Leading operators that are closing the most Operator Connect seats have already automated Teams Phone provisioning. So, what are the next steps for operators to stay ahead of the curve?
As operators and voice service providers search for more effective ways to deploy Teams Phone for their customers, many are starting to turn away from traditional engineering-led direct routing deployments. This method of deployment has proven to be a lengthy, costly process with limited success in generating substantial volume.
To improve profitability and continue bringing next-generation solutions like Teams Phone to market, there is now a growing trend towards investing in automation. Microsoft’s release of Operator Connect, and its subsequent doubling-down through the Operator Connect Accelerator program, are positive steps towards service providers simplifying customer transitions to Teams Phone.
So You Think You Can Automate?
Operators that have started the automation journey have already reaped the benefits; however, they must now begin to investigate further integration options and elevate their minimum viable product. Automating the initial onboarding, according to Microsoft, is now considered table stakes.
Operators should carefully evaluate which line of business applications will yield the most benefit to their businesses and then look to integrate those systems with their Teams automation platforms to shorten the quote-to-cash timeline and ensure seamless customer journeys.
Some of the common integration points include CRMs, number management, billing, and service desk management platforms.
This is where every buying journey starts. Ideally, when a prospective customer initiates the enquiry process either via Operator Connect or the telco’s website, a trigger should be initiated to create a revenue opportunity within the service provider’s CRM.
Providers that can offer a free, self-service trial are likely to have higher conversion rates – and that is because purchase-ready customers largely want to consume and evaluate the offering immediately. Imagine if you had to talk to someone at Amazon or eBay before you bought an item.
Number Management Integration
For optimal performance, the operator’s number database should be seamlessly integrated with their Teams automation platform – preferably through an API bridge. This would allow customers to easily access and self-assign numbers, whether their deployment is in trial or production mode.
The automated flow of data between these two systems would eliminate the need for manual provisioning and assignment of numbers, resulting in a faster, more efficient service turnaround with minimal human intervention.
Ideally, the same portal should allow customers to begin providing the necessary port authority forms to initiate the porting process from another service provider, making the platform a one-stop shop for all number-related activities. Most manual human interventions would be eliminated through integration, resulting in much faster porting times and fewer errors.
Telco billing systems are complex beasts at the best of times, and most carriers have not coped well with consumption-based services like Teams Phone. Many service providers have their work cut out managing these new service offerings, with support staff manually logging into their customers’ M365 tenancies (or, worse, asking their customers for a Teams usage extract) to confirm how much they should be billed.
Manual checks are not only time-consuming and eat into often-slim margins, but also open the door for incorrect bill generation, leaving unbilled usage when the commercials are based on a per-user per-month model. Billing purely on the numbers that have trunks attached to the tenancy is also not the silver bullet, because customers can assign the same number to multiple users – which could lead a 1,000-seat customer to consume 100 numbers and be billed as such!
A platform that can accurately see which users have numbers attached throughout the month and bill accordingly in a non-obtrusive manner (using a machine-generated, solely API-accessible Active Directory account) is ideal from both security and management perspectives.
Service Desk Management Platform
Most requests for moves/adds/change functions should be natively available within the automation platform and not require a ticket to be raised, as customers can self-service their own needs. If there is no GUI around CLI manipulation, assignment of numbers to different trunks, or creation of auto-attendants or call queues from templates, you may want to reconsider your choice of automation platform!
However, there will be times when a fault occurs or a complex request is required (such as a number port). These requests should be captured and then, ideally, be integrated directly into the operator’s service desk management platform for immediate triage and assignment to support personnel with all the necessary details.
A lighter version of this could be an email that is sent with the necessary details into a ‘dropbox’, which is then ‘scraped’ by the service management platform to artificially create a ticket and self-populate some fields.
Improving the cost efficiency and scalability of a Teams Phone offering through automation is integral for operator and service provider success. When manual handling is required, operational bottlenecks occur and unit economics slump. Customers, too, benefit from automation – self-service enables buyers to validate the solution themselves without having to speak to a sales rep.
That automation should span, at minimum, four applications: your CRM, number integration system, billing system, and service desk management platform. By integrating each system with your Teams automation platform, you can reduce purchase journey friction and improve sales velocity.
Ultimately, the biggest decision operators and service providers have to make is around their choice of Teams automation platform. It’s time to move beyond deployment automation, and step into the future: full, end-to-end automation of your Teams Phone offering.
PingCo is a leading telco as a service (TaaS) company that uses cloud-based software solutions to help companies communicate more efficiently. Its software portfolio is spearheaded by TCAP, a communications automation platform that streamlines telecommunications setup and management for carriers, wholesalers, and end users. To find out more, visit: https://pingco.com.au/
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. To learn more, visit: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/about