After long previews (and a few delays), Microsoft is finally adding Auto Attendant and Call Queues to Skype for Business Online.

Skype for Business drives digital transformation – Office Blogs

Microsoft adds new calling features to Skype for Business – ZDNet

Let’s do a quick rundown on the new features first. I’m glad to see Skype for Business Online users getting these…even though Skype for Business Server users have had them for a while.

What the Auto Attendant and Call Queues Do

Auto Attendant is an automated system to answer and route inbound calls using dial pad inputs and speech recognition. You’ve encountered these plenty of times, when calling ISPs, telecom providers, or enterprise companies.

“To speak with Sales, press 1. To access a dial-by-name directory, please press Pound.”

Call Queues route incoming calls to the next available live attendant in the order they are received. Same deal as Auto Attendants…in fact, I don’t recall any instance where I’ve encountered one without the other. Creating both together is standard practice for all of our Skype for Business (Server) customers.

“Yes, I know you were calling for Alice, but she’s on the other line right now. My name’s Bob, how can I help you?”

Doesn’t Skype for Business Server have these features?

The question a lot of people (including some of our readers) have asked. Yes, these calling features already exist for Skype for Business Server users.

In fact, we’ve discussed them a few times here on the blog. These are the Auto Attendant-related posts:

The Two Types of Response Group Management (and When to Use Them)
Examining Lync’s Connection Tools: OCSUMUtil
Auto Attendant Failing? Your UM Dial Plan Can’t Have Spaces in its Name
Software Review: Attendant Pro (Part 1)
Software Review: Attendant Pro (Part 2) – Quick Access Shortcuts

Noted Skype for Business expert (and longtime friend to the blog!) Jeff Schertz has an excellent post addressing Auto Attendant as well: Skype for Business and Exchange UM Integration – Jeff Schertz’s Blog

Here are the Call Queues-related posts (not as many, but it’s hard to focus on one without the other):
The Two Types of Response Group Management (and When to Use Them)
Examining Lync’s Connection Tools: OCSUMUtil (Gee, sensing a pattern here…)
Lync Updates for January 2014: Server 2013, Phone Edition and Lync for iPhone All Updated
How to Create a Response Group: 20 Tasks Every Lync Administrator Must Know

Why the Delay?

Slow Update pace...deliberately?These features integrate with Cloud PBX. Which, as you’re aware, creates a telephony system in the cloud to replace your PBX-based on-site phone system.

Adding more calling features to the existing Cloud PBX – while it’s in use, no less! – would require a good chunk of engineering. Field testing them rigorously is necessary (hence the preview). Given all that, I understand the slow development pace.

What I don’t understand is why they weren’t integrated when Cloud PBX was first deployed. The functionality did exist, as part of Skype for Business Server’s voice routing capability.

Part of the O365 Adoption Strategy?

A comment on the original Microsoft announcement said something very important:

“Great news but the features still only work with on-line users and not with hybrid voice deployments.”

Still no Auto Attendant/Call Queues for hybrid deployments. So, it’s two-thirds of a launch?

That makes me think each new feature gets staggered out intentionally. Not (totally) because of development time, but because it gives them another announcement to trumpet. Each time pushing more users away from Skype4B Server, toward Office 365. Even Hybrid users will feel the push this time…and maybe next time too.

Lest you think this is just a rant (apologies for that), let me end with more useful information.

How to Create an Auto Attendant and Call Queues in your Office 365 Admin Center

As of this writing, you will need an E3 (plus Cloud PBX) or an E5 Office 365 account, to enable Auto Attendant and Call Queues.

Before setting up either feature, you’ll have to get a new number, or transfer your existing service numbers, into Skype for Business. They have to show up under “Voice > Phone numbers” with the Number Type as “Service—Toll-Free.” See Getting Skype for Business Service Phone Numbers – Office Support.

CREATING AUTO ATTENDANTS:Auto Attendant Call Handling

  1. In the Skype for Business Admin Center, click Call routing > Auto attendants.
  2. Click Add new.
  3. You’ll have four pages of options:
    • Edit General Info – Setting the attendant’s name, phone number, language & operator.
    • Select Hours of Operation – Will this attendant run 8-5, 24/7, or somewhere in between?
    • Business Hours Call Handling – Which greeting to use, what to do with calls, and which options callers must choose.
    • Select Dial Scope – Which users are included in the attendant.
  4. Enter the appropriate information for each page. You may need to create a phone number & a greeting prior to setting the attendant up.
  5. Once the new Auto Attendant is ready, click Save.
  6. Navigate to the Auto Attendants page (if you’re not already there). Select the new attendant.
  7. Click the Test button to test the new attendant.

Full documentation: Set up a Cloud PBX Auto Attendant – Office Support

CREATING CALL QUEUES:

  1. In the Skype for Business Admin Center, click Call routing > Call queues.
  2. Click Add new.
  3. Like before, you’ll have several options to set.
    • Call Queue Name, Phone Number, and Domain
    • The Greeting and Music to play while callers are on hold (for all our sake, pick some fun music!)
    • Which users should serve as call agents for this queue
    • The maximum queue size (default is 50, but it can go from 0 to 200) and wait time, as well as what happens when the queue is full & wait time is reached
    • Which Auto Attendant you’ll assign this queue to – You must configure the Auto Attendant before the Call Queue.

Full documentation: Create a Cloud PBX Call Queue – Office Support

Skype for Business Online/Server Feature Parity: Getting Closer!

As with all new features, many thanks are owed to the Skype for Business dev team. Now Office 365 users have the ability to route calls around the office, saving employees’ time. Like Server users.

What’s your stance on Skype for Business Online, now that Auto Attendant and Call Queues are available? Please comment or email.

Skype for Business Online Now Has Auto Attendant and Call Queues
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *