Teams Connector Enables Teams’ Users To Do More

BY MICAH SINGER, GUEST BLOGGER

I started following Microsoft Teams in the summer of 2018 when they released Direct Routing.  I thought it was a really neat concept that would engage more with service providers to get them involved with Microsoft Office 365.  This is really almost the opposite tactic than Microsoft had taken a few years earlier with the Skype for Business launch.

With a SIP channel available to easily connect phone services into Microsoft Teams it opened the door to the PBX and a world of 3rd party applications that use voice.  In addition, Microsoft introduced their Graph API and an SDK to allow third parties to build applications that integrate with Teams.  This means workflows that involve systems outside of Teams (like those PBXes or SMS services from SkySwitch) can now easily interact inside of Teams.  More recently Microsoft announced their commitment to these business workflows with Azure Communication Services which means they are looking to really compete with Twilio for the CPaaS market.

In all these big initiatives, Microsoft is telling the world that integration is the key to a better user experience.  With Direct Routing and the Graph API, Microsoft has actually been able to provide powerful tools to improve user experience.

That’s where the idea of the Teams Connector really came more into focus.  If people are using Microsoft Teams, the thought process is how can it become a place where call-control offered by a PBX or a Contact Center application is use-able and use-ful.  The idea was to build a set of integration tools that Service Providers, like Skyswitch, could use, customize and integrate into business phone services.

The big question I had back in 2018 was would people start using Microsoft Teams.  Microsoft was heavily promoting Teams and finding a responsive but slow market.  By 2020 (even pre-pandemic) it was starting to see broader adoption.  The pandemic provided steroids and adoption quadrupled in under a year.  Now, in 2021 businesses, schools, non-profits, healthcare and other verticals are trying to make Teams do more.

Looking to the future, our prime consideration with the Teams Connector is to enable Teams’ users to do more things more easily inside Teams with external tools.  Microsoft has created an increasingly open platform that is allowing the world to work in Teams and with the recent announcement of Azure for Operators they made a point to reiterate that they are “… committed to working with operators as a partner, not as a competitor.”  Those are encouraging words but only words.  As a sales organization, it makes sense to keep providing valuable communication tools and integrations, like the combination of Teams and SkySwitch, to your customers.  You are the trusted source for Telecom and IT.

In short, as a Service Provider it seems like a good time to have a solid Teams – PBX integration as an option for your business customers, and the Teams Connector let’s you do just that.

Auto Attendant & On-Hold Message Do’s and Don’ts, From A Voiceover Expert

BY DONNA RENEE, GUEST BLOGGER

I’ve been doing telephony voice work for 20 years, and let me tell you — in two decades of experience, you see a little bit of everything.  Some great scripts…and some really bad scripts. I’ve cultivated tidbits of advice on what you should do and what not to do.  Here are some highlights:

How to Incorporate Extensions Effectively

  • DON’T mix extension numbers (ie “dial ext. 207”) and press numbers (ie “press 1 for sales”) in the same Auto Attendant script.  
  • DO use one or the other, and be consistent throughout the whole script.
  • WHY – We expect to hear one or the other, so it’s confusing to the caller.  Our minds take too long trying to connect the dots when we hear something we don’t expect.

Getting the Right Voiceover Length

  • DON’T write ‘War and Peace’ for the Auto Attendant Greeting script. Many marketing departments want to list their greatest talking points, tags and slogans, but this is not the right venue for that.
  • DO give only the pertinent information as succinctly as possible.
  • WHY – No one wants to listen to a recording that drags on for 2 minutes, no matter how good your content is. They just want to speak to someone ASAP.

When to Present the ‘Dial for Operator’ Option

  • DON’T give the ‘press 0 for the operator’ in the first sentence of the Auto Attendant!  
  • DO give that option at the end of the greeting.
  • WHY – If you give the option right away, they won’t listen to the rest of the greeting. Everyone will zero out, and the rest becomes pointless.

Silence Isn’t Always Golden

  • DON’T have silence on hold.
  • DO have either music provided by SkySwitch or On Hold Messages by AdvantageIVR.
  • WHY – With silence, it’s too easy to think you’ve been hung up on and they’ll call back, making staff busier than they need to be.  

First Impressions Matter

  • DON’T think that the voice on the Auto Attendant doesn’t matter, or that it’s a throw-away task.
  • DO have the Auto Attendant Greetings professionally recorded.
  • WHY – The Auto Attendant is the NEW Director of First Impressions, just like the receptionist used to be.  And was the receptionist important back in the day? I rest my case.

Incorporate the Company Directory in a Smart Way

  • DON’T give a long list of names, departments and their extensions in the Main Menu. (i.e. For Bill Wright, head of Marketing, dial 278; for Barry White, lead singer of our company choir, dial 777, etc.)
  • DO say “For a Company Directory, press ___” and then plug them into the directory.
  • WHY – The Main Menu should be short and staccato-like. Callers would rather have a couple of menu levels than be forced to listen to the whole message to hear what they need  — which is typically at the end. 😄

Add Music Here, But Not There…

  • DON’T use music on the Auto Attendant Greetings.
  • DO use music on the On Hold Messages.
  • WHY – People don’t expect music when a call is answered. They automatically think they’ve been placed on hold because they have been trained to know that music signals “on hold”.  So think: Auto Attendant = Voice Only, On Hold = Voice with Music.

