The Azure Communication Services team is excited to share several new product and feature updates released in August 2023. (You can view previous blog articles here.)
This month’s update describes the features below:
Call Automation updates
Microsoft Teams Extensibility
Advanced Actions with Azure Cognitive Services
Enhanced DTMF features
PSTN Direct Offers Geo-Expansion
Enhancements to Call Automation
The Azure Communication Services Call Automation team has released three new enhancements to public preview in August.
Workflows extensibility with Microsoft Teams
Advanced actions with Azure Cognitive Services
Extensibility with Microsoft Teams
The public preview of Azure Communication Services call automation extensibility into Microsoft Teams, enabling businesses to optimize customer service operations by bringing Microsoft Teams users into their B2C calling workflows is now available. Azure Communication Services Call Automation provides developers the ability to build programmable customer interactions using real-time event triggers to perform actions based on custom business logic. With this public preview , developers can use Call Automation APIs to add subject matter experts (SMEs) over Teams, enabling agents on a customer call to invite subject matter experts into their workflow for faster resolution. Businesses can deliver expedient, first call resolution during times of peak influx by extending their agent capacity and connecting customers directly to key personnel such as store employees or account managers on Teams.
This interoperability with Microsoft Teams over VoIP makes it easy for developers to implement per-region multi-tenant trunks that maximize value and reduce telephony infrastructure overhead. Each new tenant will be able to use this setup in a few minutes after the Microsoft Teams admin has granted necessary permissions to the Azure Communication Services resource.
Azure Communication Services has released two new advanced actions with Azure Cognitive Services:
Enhance play action with support for Text-to-Speech and SSML, and
Recognize voice input using Azure Speech-to-Text
With these releases, we’ve also updated the process to connect your Azure Communication Services to Azure Cognitive Services.
Enhance play action with support for Text-to-Speech and SSML
With the enhanced capability of providing text or SSML input as part of the play action developers can now fine-tune the pitch, pause, improve pronunciation, change speaking rate, adjust volume and attribute multiple voices. Developers can also use custom voice models that they create.
Recognize voice input using Azure Speech-to-Text
With our release for recognizing both free-form speech and choices, developers can specify the length of time to listen for audio from a caller and convert it to text allowing their application to carry out specific business logic and enabling customers to provide more context around their reason for calling. These can be useful for scenarios such as appointment bookings, food ordering, order tracking updates all the way through to complex customer outreach for marketing and customer service flows.
The enhanced Dual Tone Multi-Frequency (DTMF) features, Continuous DTMF Recognition and Send DTMF are now available through Azure Communication Services Call Automation SDKs, with added support for NodeJS and Python.
Continuous DTMF Recognition
With Continuous DTMF Recognition, developers will now be notified in real-time when a call participant presses keys on a "dialpad/numpad". This API specifically can be used to continually get notified every time a specified participant presses a DTMF tone regardless of how or where that input was triggered. This is an advanced feature that will help you handle complicated situations where Azure Communication Services Recognize feature may not be suitable, such as, when an agent is talking to a customer and at any point needs the customer to provide information such as a tracking number or an order number, where your application may not already know it needs to perform a Recognize action.
The Send DTMF action can be leveraged in scenarios where a contact center agent needs to invite an external consultant/specialist into the call to assist the customer. In these scenarios when agents are inviting external consultants/specialists they may need to be able to navigate the IVR menus on the external end.
We are excited to announce that we have now launched PSTN Direct Offers into Public Preview in the following new countries:
Australia, China, Finland, Hong Kong, Israel, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.
With this release, we are releasing Toll-Free telephone numbers in all of the above countries. In Australia, we are supporting both inbound and outbound calling and in all other countries inbound calling only. Customers can acquire telephone numbers from these new countries directly via the Azure Communication Services Portal or APIs.
Currently, Australia phone numbers can be purchased with an Azure Subscription that has a billing location in Australia. All other countries in this release can be purchased using subscriptions that have billing location in United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, France, or Spain.
Geo availability of our telco offers continues to be a critical enabler for Azure Communication Services and we are excited to continue this expansion. You can find all the new countries on our new country availability documentation.