Ignite 2021: New releases for Azure Communication Services designed to enhance customer experiences

Published Nov 02 2021 08:00 AM 3,195 Views
Microsoft

Today at Microsoft Ignite, Azure Communication Services announced two upcoming releases. First, Azure Communication Services interoperability into Microsoft Teams for anonymous meeting join will be generally available in early December, enabling developers to bring together voice, video, and chat communication between users on a custom-built app or website with users on Microsoft Teams.

 

Second, short code functionality for SMS is now available in preview, enabling businesses to deliver a high volume of messages with both sending and receiving capabilities. Continue reading to learn more about these announcements and where to get started.

 

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Build custom applications that interact with Microsoft Teams

Improve customer interactions across apps with Microsoft Teams and Azure Communication Services interoperability.

 

The past couple of years have continued to shift so many things about how businesses operate and particularly how we communicate in a remote-first environment. Amidst all the changes, there remains a strong need for companies to connect with customers, patients, clients and more in streamlined ways. One of the key things we continue to learn from developers is that their business’ need the control and flexibility to integrate custom voice and video communication into everyday customer experiences, without the burden of owning and operating the infrastructure needed for scale. Our objective is to help developers easily build those customizable communication experiences across platforms, purpose-built for scenarios ranging from healthcare professionals delivering remote care, to finance advisors helping consumers with a loan application, or support staff helping end-users install a new product.

 

Now with Azure Communication Services interoperability into Microsoft Teams, developers can build their own app experiences that connect to the Teams platform and take advantage of Teams’ familiarly to enterprise administrators and employees.

 

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Streamline voice, video, and chat experiences

In today’s hyper-connected world, we’ve learned that even the smallest snag during a virtual visit or appointment can impact customer satisfaction and retention. Delivering experiences without the friction that often comes with connecting users on different platforms can help improve business outcomes and increase productivity.

 

To enable these types of customer interactions from your applications with users on Microsoft Teams, Azure Communication Services supports two authentication models:

 

  1. Bring Your Own Identity (BYOI), where you control user authentication within your application. With BYOI authentication, the Teams platform treats your application as an anonymous external user with limited permissions. This is ideal for business-to-consumer scenarios, for example, a custom app using BYOI authentication allows for patients to join a virtual visit with their healthcare provider who is using Teams. Optionally, the business can use Microsoft 365 Bookings to facilitate meeting scheduling between the consumer and business.
  2. Azure Active Directory (AAD) authentication, allowing for a licensed Teams users to connect with your application. With AAD authentication, the Teams platform treats your application as a Teams user, with more permissions and access to more functionality, such as receiving calls from phone numbers and transferring calls to a Teams call queue. This is ideal for building custom attendant consoles for answering and transferring a high-volume of incoming calls.

 

The following diagram shows a typical business-to-consumer scenario with BYOI identity. Note how Microsoft Graph APIs are used to exchange meeting information between Teams and the custom application.

 

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Azure Communication Services interoperability into Microsoft Teams meetings is currently in preview and will be generally available early next month (December). Get up and running today with samples and quick starts linked below.

 

Getting started

Check out our conceptual documentation overview with the latest demo showing how to build an experience on a retail website with chat bots, SMS, video calling, and a custom UI enabling customers to connect with zero-friction wherever they are. Or watch our launch video from Microsoft Mechanics with Microsoft CVP of Intelligent Communications, Scott Van Vliet.

 

Try out quick starts and samples for connecting your applications calling and chat capabilities to a Teams meeting:

 

Client & server architecture samples

Join your calling app to a Teams meeting

Join your chat app to a Teams meeting

 

If you’d like production-ready UI components to accelerate your work, check out the Azure Communication Services UI library.

 

And don’t miss the following Ignite sessions that will cover how interop enables hybrid work scenarios for developers building apps into Teams:

 

Microsoft Teams: Thrive with Hybrid Work (BRK202)

What’s new for developers building apps that power the hybrid workplace (OD105)

 

Driving customer engagement at scale

Execute high-volume SMS campaigns in seconds with easy, automated short code functionality.

 

SMS is one of the fastest growing methods of connecting with customers, and helps businesses deliver important information almost anywhere. With SMS from Azure Communication Services, developers can easily add text messaging capabilities to their applications with features like high velocity message support, bulk messaging, two-way communication, reliable delivery and so much more.

