Technology Record - Issue 28: Spring 2023

86 INTERVIEW Winning the customer experience battle Microsoft’s Roy Dehing and Anywhere365’s Ruud Lendfers explain how they are working together to deliver transformative enterprise communications experiences via Azure Communications Services BY REBECCA GIBSON When a customer contacts a business to ask a question or make a complaint, they expect to receive an instant, and helpful, response. In the past, they were satisfied with contacting organisations through traditional channels such as telephone or email and waiting for human agents to help, but now they also want to be able to resolve issues more rapidly via everything from instant online messaging services to self-service portals. “Digitalisation, the pandemic and other factors have changed the types of experiences customers expect businesses to provide,” says Roy Dehing, principal partner program manager for ACS at Microsoft. “Customer experience (CX) is the new battleground and if they want to emerge as winners, businesses must make a paradigm shift in how they manage enterprise communications. They need to replace traditional contact centre solutions with platforms that enable them to offer machine-to-machine, machine-to-human and human-to-human communications.” Microsoft is helping contact centre solution providers to meet this demand with Azure Communication Services (ACS). The communications-platform-as-a-service offering features multichannel communication application programming interfaces (APIs) for adding voice, video, chat, text messaging, email and other functionalities to enterprise communication solutions. “ACS enables contact centre solution providers to develop new communication and collaboration experiences on top of Microsoft’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications such as Microsoft Teams,” says Dehing. “By lifting and shifting the back end of their contact centre platforms to ACS, these independent software vendors (ISVs) can integrate artificial intelligence, machine learning and internet of things (IoT) capabilities. This enables them to create exciting new ‘hero’ use cases for both internal employees and external customers. Importantly, it also means both Teams and non-Teams users can interact with each other seamlessly on the same platform.” One ISV already leading the way is Anywhere365, which provides a cloud-based contact centre and dialogue management platform that natively integrates with the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. The platform, which was the first of its kind to be certified for use with Microsoft Teams, uses AI, ML and Microsoft Azure to empower businesses to interact with customers across any channel, from anywhere and at any time. Anywhere365 is keen to enhance the platform by capitalising on the flexibility ACS offers, says product director Ruud Lendfers. “ACS is a core Microsoft platform with very powerful APIs that will help us to overcome the limitations of Teams,” he explains. “The out-ofthe-box functionality and powerful APIs make it much simpler for us to incorporate the newest channels and capabilities into our solutions. This will empower us to create customer engagement