Customer expectations continue to increase, looking for immediate response and rapid issue resolution, across multiple channels 24/7. Nowhere is this more apparent than the contact center, with this landscape is driving the need for efficiencies, such as reducing call handling times and increasing call deflection rates – all whilst aiming to deliver a personalized and tailored customer experience.
To help respond to this need, we announced the public preview of the telephony channel for Azure Bot Service in February 2021, expanding the already significant number of touch points offered by the service, to include this increasingly critical method of communication.
Built on state-of-the-art speech services
The new telephony channel, combined with our Bot Framework developer platform, makes it easy to rapidly build always-available virtual assistants, or IVR assistants, that provide natural language intent-based call handling and the ability to handle advanced conversation flows, such as context switching and responding to follow up questions and still meeting the goal of reducing operational costs for enterprises.
This new capability combines several of our Azure and AI services, including our state-of-the-art Cognitive Speech Service, enabling fluid, natural-sounding speech that matches the patterns and intonation of human voices through Azure Text-to-Speech neural voices, with Azure Communications Services powering various calling capabilities. The channel also provides support for full duplex conversations and streaming audio over PSTN, support for DTMF, barge-in (allowing a caller to interrupt the virtual assistant) and more. Follow our roadmap and try out one of our samples on the Telephony channel GitHub repository.
Improving our Conversational AI SDK and tools for speech experiences
To compliment the introduction of the telephony channel and ensure our customers can create industry leading experiences, we have added new features to Bot Framework Composer, an open-source conversational authoring tool, featuring a visual canvas, built on top of the Bot Framework SDK, allowing you to extend and customize the conversation with code and pre-built components. Updates to Composer to support speech experiences include,
The ability to add tailored speech responses in seconds, either for a voice only or multi-modal (text and speech) agent.
Addition of global application settings for your bot, allowing you to set a consistent voice font to be used on speech enabled channels, including taking care of setting the required base SSML tags.
Authoring UI helpers that allow you to add additional common SSML (Speech Synthesis Markup Language) tags to control the intonation, speed and even the style of the voice used, including new styles available for our neural voice fonts, such as a dedicated Customer Service style.
Comprehensive Contact Center solution through Dynamics 365
Microsoft announced the expansion of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service omnichannel capabilities to include a new voice channel, that is built on this telephony channel infrastructure. With native voice, businesses receive seamless, end-to-end experiences within a single solution, ensuring consistent, personalized, and connected support across all channels of engagement. This new voice channel for Customer Service enables an all-in-one customer service solution without fragmentation or manual data integration required, and enables a faster time to value. Learn more here.