct replacement, however, because Teams is built upon a different and much more future-proof way of thinking:
– Skype for Business was originally built on top of Lync, which was an on-premise solution. That meant that Skype for Business was also essentially an on-premise solution. Even though the Skype for Business Online version brought it a new lease of life as a cloud service, it didn’t really change the fact that Skype for Business originated from the world of on-premise, and that it had some obvious limitations.
– Teams, on the other hand, is made for cloud from the outset. Teams is capable of so much more than Skype for Business. That’s why, in the next few years, many, many people will switch to Teams.
Now I’m going to ask a stupid question, but someone has to do it: Do you need cloud in order to use Teams?
– Hah, that’s a funny question, but I know what you mean: Teams is a cloud service, so Teams runs in the cloud, and you’ll need an internet connection in order to use Teams.
– With Teams, you don’t need to have your own cloud, but you use cloud technology, much in the same way as you use a power grid when you turn on the light in your living room. You don’t see that power grid, do you? The technology and infrastructure is completely transparent to you. It’s just there. You don’t need to worry about it, you just get the service.
Why does everyone say that Microsoft Teams fits customer service organizations perfectly?
– That’s because Teams is the perfect match: Teams contains telephony too, so if your organization has its own internet line for IP telephony, what’s known as SIP trunk or an SBC, you can easily turn Teams into your telephones. You can then answer calls, transfer calls, put calls on hold, dial out, etc. in Teams itself.
– Teams also has presence, that is the ability to display if people are available. Teams has chat and e-mail too, and Teams even has video conferencing. That makes Teams highly interesting in connection with customer service as well as in connection with unified communications – the ability to handle all communications channels in a single solution, which is what Zylinc does.
Hang on; if Teams can do everything, then what do people need Zylinc for?
– I was hoping you’d ask that question! Zylinc has some core strengths that Teams doesn’t have, and that there are no indications that Teams will get in the future either, and that’s Zylinc’s customer service features.
– In centralized contact centers with high volumes of inquiries, it’s no longer enough for customer service to place callers in queues and play waiting music. You must be able to resolve all inquiries and provide answers straight away. The customers simply expect that. That’s why Zylinc is also capable of collecting data, displaying statistics, handling social media and providing guidance and answers through integrations with databases, knowledge portals, CRM systems, etc.
– With Zylinc’s unified communications solution you can channelize all of your organization’s incoming and outgoing communication, with integrations to relevant knowledge resources. That’s where Zylinc so beautifully complements Teams. Also remember that Zylinc can collect history and statistics for all communication channels for forecasting, learning, and optimization. With Zylinc, you can for example easily compare and analyze workflows, and optimize the way you do things.
– Didn’t I just say that about Teams too? That’s no coincidence: Zylinc and Teams are both based on a vision about reducing the number of applications that organizations need to purchase, install, learn to use, upgrade, etc.: By unifying functionalities, you get a much better overview, and as an organization you get to work smarter and more efficiently.
If people need to work in Teams and Zylinc, are you really reducing the number of applications?
– Roughly speaking, you decide whether you want to work in Teams and get the Zylinc benefits there, or whether you want to work in Zylinc and get the Teams benefits there. For example, you contact center agents can use Teams as their softphone when they handle calls in their Zylinc clients. Or your receptionists can use Zylinc features in Teams when they answer and transfer calls. Plus, you need to consider the multitudes of other applications and features that Teams and Zylinc unify together.
– Zylinc and Teams match each other perfectly today, and there’ll be more benefits in the years to come, for example as a phenomenon like channel blending grows:
– Imagine that you make a chat inquiry to a company that’s going to do a conservatory for your house. Maybe you get to chat with a chatbot driven by artificial intelligence. If your inquiry is too complex, the bot transfers your inquiry to a human agent. Perhaps you and the agent agree to continue your conversation over the phone. The agent quickly finds answers for you because the Zylinc system automatically looks up your order, and when you ask about some particular fittings, you switch to video, so that you can both view what you’re talking about.
If you have an existing customer service solution based on Skype for Business, is it hard to switch to Teams?
– No, in fact it’s incredibly easy. When people brag about “seamless migration,” what they really mean is often “sleepless migration.” However, with Teams, the migration from Skype for Business really is very easy and truly seamless. If you currently have an E3 license, you’ll need some phone system licenses for Teams, but if you’ve used Skype for Business for telephony before, you’re likely to already have those licenses. If you have an E5 license, it covers telephony, and its also covers Power BI and a lot of extended security features. For Zylinc, you don’t need additional licenses in order to switch to Teams.
– The biggest challenge is actually user adoption – the fact that users need to get used to something new, when some of them feel that they’d just gotten used to Skype for Business. Because Teams can do so much more than Skype for Business, some employees may feel slightly overwhelmed to begin with. However, it typically doesn’t take long before they adopt Teams and take ownership of it, and during the transition period we often hear from users that they find it very reassuring that their Zylinc clients haven’t changed.
If people want to make the switch, where do they start? Can Zylinc help with a plan?
– It’s often a great help that Teams and Skype for Business can run side-by-side. That means you can choose to let 1-2 locations or departments switch to Teams, while the rest of the organization waits. When the first locations or departments have adopted Teams, and they’ve begun taking advantage of all the benefits, you can gradually make the rest of the organization switch to Teams. That’ll reduce the fear of downtime, because you always have access to an alternative during the transition period.
– Zylinc has a tried and tested phase plan that covers the stages in migrations from Skype for Business to Teams. It covers analysis, vision scope, cost/benefit, adoption, etc., plus of course the technical steps to take. It also provides answers to questions like “Who does what, and when?” The phase plan provides a great starting point for a dialog about how to move on, and you can move on quickly if you want.
What can you do to make user adoption easier?
– Together with our Microsoft partners, we offer a complete adoption program with user training for all levels of your organization: receptionists, agents, supervisors, etc. Our experienced instructors help you get to know the Teams/Zylinc integration from your perspective, based on the everyday tasks that are important to employees and customers in your organization.
– Our Zylinc Operations Assistance, where the course instructor – who the employees know from the user training – is present and available to help people in your offices when you go live with the new solution, can also boost employee confidence and help employees quickly overcome any learning curves.
– Get in touch with me or one of my highly skilled colleagues. Call us, send us an e-mail, or use the chat or the contact form at the bottom of this page. We can quickly and easily help you get a much more flexible and future-proof work life with Zylinc, Teams … and that cloud thing 😉
The interviewer, Morten Müller, is Documentation & Localization Manager at Zylinc’s HQ in Denmark. Hans Ulrik has his office there as well, even though most of the time he’s out in the field taking with customers about their needs and wants. The images of Hans Ulrik on this page is from a webinar about Teams (in Danish) that Hans Ulrik did together with one of Zylinc’s partners, ProActive, in 2019.