I’ve covered Response Groups in a number of earlier posts. Microsoft has started implementing similar functionality in Skype for Business Online, called Call Queues.
Where Response Groups are quite comprehensive and have “lite” call center functionality, Call Queues aren’t there yet. There are a number of key differences between the two. First up, let’s have an general overview of Call Queues, then we’ll compare them with Response Groups.
The purpose of Call Queues is to provide automated call distribution to a group of users, called agents. You can have up to 50 agents assigned to a Call Queue. Agents are assigned to a Call Queue using distribution lists, or mail enabled security groups. The Call Queue can handle 200 simultaneous calls. If you’re handling 200 simultaneous calls, you should evaluate contact center software to see if it offers you additional functionality that you can take advantage of.
As with Cloud PBX Auto Attendants, you can upload a corporate greeting. If you don’t have a favorite application for this, try Audacity. You can also specify a music on hold file, that’ll be played while callers are in the queue waiting for an agent.
When you setup group, you need to allow time for the group to sync from Azure Active Directory to Azure Address Book Service.
Calls are distributed to all of the agents in the groups you configured, to a maximum of 50, or there is a global setting to reduce this count further. If you’re using groups with larger membership, be aware that not everyone will be offered every call. If you want more certainty in who is offered a call, create custom groups.
Each Call Queue has an overflow threshold, after which new calls will have some configurable action taken on them rather than the call being added to the queue. This can be 0 to 200, but has a default of 50. You can select actions of DisconnectwithBusy, Forward, or Voicemail.
There is also a timeout option, so that after a certain amount of time in the Queue, calls are send to another Call Queue, Auto Attendant, Voicemail, or User. You can also just disconnect the caller.
Consider whether you want to use the disconnect options. While the caller will hear a busy tone, you may want to forward the call to voicemail, and play an informational message. I would never recommend a disconnect for the Queue timeout – why would you disconnect someone after they’ve been waiting in the queue for 10 minutes (or however long you configure).
You’ll need a Cloud PBX Service Number to assign to your Call Queue, and you can use both tolled and toll-free. You can use a new service number for setup and testing, and port in your existing number.
The timing of the port may prove awkward if this is your main number. You can setup your Call Queue with a new number, and have your existing main number forwarded to it. When you receive notification that the number has ported, you can edit your Call Queue to use the new number directly.
Your Tenant needs to have E5, or E3 plus Cloud PBX licensing, in order to have Cloud PBX Call Queue available.
If you want your Cloud PBX Call Queue to direct calls to a voicemail box, you should setup a phantom user (a user account with no real human attached to it), and have that mailbox be the target of Queue.
Call Queues allows Online SfB users with a Cloud PBX license to be agents, regardless of what region they’re in. A PSTN Number or PSTN Calling user licenses isn’t required. Agents must be using the SfB 2016 or Lync 2013 desktop clients, or a Cloud PBX-certified IP phone. No Mac or mobile clients are supported according to documentation from March 2017, however I have seen the iOS client in action as a Call Queue agent.
You cannot use SfB on-prem users, Cloud PBX users with have PSTN connectivity through an on-prem connection, either through CCE or a full on-prem pool. You also can’t use on-prem only services like response groups, and you can’t distribute a call to an external PSTN number.
Comparison with Response Groups
Call Queues have some of the functionality of Response Groups, however at this point Response Groups have far more flexibility and functionality.
Call Queues lack IVR capability. If you need this, you can front a Call Queue with a Cloud PBX Auto Attendant. Have the Auto Attendant deliver calls to the Call Queue.
Response Groups have a richer management story. It’s possible to delegate management of a Response Group to a user (like a help desk manager) and relieve IT of the management burden. This isn’t possible with Call Queues.
Response Groups have the concept of Formal and Informal mode. Formal mode requires the user to logon to the Response Group to receive calls. Informal mode is where the user is always “logged on”. Call Queues offer only Informal mode.
For overflow scenarios, Response Groups allow you to act upon the oldest call in the queue or the new call. Call Queues only allow you to act upon the new call.
When it comes to distributing calls to agents, Response Groups offer 5 call routing methods: Attendant, Parallel, Serial, Round Robin, and Longest Idle. At this point, Call Queues offer only Attendant routing.
And lastly, when you’re building a list of agents, Call Queues use only distribution lists or email enabled security groups. Response Groups can use DLs, but also allow you to manually build a list of agents.
Outside of these major differences, the two services are very similar. I would expect that additional Call Queue functionality will be released often. Be sure to check the Office 365 Roadmap to see if a feature you’re interested in is on the way.