Be Careful Where That Music Comes From

  • DON’T play the radio or your favorite mp3 download or music CD on hold.  It’s illegal.
  • DO use licensed music only or professionally recorded On Hold Messages with licensed music.
  • WHY – Composers legally earn royalties from their songs played on the radio, digital downloads and CDs. The ‘royalty police’ – ASCAP, BMI, SESAC – can fine you for doing such.  AdvantageIVR uses ONLY licensed music for their on hold productions.

The Differences Between Voiceover Message Types

  • DON’T think that Auto Attendant Greetings and On Hold Messages are the same.
  • DO know the difference.
  • WHY – When explaining the services you offer, Auto Attendant Greetings are recordings heard when the phone is answered, the menus they navigate through and the voicemail greetings.  On Hold Messages are heard after a call has been answered and is placed on hold and they are always set to music. Apples and Oranges.

Know Your Audience and Cater to That

  • DON’T have a male voice doing the Auto Attendant Greetings for an OBGYN clinic, or similar female patient only business.
  • DO have a female voice for that client.
  • WHY – Self-explanatory.

If you found these tips helpful and want to learn more about the importance of creating great, personalized voiceovers for your business, then make sure to sign up for this SkySwitch webinar I’ll be broadcasting live on Tuesday, April 14th!

Meet Donna Renee: Specialist for Auto Attendant Greetings and More

BY DONNA RENEE, GUEST BLOGGER

Most of the SkySwitch community know me as the voice of Wendy in all of the CVA Branded Reseller Videos  — but, I do more than that!  

I’m Donna Renee, Professional Voice Actor and Owner of Advantage IVR. Since 2014, I’ve worked with the SkySwitch community, providing quality auto-attendant greetings and VOaaS solutions for resellers. If you attended Vectors last year, you might remember meeting me there! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting closer to the SkySwitch community, so I felt it was about time to introduce myself a little more so we can continue growing our connection.

A little bit about my background: I actually stumbled into my career as a voice actor while working part-time for an on-hold message company 20 years ago. One of my first clients asked me to voice their on-hold program. Two years after that, they asked me to voice their TV commercial, and that opened the door to launch my career. Today, I have voiced thousands of TV and radio commercials, training and educational videos, sales videos, promos, e-learning modules and of course on-hold messages and auto-attendant greetings!

Since I’ll be hosting a webinar with SkySwitch on April 14th, we thought it would be fun to share a snippet of the broad range of things that I have done over my 20-year career in voice acting.

Here are my “Top Ten Best Hits”:

1. Psalm 46
My personal favorite. Produced by Moving Works, this is a short film bringing to life the reality of Psalm 46, which teaches us to trust God in the midst of life’s worst moments. How appropriate for right now.

2. INTERPOL
I have a video producer client in Germany that gets a lot of EU Government jobs.  One of the most interesting assignments that I’ve done for him was an e-learning script for new employee onboarding for INTERPOL.  I could tell you more, let you listen to a sample, but then I’d have to _____ ___. You know the rest. It’s a good day to keep living, so let’s move on!  LOL.

 

3. 2016 General Election
I love politics! So, in the 2016 General Election when I scored a relationship with a political production agency, it was a heyday! That season I did the voicing for 1 US Senator, and 35 other candidates and issues. I hope the 2020 General stacks up the same or better! 

4. Papa Murphys
For 3.5 years I was the radio voice for Papa Murphys. This was through an agency, and sadly, I don’t have a sample. (I’ve always asked, but they never sent it.) Sure wish I could have had free pizza as part of the deal!

 

5. Surf’N Gourmet TV Show – Discovery Life Channel
This comes with a disclaimer. I don’t love my voiceover style in this, but I gave them exactly what they asked for — and my client loved it! Even though I sometimes cringe when I hear it, I’m putting it on my list because I was hired by a producer for Discovery Life Channel, which was a big win for me. The Surf’N Gourmet was a TV show airing in the USA and other countries. They were in a new VC round and wanted a sizzle reel to garner interest. I auditioned and got the job! 

6. Inspirada
This was a commercial for an adult living community in a Las Vegas suburb. Another big audition win on a huge ‘pay to play’ platform … hundreds of auditions. I think this turned out great!

7. St. Joseph Medical Centers
Big win through one of my agents …the client auditioned thousands of voices through multiple agents, couldn’t find what they were ‘listening’ for and kept searching through multiple agencies. Finally, they heard my voice and I got hired. What a blessing!

8. Heathman Hotel – Art Tour
This was the most unique gigs I’ve ever done. The Heathman Hotel in Downtown Portland Oregon has an eclectic art curation that they are quite proud of. They created an audio tour of it and I voiced it! Super unique and fun project. They renovated the hotel in 2018 and sadly my audio tour no longer exists. But it was there for a decade!

9. Car Gal – Lexus, Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, Maserati, Genesis
Somehow, I have become the go-to Luxury Car Gal voiceover for commercials  — and I love it! I should have counted how many car ads I’ve voiced. Radio, TV and internet.  Here are three favorites!

10. Funny Commercial – ODC – Son Burn
Lastly, I have one client who does comedic, parody-types of commercials. They always crack me up. Sometimes they almost cross the line, as in this case. Is it really funny?  No — but at the same time, yes. I included this one because sometimes a little dose of laughter is a good thing.

I hope you enjoyed listening to my top hits! Keep an eye out on social media and the weekly SkySwitch newsletter for some of my upcoming blog posts that will cover voiceover do’s and don’ts, and for reminders on webinars that I’ll be speaking on.

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