Building a Covid-19 Safe Unattended Reception in Microsoft Teams

What? Why? How?

With businesses slowly starting to return to work in certain parts of the world everyone is implementing Covid-Safe workplaces. Keeping 1.5M apart, reducing onsite staff counts and even placing up perspex barriers to prevent contact with each other is becoming a normal way of life.

But what about your reception during these periods? With the lower staff counts, it may not be economical to have a dedicated receptionist. Yet we still need a way for walk-in customers, couriers and deliveries to be handled in a simple and easy way.

If only there was a way to have a single button so someone could see who or what was at reception and if they needed to come out to the front of the building.

VP59 dial screen with Favorite button
There kinda is!

Enter Teams Call Queues and a Video Phone.

With an appropriate Teams Native device running June 2020 firmware or better and some free licences in Office365. We can setup a call queue that automatically routes the call to an available agent and even supports video!

Tested Firmware’s
Yealink VP59: 91.15.0.38

Create a Resource Account

First things first, all objects in Teams that can receive a call need an Azure AD account. So we must create a Resource account for it

Head over to your Teams Admin Center, navigate to Org-wide Settings > Resource Accounts and click on + Add

Creating a Teams Call Queue Resource Account
Creating a Teams Call Queue Resource Account

The Display Name of the Resource account is what will appear on the speed dial of the phone, it also cant be changed after the resource account is created. So make sure you pick wisely! I used “Press for Reception”

As for the Username, you can use your normal naming convention here. But make sure you set the Resource Account Type to Call Queue

Click Save when you are done.

Teams Resource Account Properties
Resource account properties

Aquire Virtual licenses

By default, if you have a Teams voice-enabled tenant (at least one user as a Microsoft Phone System license) you are entitled to claim 25 free Microsoft 365 Phone System – Virtual User licenses.

Don’t worry though you aren’t limited to 25 licences. For every 10 Teams users, you enable with Phone System, you are eligible to claim 1 additional virtual user licence. So if you have 1000 users, You can enable 125 virtual user licences. (More info here)

To claim your virtual licenses, in the Office 365 admin center, navigate to Billing > Purchase Services and click Add-ons at the bottom.

Microsoft 365 Licensing portal
Microsoft 365 Licensing portal

Scroll down and look for the Microsoft 365 Phone System – Virtual User product and click on it.

Virtual Phone System License
Virtual Phone System License

You will notice that the “purchase” you are making is free. So pick the number of licences you need (in my case 20) and click on Check out now.

License cost summary
License cost summary

Fill in the normal licensing info and click on Next

License ordering page
License cost summary

Microsoft will ask you to confirm your “order”, Check everything is $0.00 as expected and click Next

License cost summary
License cost summary

Lastly, you will be asked to confirm your order and select a payment method. Nothing came out from my account when I ran this so I assume its just a standard process.

License cost summary
License cost summary

Once that’s done we can head over to the license assignment page to assign these licenses to a resource account

License order completion
License order completion

Assign a virtual license to the resource user

Now that you have virtual licenses (or you have had them from previous endeavours) you can assign a license to your Resource Account. Head over to the 365 Admin Center > Users > Search for your user > More options button > Manage Product Licenses

Locating unlicensed user
Locating unlicensed user

Tick the Microsoft 365 Phone System – Virtual User license and click save changes

Assigning new virtual license to user
Assigning new virtual license to user

Once you have assigned the licence, check their setup status by clicking the Check Status link in the Active users’ Panel in Office 365.

Verification of licensing changes
Verification of licensing changes
License still in a pending state
License still in a pending state

It can take a little while for your resource account to update. (The documentation says up-to 24 hours) But its usually updated within for 10 minutes for me.
Note: You don’t need to refresh the whole page, you can just search again for it to update.

License has been assigned to user
License has been assigned to user

Recommended – Assign a Telephone Number

If this is going to be your main reception queue, you can also assign it a telephone number, but keep in mind if you want to have an interactive menu, time of day rules or holidays you will need to assign your main number to an AutoAttendant instead. (That’s another article)

If you’re getting service numbers from Microsoft, you can assign a number in the Teams Admin Centre by going to Teams Admin Center > Org-wide Settings > Resource Accounts

Assigning Service number to virtual user
Assigning Service number to virtual user

Otherwise, if like me you’re using Direct Route, you will need to follow Randy Chapman’s article on getting things set up for that.

Note: If you are ever going to add a number, its best to do it now. There are known issues with assigning a number after the fact as well as contacts not always appearing unless they have a number.

Failure to do so will mean you will need to delete and re-create the resource account. You have been warned.

