What is Operator Connect?

– Written by Helen Johnstone

Why has Microsoft introduced Operator Connect?

Okay, so if you think about what was there before Operator Connect, it will give us some context. Microsoft originally set up Microsoft Teams by allowing people to either buy phone numbers from Microsoft, which is called a calling plan, or they can bring their own connectivity through something called Direct Routing, which is a way of effectively bringing your own carrier services to Microsoft Teams. This is great but it led to a wide-ranging and diverse set of connectivity, with all different sorts of quality standards as well. Microsoft saw that their Team’s service was being used with all of these different sorts of connections, with varying quality, varying success, and varying customer perception, which all came back down to them, in the end. They felt they needed to have a much more quality controlled way of getting calls into Teams, which customers could rely on and would carry the force of Microsoft’s reputation with it. So, they created Operator Connect as a standard way for operators to connect their phone services to Teams, which has a much higher set of criteria, which has to be certified. Microsoft is prescriptive about what has to be done in terms of automation and customer experience. So really, why did Microsoft introduce Operator Connect, it’s all about quality, customer experience, and assured service level.

When we think about the customer, the end user using Microsoft Teams, what does this mean for them? What difference do they see?

I think it means that if they choose Operator Connect as a delivery method, then they’re going to get a standard of quality that is a higher service level from Microsoft. It also doesn’t mean there’s a slightly more simplified administration process as well, for the Team’s Administrators, the end user doesn’t see that, but the Team’s Administrator has a slightly easier administration process. It’s less material because the end-user experience is what we are talking about and I think Operator Connect can deliver a more certified standard of end-user experience.

For the Operators and the Carriers, how does Operator Connect impact them?

Well, this means that there’s something else they can do, I mean, they have to join the Operator Connect Program, which has entry criteria, so not every Carrier can join. It means that they have to satisfy Microsoft’s criteria for being a member of the program, to do with those quality issues, the way they connect to Microsoft’s network, and the way they have to integrate through APIs to automate the customer journey as well. So, there are several hoops they do need to jump through to be on the Operator Connect program, and as I say, not all Carriers will make it, not all qualify. So, there is a criteria that is somewhat objective, and somewhat subjective as well. We haven’t got complete clarity over what makes a successful Operator Connect member or not, but it does seem that you do need to be a bonafide telecoms provider in a country with a telco license, have control over your own numbers, be one of those higher levels of telephony providers in a country to qualify.

What are the advantages of Microsoft Operator Connect for Carriers?

Well, it means that they are in the Operator Connect marketplace, which is where the Teams Administrator goes to find these qualifying operators, so once you’ve been through the qualification process, you’re then in the marketplace and customers can find you within the Teams Admin Centre. So there is now a tier of providers who are Operator Connect providers and will appear there and there’s obviously a long line of other providers that want to get into that marketplace because they need the same advantage of being there that those there already have.

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