 

Now, SMS short codes is available in preview for delivering high volumes of messages with both sending and receiving capabilities. Short codes are short numbers, typically 5 or 6 digits long, that can only be used for sending text messages (SMS) or MMS messages to mobile users. Short codes are an addition to existing number types supported by Azure Communication Services. This is important for scenarios, like two-factor authentication, promotional campaigns, or appointment reminders. With this functionality, developers can now register for a new short code through an easy, automated registration service, providing many benefits for driving customer engagement at scale, such as:

 

-              High-volume of outreach, up to 12k messages/per minute OR 200 messages/per second

-              Reliable message delivery with limited carrier compliance risks

-              Two-way communication for greater flexibility in communicating with customers

-              Increased response rates and user satisfaction by utilizing an easy to remember code structure

 

Azure Communication Services SMS and short code functionality is also built to work with other Azure services. For example, businesses can reliably send messages while exposing deliverability and response metrics through Azure Monitor. SMS based workflows can be added into applications with a Logic Apps connector or receive SMS notifications with Azure Event Grid. Check out this blog to learn more about how these services can work together: Prototyping sentiment analysis of SMS with Logic Apps.

 

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Simple, easy setup

Now we’ll share how to get a short code through Azure Communication Services.

 

Step 1:

Navigate to the Azure Communication Services Resource in the Azure Portal > Short codes blade and click on “Get” for acquiring a new short code.

 

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Step 2:

Fill out a Program Brief application with details about your messaging program, including the user experience (e.g., call to action, opt-in, opt-out, and message flows) and information about the company. This information helps mobile carriers ensure that your program meets the CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association) guidelines as well as regulatory requirements. A short code Program Brief application consists of the following 4 sections:

 

a) Program Details

This section describes the messaging program - recurrence of the program, messaging content, type of program, and terms of service of the program.

 

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b) Contact Details

This section captures information about your company and customer care in the case that end users need help or support with the messaging program.

 

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c) Volume Details

This section captures information about messages sent per month and recurrence.

 

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d) Template Information

This section captures sample messages related to opt-in, opt-out, and other message flows.

 

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Step 3:

Once completed, review the Program Brief information provided and submit the completed application through the Azure Portal. And done!

 

This program brief will now be automatically sent to the Azure Communication Services’ service desk for review. The service desk specifically is looking to ensure that the provided information is in the right format before sending to all US mobile carriers for approval. The carriers will then review the details of the short code program, a process that can typically take between 8-12 weeks. Once a carriers approve the program brief, you will be notified. You can now start sending and receiving messages on this short code for your messaging programs.

 

Getting started

SMS short codes for Azure Communication Services is available in preview. We hope you take full advantage of this functionality and are excited to see what you build with messaging from Azure Communication Services.

 

Azure Communication Services - SMS Concepts

Azure Communication Services – SMS SDK Overview

 

Blog: Prototyping sentiment analysis of SMS with Logic Apps

In this post, without writing code (mostly), we build an Azure Logic App that receives SMS messages, analyzes the message’s sentiment, and acts upon that sentiment by responding with an SMS message.

 

Documentation for Azure Communication Services

 

Considerations for the future regarding upcoming releases

As you continue thinking about the production scale of your communications app, we invite you to consider the following:

 

  1. Automation of the control plane. If you’re building a solution for multiple businesses, it might pay off to use APIs to manage Azure Communication Service resources and phone numbers.
  2. Monitoring. You can monitor Calling, Chat or SMS interactions with Azure Monitor logs, and configure alerts. For example, setup paging if the service starts emitting HTTP 500 errors.
  3. Storage of SMS messages. EventGrid can pump received SMS messages to a plethora of sinks, and common SMS applications will have a database that retains content. Be mindful of your local regulatory requirements for storage and handling of data.
  4. Messaging Policy. Depending on local laws and etiquette, you need to consider user consent when sending SMS and opt-out flows because you are responsible for your application. We have introductory material online, as well as service safeguards which detect ‘STOP’ messages.
  5. Global numbers. Right now, we’re only allocating US phone numbers for SMS. This obviously limits global businesses in the short-term, but we’re geographically expanding our phone number business as fast as possible.
  6. App Compliance. It is important for external applications connecting to Teams to protect their users, with notifications when Teams users are recording a meeting or providing GDRP workflows for deleting chat data. Teams interoperability and Azure Communication Services privacy documentation is available to help.
  7. Teams Compliance and Monitoring. Teams treats BYOI users as external guests, and AAD authenticated users are standard users. This is important for the app developer and Teams administrator to keep in mind when using Teams compliance and monitoring tools. The app developer may not have access to Teams tools and should use Azure Monitor for usage and quality monitoring.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‎Nov 30 2021 03:34 PM
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