If you’re just after the PowerShell for Direct Route, I used this.
Set-CsOnlineApplicationInstance -Identity [email protected] -OnpremPhoneNumber +61355501000

Create the Call Queue

Now we need to create the Call Queue that will receive the call and route it to our agents. In the Teams Admin Center navigate to Voice > Call queues and click on + Add

Creating the Call Queue
Creating the Call Queue

Name your Call Queue and assign your recently created resource account by clicking Add accounts

Assigning a resource account to Call Queue
Assigning a resource account to Call Queue

Note: You can assign multiple resource accounts if you want to have multiple numbers or names leading to the same Call Queue.

Configure your other options such as a welcome message and hold music and scroll down to Call Answering

Click on Add users and add all the relevant users, you can also use a 365 Group as well by clicking on Add groups

Assigning users to the Call Queue
Assigning users to the Call Queue

I personally turn on Conference Mode as we are only going to have Teams endpoints answering this call.

Scroll to the bottom and hit Save

Saving the Call Queue
Saving the Call Queue

Prepare a phone for the reception desk

In this case, I’m using a Yealink VP59 because it has a built in camera, large touch screen display and can be output to an external screen using HDMI.

Create a user and assign a license and sign the phone in as per normal, Jeff Schertz has a great guide for that over here.

Note: Assigning a Common Area Phone or Meeting Room Policy will remove the speed dial tab. So don’t do it 🙂

Add your speed dials to the Reception Desk account

Now that you have created the reception desk account, you will need to assign the new Call Queue to the speed dials for that account.

The simplest way to achieve this is to sign in to the account using the Teams Web app or the Teams desktop client.

Head to the Calls > Contacts tab, click Add Contact and search for the queue.

Teams client Speed Dial Tab
Teams client Speed Dial Tab
Adding Speed Dial to Teams Client
Adding Speed Dial to Teams Client

If you cant find the queue by name, try waiting up to 24 hours for the contact to appear in the Azure AD address book. Otherwise, if you added a number to the call queue earlier. Call the number associated with the call queue and then add it to your speed dials from Call History.

Using an alternate method to add the teams client speedial
Using an alternate method to add the teams client speedial

A Word about Video.

Call Queues, like many Teams services, leverage the Teams Bot Framework in the back end. As it stands today, the Teams Bot Framework cannot handle video. This means that any call passing through the Bot itself doesn’t support video.

However, the good part about Call Queue’s is that they don’t bridge the call itself. The bot simply plays the hold music and transfers (or conferences) in the destination user using normal Teams API’s. Once the call is connected to the agent, the Bot leaves the call. So we can escalate to video fairly simply after the call is established.

This is a simple case of whoever receives the call turning video on after taking the call. or asking the user to press the camera button on the phone.

Finalize the Phone setup

On the handset itself, navigate to the Hamburger Button > Settings > Device Settings > About and get the phones IP Address

VP59 screen showing "Press" icon to call the new Call Queue
VP59 screen showing “Press” icon to call the new Call Queue

Navigate to the phones IP address in a browser, login as per your default config.

VP59 login screen
VP59 login screen

Browse over to Settings > Preference and set the Screen Saver to 2 hours

VP59 Screen saver options
VP59 Screen saver options

Goto Settings > PowerSaving and adjust your office hours as appropriate.

VP59 Power Saving Options

Now place the phone at your reception.

The cool bit about this is that the VP59 supports WIFI out of the box. So as long as you can power it. you can make it work with Teams.

Here it is installed out the front of our study so the kids have to call before coming in.

VP59 setup in Reception
VP59 setup in Reception

You can make up a sign like this one in Word too if you like. Download for my template based off an Office template here.

Word document with instructions

Using it now its all setup.

So now we have a solution for a customer/courier to call anyone that’s in the office and have the security of being able to see them. The best bit about this is that its integrated into all Teams platforms. So I can answer the call on my Teams client on the Desktop, or my Mobile, heck it even works in James Cussens Portals! Tryportals.com
(anyone remember RGS and the Skype mobile client?)

Teams Android Prompt
Teams Desktop Client Prompt
Delivery!

A final word about elegance.

Is this solution perfect? No. But it’s the best we can make do with our enviroment with the functions we have available.

Ideally, we would like to see a few functions come to Teams Phones that their SIP counterparts have had for ages to make a truly elegant solution

  • An option to toggle video on by default
  • Auto “Off Hook” dialling
  • Paging support (Walkie Talkie support maybe?)
  • Interopareability with Sip Video for things like Cyberdata’s video intercoms (https://www.cyberdata.net/products/011414)

Revision History

June 26th 2020: Initial Post
June 27th 2020: Corrected a major caption typo thanks to GreigInSydney

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