Omnichannel for Customer Service – SMS

Omnichannel for Customer Service allows us to integrate SMS with Dynamics 365, in this post I will look at how this operates and how to setup the SMS channel.

We have two potential providers of SMS supported within Omnichannel for Customer Service, those being Twilio and Telesign. I am not going to be reviewing their services as such in this post! You may want to look at both options to work out which is the most cost effective for your needs. But I will say it is great to have a choice!

For the purpose of this post I will focus on Telesign. (Mainly because I already have a Telesign account setup!)

User Experience

Before considering the process to setup the SMS channel, lets look at the agent and customer experience.

Below you can see that my agent has their Omnichannel for Customer Service agent dashboard open …. A new SMS has arrived and a notification has been shown allowing the agent to accept or reject the conversation. This operates in pretty much an identical manner as we see with other channels, such as webchat.

Below we can see that my customer has sent and received messages on their phone. I happen to be using an iPhone, other phones are available! In the “grey” messages we can see the responses from the agent. The message which says “Thanks for contacting us” has been generated automatically by Omnichannel for Customer Service! Whilst the other “grey” messages were entered by my agent.

Note:
I did test sending pictures from my iphone. These weren’t delivered. Meaning picture messages aren’t currently supported.

Below we can see that within Omnichannel for Customer Service the agent can chat with the customer, the behaviour here is effectively the same experience as we’d typically expect with webchat or in fact any channel. Meaning I have access to all the standard agent productivity features like multiple sessions, agent scripts, smart assistants etc etc.

Sentiment analysis is also supported out of the box.

SMS conversations differ from some channels! In that we don’t always expect instant responses. Commonly agents might navigate away from the conversation. The agent can however still see that additional messages have arrived that haven’t been viewed. Below for example, my agent has had two messages which are yet to be read.

Importantly the colour of the “circle icon” connected with the conversations helps to flag the sentiment. Below you can see that the conversation icon has changed from green to red, this denotes that my customer is becoming (or is) unhappy. In my example having six messages that the agent hasn’t responded on may be contributing to the mood of my customer!

Earlier we saw an automated message which was generated by the fact that the customer was waiting for an agent to join the conversation. Below you can see an example of another automated message. In this scenario the agent has closed the conversation and the customer has been automatically alerted to this.

Setups Process

So …. how do we configure the SMS channel within Omnichannel for Customer Service?

The setup can be broadly thought of in two sections, as first I will need to provision a number using either Twilio or Telesign. Then we need to configure that number within Omnichannel for Customer Service. As mentioned in my introduction I will focus on Telesign in this post. But the process for Twilio is actually quite similar!

Telesign Setup

I already had a standard account. If your account is not a standard or enterprise account. You may need to upgrade it before continuing! I think this means a trial account won’t work but the cost of provisioning a number for testing purposes is pretty minimal.

So once you have registered with Telesign you will need to buy a number. You can do this in your Telesign portal, by navigating to the link below;

https://portal.telesign.com/portal/sms-settings

Notice that my account is a standard account and I have some funds available. A massive $24.92! Now I am ready to buy a number.

Selecting the “Buy a Phone Number” option allows me to select a number. I’m in the UK so I set my country to UK. The type is mobile and the feature I require is two-way SMS.

The search will present me with a selection of numbers. You can see that currently there is a $1 setup cost and a monthly fee of $1. (You will obviously also pay for any messages!)

After selecting a number in step one, I next confirm that I am happy with the associated payments.

Before I provision my newly created number in Omnichannel for Customer service I need to make a note of my customer ID and API keys. As I will need these whilst configuring my SMS channel.

Omnichannel Setup

The first step in the process in the setup of the Omnichannel setup is to create a workstream. Below you can see that I have opened my Omnichannel for Customer Service administration app and created a new work stream.

I opted to call my channel “SMS Support”, any name would do!

My channel is SMS (which will enable the SMS settings tab).

The capacity value is used in routing. Here I am saying that each SMS conversation will consume 30 points. Therefore an agent who has been allocated a capacity of 300 could handle up to 10 concurrent conversations.

Notice I have set my conversations to auto-close after 2 days of inactivity. This might be quite a long time and I might later reduce this! The effect is, if my customer took more than 2 days to respond to a message any subsequent messages would form part of a new conversation thread.

The allow automated messaged option enables automated responses outside of working hours.

I wanted to understand the effect of changing the “Allow automated messages” option to “Yes”! Below you can see that when I tested this out of hours the customer will receive a message explaining that an agent will respond when we open.

Tip:
Although my customer will be warned if their message is sent outside of working hours if you happen to have an agent online they will still receive the message. So I found the routing of messages happened regardless of the working hours settings.

Next I configure my SMS settings on the work stream. Here I select my SMS provider. (Telesign in my example)

I then need to enter my Telesign account information. Including my customer ID and API key that I noted when I provisioned my Telesign phone number.

When my workstream is saved a Telesign inbound URL will be generated. I will need to add this into my Telesign setup!

Below you can see that I have returned to my Telesign portal and within the settings option of SMS I have pasted my inbound URL into the “Customer call back URL field”.

I did notice that the Microsoft instructions suggest that you email details of your Telesign callback URL to support@telesign.com. But I just entered my the callback URL myself!

NOTE:
I did have some issues with my number not working initially. So before I finished configuring my SMS channel I did email support. So honestly I’m not sure if my problems were unrelated or because I updated the callback URL myself! But I can say if you hit any problems TeleSign’s support team are very efficient and responded to my queries very quickly.

Next I used the SMS option in my Omnichannel for Customer Service administration app to enter the details of my mobile number. You can see that I entered my number and selected the workstream I’d created. Here I could also select my opening hours. (Tip: Opening hours are configurable within Omnichannel for Customer Service.)

My config was almost finished! But I now need to define how messages are routed to agents. You can define multiple routing rules but I created one simple rule that sent all messages to my default queue.

To do this open your workstream and add a routing rule. My simple routing rule is shown below.

Finally everything is in place! My last step is to validate my SMS settings. On my workstream I simply selected the “Validate SMS Settings” option.

After a short pause the message below appeared. I was very happy my SMS configuration was ready.

I admit that the initial setup of SMS took me some time. Although I think that was mainly as I had some initial teething troubles with my Telesign phone number. Which Telesign support resolved very efficiently!

But once my config was operational I have found the SMS channel to be very robust and I’ve been impressed with how well it works. I hope you also enjoy using the SMS channel within Omnichannel for Customer Service. Enjoy!

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