The Azure Communication Services team is excited to share our product and feature updates released in November 2022. (You can view previous blog articles here.)
This month’s update describes the features below:
Call recording unmixed audio
Network and device diagnostics
Chat channel for bot framework
Public Preview of Call Automation, originally announced at Ignite 2022, is now live! Call automation is a new set of APIs that enable businesses to build custom calling workflows within their applications to optimize business processes and boost customer satisfaction. This preview provides a programmable interface that abstracts the complexity of telephony (PSTN and direct routing) and web based (WebRTC) calling systems.
Our libraries, initially available for .NET and Java, enable server applications to orchestrate calls using pre-call and mid-call actions. This is important because these actions result in corresponding events that can be used to trigger custom business logic to adapt to customers’ needs in real time. The ability to embed these types of calling workflows and commands into applications supports several business needs, such as:
Augmenting customer service: Build voice-based self-service application workflows to deflect load with prompts and help triage low-complexity high-value tasks for reduced time to customer resolution and boost agent productivity.
Adding Click-to-Call for Web or Mobile: Developers can embed WebRTC-based calling experiences directly into their applications with just a few lines of code, leveraging context from the customers journey on the application and reducing their overall telephony expense and complexity.
Programming simple voice workflows: Support various service providers with automated call-backs, number masking and redirect workflows to appropriately route callers along an interaction journey, using different numbers or endpoints. Derive insights and track success by analyzing call recordings, rich logs and telemetry.
Setting up voice reminders and alerts: Provide a superior customer experience with voice reminders or alerts that notify consumers about critical events and information such as utility outages, school closures, or reminders for upcoming appointments.
Read more about Call Automation here or check out the QuickStart to build a workflow for customer interactions use case.
Call recording now supports unmixed audio format
Call recording that supports unmixed audio formats is also in Public Preview. Call recording enables developers to record multiple calling scenarios available in Azure Communication Services by providing them with a set of APIs to start, stop, pause and resume recording. Whether it's a PSTN, WebRTC, or SIP call, these APIs can be accessed from server-side business logic or via events triggered by user actions.
With this release, developers can record calls and produce unmixed audio streams for post-call analysis and quality assurance purposes in multiple scenarios, such as sentiment analysis or Automatic Speech Recognition training. In this release, we introduce Channel Participant Ordering to allow developers to assign a participant to a specific channel. Each participant on a PSTN (public switched telephone network) or VoIP call will be recorded on a separate channel. The recording will be available to download in a single file.
Call recording unmixed audio supports complex call workflows built on Call automation but can also be used independently for your call recording needs built with Calling SDK.
In November, Azure Communication Services released the Network Diagnostic Tool, powered by new Pre-Call APIs to Public Preview. Leveraging these tools, developers can improve the success rate for their end-users during a call by mitigating common issues including call quality, network connectivity and device readiness. The tools are complimentary to each other and provide developers with a choice in the level of integration they desire. Both tools help assure users that their devices are ready to join an Azure Communication Services call by checking for connectivity, the quality of their network, and ensuring devices are properly configured.
Network Diagnostic Tool
The Network Diagnostic Tool can be used directly through a web browser and during development developers can quickly run a diagnostic test, free of charge, by selecting the start test button. The Network diagnostic tool performs diagnostics on the network, devices, and call quality. The results of the diagnostics are directly provided through the tools UI.
As part of the diagnostics performed, the user is asked to enable permissions for the tool to access their devices. With the help of an echo bot, the user is asked to record their voice which is then played back to ensure that the microphone is working as expected. Additionally, the diagnostic tool can perform a video test where it uses the camera to detect video and measure the quality of the video sent and received.
The results from the diagnostic tool can be leveraged to diagnose issues and a correlation ID is generated for each test run to be shared with our support team. Learn more in our documentation.
The Pre-Call APIs can be built into your existing call flow using the Calling SDK for Azure Communication Services. Developers can leverage the API to run connectivity, network, and device diagnostics on behalf of the user. The test runs in the background and provides the developer with the results in the form of a JSON object. Results from the Pre-Call APIs contain the detailed information that the Network Diagnostic test shares. This detailed information allows developers to power end-user experiences. Developers can also fully customize the experience with Pre-Call APIs to match their desired look and feel.
The test can be further paired with the Azure Communication Services echo bot to provide users an interactive test experience.
Developers can get started by updating their Calling SDK to the latest preview version and referring to the developer documentation which includes information on the full set of tests and metrics reported.
Chat channel for bot framework
Azure Communication Services Chat Channel for Bot Framework is now in Public Preview. This new capability enables developers to connect their conversational bots built on Azure Bot Services to Azure Communication Services Chat channel. This new functionality will be especially helpful in customer support scenarios where bots can provide the first line of support rather than live agents. The key use cases addressed are:
1) Reduce time to resolution by enabling users to be greeted by bots and address frequently asked questions before doing a handoff to an agent. This reduces time for your staff to take care of more queries by having bot do some of the work for you.
2) Meet customers outside of your normal business hours to enhance customer satisfaction by providing 24/7 support for inquiries about products, store hours, orders, returns etc. either on a website or a mobile app. If, for some reason customers need to reach you, the bot can take the customer’s details and relay the question back to you to address during business hours.
3) Build AI powered smart chat experiences leveraging other Azure services such as Azure Notification hub to send push notifications to mobile users for missed messages or Azure Cognitive services to perform sentiment analysis.