One of the greatest strengths of SharePoint 2010 is the ability to integrate the platform with external systems. While Business Connectivity Services (BCS) is the main method for implementing external system integration, the ability for SharePoint document libraries to accept incoming emails can also be used. This feature was used to integrate a SwitchVox Interactive Voice Response (IVR) hotline with SharePoint 2010 with minimal code. For this post, we will highlight the business case for this solution, and a high level overview of features used in SwitchVox and SharePoint 2010.
The client wanted an order hotline for a specific line of products where customers could call in an order without having to engage a customer service representative (CSR). This would reduce the work load of CSRs that dealt with this specific product line and enable another method for customers to order their products. The client also wanted a workflow to help handle the processing of these orders. Management also wanted to track what customers were using the hotline, the processing time by the CSRs, and flag any orders that were not processed in a timely manner. The solution had to utilize their current phone system, SwitchVox, but the platform that would handle the workflow needed to be chosen. Since the client had SharePoint 2010, we utilized the existing platform to process the orders and the defined workflow. We then set out to setup the IVR in SwitchVox.
SwitchVox IVR Setup
The first step in the process was to setup the IVR menu for customers to interact with over the phone. An IVR menu is a series of prompts that a phone system uses to get data from a caller or allows the user to input data to route their call to the appropriate department. Examples of this are:
- “Press 1 to be routed to talk to Customer Service. Press 2 to be routed to Accounts Payable.”
- “After the tone, please speak your name.”
You can chain these actions together to create a way for a user to navigate to the appropriate department or give data to the system. This solution required customers to give the following information:
- Item Type and Quantity Needed
- Delivery Date Required
SwitchVox is a great platform in the sense that you can create an IVR without using code. The system actually gives you a graphical interface to create the actions you want and then chain the actions together inside an IVR. The IVR that was used chained prompts that said “After the tone, please say ________”. Below is a diagram of basic action we used:
The users would have their responses played back to them to confirm that the system heard them clearly and to verify what they said. At the end of the IVR, all of the recorded responses would be put together into one sound file, a confirmation number would be played, and then the system would email the file to a specified email address.
SharePoint 2010 Setup
The IVR was ready to send the email and now we just needed to prep the SharePoint part of the solution. The SharePoint farm was configured to receive incoming emails. Microsoft has some great articles for how to do this located at the following link:
- Configure Incoming Email for SharePoint Server 2010: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc262947.aspx
A library was then created on SharePoint to receive incoming emails by going to Library Settings and selecting “Incoming e-mail settings”:
The settings we used were similar to the screen below:
Now the SwitchVox IVR was set to send all emails to this library’s email address and our first test we were able to have SwitchVox send emails without any issues. A SharePoint designer workflow was then configured to run on all incoming items.
Below is a diagram of how the final solution process flowed from one system to another:
As you can see, without any code or BCS, this solution was able to be implemented. Any changes that were needed for this process did not require any downtime nor any intervention from IT.