Skype for Business Call Queues and Auto Attendants

Skype for Business Call Queues and Auto Attendants are part of the new call routing features that have recently come out of preview. These features allow Office 365 customers to apply call routing features similar to those that you might expect to find in an on-prem PBX system.
We have been using these features since they were in preview. To get access to future Office 365 features while they are in preview, have a look at this blog post.

Auto attendants

Skype for Business Call Queues and Auto AttendantsAuto attendants allows Office 365 / Skype For Business Online customers with Cloud PBX and PSTN calling plans to automatically answer and route calls to as they come in to your business.
Think of this as the recorded message and menu options you might get when you phone a large corporation’s main phone number.
Using auto attendants you can set your business’s hours of operation and then route calls accordingly, playing a message to customers if they call out of hours and then routing them to a voicemail box if you choose to do so.
During business hours you can play a different message to your customers. After the welcome message you can redirect the call to a receptionist, a call queue, play menu options, or redirect the call to another Auto Attendant.
The message played to customers can either be text to speech or an uploaded audio file (MP3, WAV, WMA).

Dial by name
Dial by Name is a feature of Auto Attendants that uses voice recognition to allow callers to be transferred to anyone in your Active Directory by saying their name. It is possible to limit the dial scope to just a group so callers can only request to be transferred to a select group of people and not anyone in your business, alternately you can also exclude a certain group of people from the dial scope.

Call Queues
Skype for Business Call Queues and Auto AttendantsCall Queues are a method of distributing calls between a group of employees in your business. The distribution is based on an Active Directory group which can include up to 50 people, known as agents in the call queue. The call queue itself can handle up to 200 concurrent calls.
Calls are routed to all agents at the same type, if an agent decides to answer the call then the caller is connected to that agent. Calls are not routed to agents who are offline or set to Do not disturb in Skype for Business client.
To use call queues you must be on an Office 365 Enterprise E5 or E3 subscription with the Cloud PBX add-on.
Agents must have a Cloud PBX license, be Enterprise Voice enabled and be using the Lync 2013, Skype for Business 2015/2016 or a Cloud PBX enabled IP Phone.

Skype for Business Call Queues and Auto Attendants do have some limitations. I’ve spoken to Microsoft about these limitations and added them to the User Voice site for Auto Attendants where they have received some votes. While we were using call routing features in preview we’ve seen new features added so hopefully they will get looked into at some point

There is no group voicemail or voicemail as a service feature. If you want to redirect incoming callers to a voicemail, either out of hours or after a call queue timeout, you need to set up a new Office 365 user, assign them a license, and redirect the calls to that user.
To have visibility of when a voicemail is received you also need to have that user’s mailbox added to your Outlook profile. Not ideal.
Voicemail should be treated as a service or feature included with Auto Attendants and Call Queues with the ability to choose an Active Directory group to be notified when a voicemail is received.

Call Queue Timeout
The minimum call queue timeout is 1 minute before you can redirect someone to voicemail. Although this doesn’t seem like a lot if you are a consumer calling a call centre, if you are a new customer calling a business and the phone rings for a minute before you get put through to voicemail then you are likely to hang up.

Service Numbers
Auto Attendant and Call Queues are only supported by Service Numbers. These are numbers that are designed to handle higher volumes of calls and are generally free phone / toll free numbers at the moment.
If you are porting existing numbers into Skype for Business Online, make sure that you port your numbers across as Service Numbers, otherwise you will not be able to use them with these features.
Once a number is ported over to Microsoft, generally there is no way to change it to a service number, although there is limited ability to do this if the number is a North America number.
Skype for Business team are now supported conversion of subscriber numbers into service numbers in the UK as well as North America. I have tried out the process.
The forms are a bit tricky to fill in but once you get that right the process is very quick and works well. The team behind Skype for Business are extremely helpful and supportive.

Skype For Business Call Routing features will be a good addition to Skype for Business Online. I think this takes Skype for Business Online a step closer to being able to be a viable solution replace a business PBX system. There are limitations as I have mentioned, some of which could be blockers for organisations wanting to adopt Skype for Business online as their Cloud based PBX.
The advantage of the call routing features is they are a cloud hosted solution which means Microsoft can update the feature set very quickly.
If you would like to find out more about how Office 365 and Skype for Business can benefit your business please get in contact with us.

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