Is it true what everyone says: that Microsoft Teams is perfect for customer service organizations …?
– What exactly is Teams …?
– Will Teams replace Skype for Business …?
– If Teams is so perfect, why do you need Zylinc …?
– Is it hard to switch to Teams …?
– What about licenses …?
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: You can simply use a cloud service in the same way as you use a power grid when you turn on the light in your office. You don’t see or think about that power grid, do you? Technology and infrastructure is completely transparent to you. You just get the benefits of the service. That lets you focus on what you’re good at, which in your case is 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– To continue my analogy: With cloud, all the many wells and fireplaces have been replaced by power plants, and everyone involved benefits greatly from economies of scale.
What is Teams, then?
– In Teams, Microsoft has unified the best from the likes of Skype for Business, SharePoint, Exchange, OneDrive, etc. in 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.
– Also, 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, wasting time, and missing out on new perspectives, like we used to do in the traditional department structures.
– Teams lets you “work out loud:” When you share information with your colleagues in Teams, you get more perspectives on it, which generates new opportunities, more insight, and increases the value of your information. 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.
– In my view, Teams’ continuous improvement aspect has great potential for machine learning. Do you know Professor Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum? Like him, I’m convinced that we’re on the verge of a fourth industrial revolution that’ll fundamentally change the way we work, live, and relate to each other:
– We’ve invented steam engines, made mass production possible, made digital capabilities available to billions of people across the globe. However, the fourth industrial revolution will be very different: Technologies will fuse physical, digital, and biological worlds, transgress economies and industries, and impact everything we do, even what it means to be a human being.
– Recently, I was at a workshop in Sweden where the organizers had brought together research scientists from different fields. One of them, a life sciences researcher, proclaimed that he expected everyone in the room to become more than 100 years old. If any of us had children under the age of 10, those children would be able to determine themselves how old they’d get …! That’s hard to relate to, but I think it describes the possibilities of the fourth industrial revolution, and the technologies behind it, pretty well.
– To make the most of the great promises and opportunities we have in front of us with the fourth industrial revolution, we need to adapt and collaborate across disciplines, sectors, and geographies. That also entails that we need to be able to work intelligently from anywhere. To me, Teams is a platform that’s based on that approach. Teams is a great example of forward thinking.
Will Teams replace Skype for Business?
– Yes, it will. Microsoft has in fact announced that they’ll close down Skype for Business Online in July 2021, and that Skype for Business 2019 Server in all likelihood will be the last on-premise version. 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 so many have already begun their journey with Teams.
Why does everyone say that Teams fits customer service organizations perfectly?
– That’s because Teams is the perfect match, not least because one of Teams’ many features is telephony. In the same way that you currently get your IP telephony through an internet line (SIP trunk), you can use a similar model to connect your telephony to the Microsoft cloud through an SBC (Session Border Controller). Without going into too much technical detail, the two models work almost identically.
– Teams also has presence, that is the ability to display if people are available. Teams supports 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!
– The answer is: Because 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.
– Quite simply, Zylinc adds intelligent switchboard and contact center functionality on top of Teams: Intelligent routing of inquiries (based on priorities, staff skills, etc.), Zylinc’s legendary real-time overview of all your colleagues and their availability, integrations to relevant knowledge resources so you can help your customers at the first point of contact. Those kinds of things. 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. Through our connector, Zylinc can also – in real time – feed systems like Power BI, where customers can analyze the Zylinc data together with data from other sources, for example their CRM or case management systems. That’s ideal for comparing and analyzing workflows, and for continuously optimizing the way you do things.
– 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 are going to need Teams and Zylinc, because they’re so cool together, are you really reducing the number of applications?
– Roughly speaking, you decide whether you want to work in Zylinc and get the Teams benefits there, or whether you want to work in Teams and get the Zylinc benefits there. Let me outline two scenarios:
– In busy 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. Contact center agents must be able to resolve all inquiries and provide answers straight away. The customers simply expect that.
– Such contact center agents will often prefer to work in Zylinc clients, because Zylinc provides the ultimate overview of people and resource availability, and because Zylinc clients can integrate with databases, knowledge portals, CRM systems, etc. and automatically display targeted guidance and customer information on agents’ screens. Those agents can benefit from using Teams as their underlying telephony platform when they handle inquiries in their Zylinc clients.
– In less hectic environments, agents, receptionists, and others will often prefer to use Teams as their primary platform. Zylinc offers application-less technology – we call it Voice Queue Member (VQM) – that makes it extremely easy for users to provide customer service via any device. Users can freely choose to work in their Teams clients, on their mobile phones, or wherever they prefer, while still getting the full benefits of the Zylinc technology that in such cases simply runs in the background.
– In between, we have the Zylinc Mobile app, with Zylinc functionality for those who work on the go, which also complements the Teams app beautifully.
If you have an existing customer service solution, 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, migrating to Teams really is very easy and truly seamless.
– 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 their earlier solution. Because Teams brings together so many collaboration opportunities, some employees may feel slightly overwhelmed by Teams 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.
– My recommendation is that customers agree an adoption strategy with their partner and Zylinc to ensure that they get the full value during their transition to Teams.
What about licenses?
– Existing Zylinc customers won’t need additional Zylinc licenses in order to switch to Teams.
– Organizations that haven’t already begun their migration to Teams from Skype for Business typically won’t face much of a licensing challenge: If you currently have an E3 license for your Office 365, you’ll need a phone system license to get telephony through Teams. If you have an E5 license, it covers telephony, and it also covers Power BI and a lot of extended security features.
If people want to switch to Teams, where do they start? Can Zylinc help with a plan?
– It’s often a great help that Teams and other solutions, including Skype for Business, can run side-by-side. That means that you can choose to let one or two 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 move the rest of the organization to Teams. That’ll also reduce the fear of getting started, because you’ll always have access to an alternative during the transition period.
– Zylinc has a tried and tested phase plan that covers the stages in migrations 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.
– On top of that, we offer a dedicated hotline service for end users who have attended our user training, where they can call their trainer – who has followed them on their entire journey – to get help or just to discuss their options.
– We can quickly and easily help you get a much more flexible and future-proof work life with Zylinc, Teams … and that cloud thing!
– Begin by getting 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.
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.