In on-premise Skype for Business Response Groups we have the option to redirect a call to a user’s voice mail. In Skype for Business online, we don’t have a direct way of doing this. We must redirect to a user with licensing that includes the ability to receive voice mails and deliver them to the user’s Exchange mailbox. To date, the two (2) most common ways to license such a user have been:
- Office 365 E3 license with a Phone System License or
- Office 365 E5 license
The subscriptions for the first option cost around $28.00 per month per user ($20.00 for the E3 license and $8.00 for the Phone System license). The second option will run about $35.00 per month per user. Both options provide much more functionality than is needed or would be leveraged by simple voice mail including Office 2016 ProPlus licenses, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Flow, etc.
As of March 6, 2018, we now have a third less costly option:
- Office 365 Common Area Phone license with an Exchange Online Plan 2 license
This option costs around $16.00 per month per user ($8.00 for each of the licenses). The Common Area Phone license includes a Skype for Business Plan 2 and Phone System license. On an annual basis, this is $144 less than the E3 and Phone System license option and $228 less than the E5 subscription. Phone Number, Calling Plan license or Communication Credits license are not necessary for these users.
Setting up a Voice mail only user couldn’t be simpler. The first step is to acquire the needed licenses through your Office 365 tenant. Remember, you need a Common Area Phone and Exchange Online Plan 2 license, nothing else. Once you have the licenses, you can create the user in your tenant.
We recommend that you define a standard naming convention for the voice mail users to make them distinguishable from regular users. You could use a naming convention starting the name with “VM-“, the voice mail user for Accounts Receivable would be “VM-AcctsRcvable”, for example.
- Sign on to your Office 365 Tenant with credentials that can create Office 365 user accounts
- Setup the user with a Display Name of “VM-AcctsRcvable” and a username of email@example.com,( insert the appropriate domain name in place of contoso.com)
- Manually generate a password for the user and do not require the user to reset their password at the first login.
The rest of the work is done in Skype for Business Remote PowerShell.
Sign on to a Skype for Business Remote PowerShell session using the appropriate credentials. The subject of how to do this is covered extensively in other technical notes and blog articles, we’ll just list the commands that would likely be used for our fictional user:
- Open an Administrator level PowerShell session
- Type Import-Module SkypeOnlineConnector. It is assumed that the Skype Online Connector PowerShell module is installed.
- Type $cred=get-credential
- Enter the User Name and Password for a user with the Skype for Business Administrator role. The User Administrator role may also be required.
- Type $SfB = New-CsOnlineSession -Credential $cred
- Type Import-PsSession $SfB -AllowClobber
- Verify that the session is ready to go by typing Get-CsTenant. This command should return information on the setup of Skype for Business within your Office 365 tenant
- Type Get-CsOnlineUser -Identity “VM-AcctsRcvable” and press the return key
- Verify that the information for the correct user is returned
- Type Get-CsOnlineUser -Identity “VM-AcctsRcvable” | Set-CsUser -EnterpriseVoiceEnabled $true -HostedVoiceMailUser $true and press the return key
- Wait a few minutes for everything to update
The final step would be to sign on as the VM-AcctsRcvable user with the Skype for Business Client and record a voice mail greeting. Once signed on:
- Click the Dial Pad Icon:
- Click the Voice Mail icon and then Change Greetings. This will dial the Azure Voice Mail system and allow you to modify the greetings callers hear when they call this user:
Using the Voice Mail User
Now that the mailbox is all setup, you redirect callers to it. In the Skype for Business Online Auto Attendants and Call Queues there are a few spots in the flows that allow you to redirect callers to another Auto Attendant, another Call Queue or a “Person in Your Company”. The “Person in Your Company” option can be used to redirect callers to the Voice Mail box. This is commonly used in an Auto Attendant for after business hours calls. In the Call Queues, voice mail boxes are used when the Time Out or Overflow targets have been exceeded.
The addition of the Common Area Phone license provides a less costly option for setting up voice mail users in Skype for Business online. In the long run, it would be ideal if the option to forward directly to a user’s voice mail were added to Skype for Business online; it may come someday! For now, we must make do with creating voice mail only users that require licenses. The Common Area Phone license helps to lessen the financial pain of creating these users.