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Auto Attendant & Call queue

Do you know what an IVR ( Interactive Voice Response) is? In the field of unified communications, we also call them Auto Attendant. There is also the concept of call queues, do you know what they are for? In this article, I’ll show you how to understand them and, more importantly, how to configure them and use them to their full potential with Microsoft Teams. To get there, we will go through different steps. We will also refer to the diagram below:

1.    Definition

An Auto Attendant allows people to call your company and navigate through a menu system to talk to the right department. With Microsoft Teams, you can create automatic standards for your organization through the Microsoft Teams Administration Center (TAC) or via PowerShell. An automatic switchboard can redirect calls, based on a key pressed on a telephone keypad, also known as a DTMF code, or by voice recognition and then be routed to one of the following destinations :

  • An operator also called receptionist
  • A person from the organization
  • A voice application another Auto Attendant or a call queue
  • Shared or personal voice mailboxes
  • An external telephone number
  • Audio announcement where you import an audio capsule
  • Written announcement where text is written and read by the system

An automatic standard is also defined through different parameters, such as :

  • A time slot
  • A language
  • A search directory

A queue routes callers to a group of people in your organization who can help resolve a particular issue or question. The calls are distributed one by one to the members of the queue. The members of a queue are also called agents. A call queue is similar to a waiting room in a physical building. Callers wait on hold while calls are routed to agents in the queue as they come in. The expression ” first in, first out” (FIFO) is often used and this is the case in a queue. Queues are often used for sales and service functions. However, call queues can be used for any situation where the number of calls exceeds your internal capacity, such as a receptionist in a busy facility. Call queues provide the following functions :

  • A welcome message.
  • A music of expectation
  • A routing mode
  • Maximum waiting time
  • Maximum call volume

2.    Prerequisites

Before you can start creating an auto attendant and a call queue, you will need to meet certain requirements :

  1. A resource account

In Microsoft Teams, a resource account is required for each auto attendant or call queue. A telephone number can also be assigned to the resource account. This is how you assign phone numbers to auto-attendants and call queues, allowing callers outside of Teams to join the auto-attendant or call queue. An auto attendant can be associated with several resource accounts. This way, if you have several phone numbers, you can redirect them to the same auto attendant. This implies that a resource account can only be associated with one auto attendant.

  1. A license

Each resource account requires a license to work with automated switchboards and call queues, called the Microsoft Teams Phone Resource Account license.

  1. A phone number

Phone numbers are optional for automatic switchboards and call queues. For any auto attendant or call queue that you want to reach directly by phone number, you must have a resource account with an associated phone number. Resource accounts can use either pay or toll-free telephone numbers. You can request new numbers or transfer existing numbers from your company. Acceptable phone numbers that can be applied to resource accounts include:

  • Service numbers for calling plans with Microsoft. For more information on how to acquire a service number from Microsoft, click HERE
  • Direct routing numbers, for more information on how to activate direct routing, click HERE
  • The numbers of a connected operator, for more information on how to configure a connected operator, click HERE

If you don’t know what a Microsoft dial plan, direct routing or a connected operator is, I invite you to read this article.

3.    Limitation

The first limitation is the Microsoft Teams Phone Resource Account License, which we saw in the previous prerequisite section. Your organization is assigned Teams Phone Resource Account licenses based on its overall size. Any organization with a subscription to the phone system features, such as Teams Phone Standard licenses, Teams Phone with Calling Plan, and Teams Shared Devices, is awarded 25 licenses Microsoft Teams Phone Resource Account available for free. Thereafter, for every 10 user licenses of Teams Phone StandardTeams Phone with Calling Plan, or Teams Shared Devices in your organization, an additional Microsoft Teams Phone Resource Account license becomes available. For example, if an organization has 48 Teams Phone Standard licenses, it will be allocated 25 free Microsoft Teams Phone Resource Account licenses + 4 additional licenses for a total of 29 Microsoft Teams Phone Resource Account licenses that can be split between auto attendant and queue.

The second limitation is the number of numbers you can get from Microsoft if your telephony is based on Microsoft calling plans. Indeed, Microsoft also has a calculation for this. To find out how many service numbers you can get for your organization, please refer to the source section of this article. You will not have this limitation if you use direct routing or a connected operator.

An auto attendant and a call queue are unilingual. If you use two languages, you will have two automatic standards, one for each language.

The recordings or audio clips you upload to Microsoft 365 must be in .wav, .mp3, or .wma format and must be less than 5Mb in size.

An announcement written and read by the system must not exceed 1000 characters

In a queue, you can add up to 20 agents individually and up to 200 agents via groups.

In a queue, the minimum delay for notification of a call waiting (Alert time) to an agent is 20 seconds

The maximum number of calls that can be waiting in a queue at any one time is 200 calls.

When forwarding calls to someone in the organization, that person must be activated for enterprise voice (i.e., that person must have a Teams Phone Standard, Teams Phone with Calling Plan, or Teams Shared Devices license)

4.    Planning

Before configuring your auto-attendant and call queues, you need to make some decisions about how to use these features in your business. These decisions determine the settings you choose when configuring your automatic switchboards and call queues.

Document your answers to these questions and provide the information to the administrator performing the configuration.

  • What languages do you need? Where are these languages needed – which departments or groups?
  • Do you want to allow voice inputs from callers or only dialing inputs?
  • Do you need separate call routing for off-peak hours or holidays? What are the hours and holidays?
  • Do you want to allow agents in a call queue to refuse to take calls?
  • Do you want your call queue agents or your operator to have a specific caller ID if they dial?
  • Do you want to enable call parking and retrieval in your organization to facilitate call transfers between individuals or departments?
  • For voice prompts, do you want to record your own voice or use the voice generated by the system?

5.    Configuration

6. Reports

Microsoft offers a Power BI historical report template to collect some data from your Microsoft Teams auto attendant and call queues. This report provides you with the following data:

  • A report of your automatic standards
  • A report of your call queues
  • A chronology report of your agents

Data is available 30 minutes after the end of a call, but in some cases it may take several hours for data to be displayed.

Want to migrate or connect your phone system to Teams?

Write to me and let's keep in touch!


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