Home » Twilio Who? The Newest Competitor to SMS and Voice Services By Microsoft

Twilio Who? The Newest Competitor to SMS and Voice Services By Microsoft

by Tony Pimpo
8 minutes read

Microsoft recently announced the release of Azure Communication Services (ACS), offering a framework for companies to create their own calling, live chat, and messaging systems. 

It’s the same communication framework that powers Microsoft Teams, available for proprietary use. Microsoft boasts that this is the “first fully managed communication platform offering from a major cloud provider.”

Anyone watching the tech world will see Microsoft making significant changes to their marketing and sales strategies. They’re making efforts to sell to companies in industries such as healthcare, retail, and manufacturing. It’s seen a degree of success as big-box companies like Walmart opt to use Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Computing instead of handing over money to competing giant Amazon. But these new moves mean benefits for smaller companies as well.

This puts Microsoft in direct competition with Amazon Web Services and Twilio. But Microsoft’s long track record in the software industry and integration with other powerful tools such as Power Automate and Azure Cloud Computing make this service stand out as a one-stop shopping solution. Read on to see how ACS can improve your daily business functions.

Features Of ACS

ACS is a new service, and not all features are available at this time. Text messaging and the issuing of phone numbers are expected to roll out this month, but you can request early access to these features through Microsoft’s website.

Voice and Video Calls By ACS

The calling options provided by Azure Communication Services give you high-quality audio and seamless shifts between voice and video. It includes support for up to 50 participants and top-notch security.

ACS allows you to add a live call option to your business’ app or website. You can then switch from voice to video calls and back in an instant. This could prove useful for communicating with clients when face to face interactions aren’t an option – think of a service call outside of business hours or a quick inventory check at a warehouse out of town.

Live Chat by ACS

Imagine a live chat option on your app or website. Azure Communication Services can make it happen. You have the options for one on one chats for customer service or large group chats for an entire team. ACS live chats support up to 250 members in one thread. Editing and deleting messages, typing indicators, and read receipts are all supported.

Integrating chat messages with Azure Cognitive Services opens up new capabilities. Members can converse in different languages thanks to added translation services. Your customer service representatives can prioritize chat threads instantly based on sentiment detection. You could even send automated responses with relevant information to customers as they wait.

Text Messages By ACS

SMS communications allow your business to reach people with vital information anytime, anywhere. No app or website login is required. With the vast majority of your customers having phones with SMS capabilities as standard, this will be a quick and easy way to reach your audience.

The SMS functions provided by Azure Communication Services allow for integration with other Azure functions Logic Apps and Event Grid. The functions you could link to texts are nearly limitless. Read on for a couple of examples below.

SMS capabilities are set for public release in October 2020.

Phone Numbers Provided By ACS

Azure Communication Services software allows you to issue new phone numbers or port your current numbers for inbound and outbound calls. You’ll be able to integrate this software with your existing equipment. These options come with a la carte pricing plans to suit your business’ needs. If you only need inbound calling and outbound SMS, there’s an option for that.

Human to system communications are supported for phone calls as well as live chats. You can enable a bot to answer incoming calls before routing to the correct department or team member. Like the SMS function, this will be available later in October 2020. 

Phone Numbers Provided By ACS

Azure Communication Services software allows you to issue new phone numbers or port your current numbers for inbound and outbound calls. You’ll be able to integrate this software with your existing equipment. These options come with a la carte pricing plans to suit your business’ needs. If you only need inbound calling and outbound SMS, there’s an option for that.

Human to system communications are supported for phone calls as well as live chats. You can enable a bot to answer incoming calls before routing to the correct department or team member. Like the SMS function, this will be available later in October 2020. 

Making ACS More Powerful With Integrations 

With Azure Communication Services provided by the same minds behind Power Automate, it’s no surprise that the two services will have many integration possibilities. In fact, many functions made possible by Azure Cloud Computing will be able to lend their talents to your communication needs. Here are only a few ideas for integration.

Prioritize Chat Threads With Sentiment Detection Via Azure AI

Azure Cognitive Services include Text Analytics services like language and sentiment detection. The latter is especially useful when it comes to customer feedback. You’ll be able to evaluate all your messages in an instant and prioritize them based on what the customer is talking about and how they feel about it.

With this service, you input a file with all of the comments you wish to analyze. The system can create a word cloud, highlighting the most common words in your batch of comments. You can analyze the sentiment of the comments using Flask integration. And you can create a custom function to prioritize the comments and respond to the most pertinent ones first.

Provide Suggested Results In Chat With A Custom Search

Among the vast array of options provided by Azure Cognitive Services are automatic search functions you could introduce to your chat program. If you’ve ever tried to contact a company through their website and they responded with an automated message with suggested help files, you already have an idea of what this function can do.

Connect your chat to Azure Cognitive Services, and you can create a flow to start an automated Bing search based on specific keywords. Don’t want your customers to search the entire internet for help with their problems? Custom search options are available, so you can ensure that all search options come from your website.

This can prove useful in your live chat function to answer frequently asked questions in chat. Many customers don’t want to search throughout your website for help and would prefer an answer given to them. This function accommodates that need by your customer without tying up your customer service team.

Triggering A Call With A Button Flow Via Power Automate

Power Automate allows for the creation of instant flows that work at the push of a button. By connecting Power Automate with your ACS capabilities, you can create a button to instantly make a phone call to a specific contact. This can be useful in an internal business app to act as an instant line to your IT department, for instance.

You can start this by setting up an instant flow from Power Automate and connecting to ACS. Creating this instant call button eliminates human error from dialing the wrong number.

Manage Employee Schedules Via SMS With Logic Apps And Shifts

Shifts for Microsoft Teams is a scheduling program for businesses. You can set schedules, broadcast open shifts, swap shifts, and more. Connecting this program to your SMS capabilities can enable your workers to request time off or shift swaps by sending texts.

By integrating your ACS functions with Shifts, you can simplify the scheduling process. Set up triggers for certain requests with SMS messages and let employees send their requests instantly. You can also send SMS notifications to your team when shifts are approved, denied, or up for the taking.

Why Move to ACS?

Microsoft’s latest offerings and marketing strategies show a desire to reach industries outside of tech. There’s an emphasis on smaller businesses in industries such as retail, manufacturing, government, and education. These aren’t industries that traditionally rely on a strong understanding of computer science and code.

The strength of Azure Communication Services and other recent offerings from Microsoft is its user-friendly approach. They empower businesses to make use of automation and new technologies without mucking around in complex codes. A traditional mom and pop business can use these tools to automate ordering, inventory management, and more just as well as the big-box retailers – perhaps even surpass them.

ACS and its potential to integrate with tools like Power Automate open the door for unlimited technological advancement for your business.

About Dynamic Consultants Group

The capabilities of modern technology are always changing. You need consultants to help you navigate the field and ensure you come out ahead of your rivals.

Dynamic Consultants Group is a Microsoft partner and consulting firm for CRM and marketing automation. Schedule a meeting or fill out our contact form to discover what we can do for your business today.