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Microsoft Teams Chat With External Users [NEW] Everything About Guest Access

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Microsoft Teams chat with external users
Dominic Kent

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Microsoft Teams Chat With External Users [NEW] Everything About Guest Access

Microsoft Teams chat with external users

Microsoft Teams chat with external users. Should be easy, right?

Working with Microsoft Teams users every day, we get asked about managing external users in Microsoft Teams on a daily basis. From guest access to talking to Slack users without leaving Teams, we’ve heard it all.

One major headline questions we get asked is “How to use Microsoft Teams as a guest” or “with a guest”. Here, there is a sub-section of different questions we get asked.

In this post, we’ve rounded up the most common questions. The answers we’ve provided are comprehensive and contain steps to remedy your external user woes.

Use this table to skip to your question or scroll through:

  1. Can you use Teams externally?
  2. Can I invite external users to Microsoft Teams?
  3. How do I add an external contact to Microsoft Teams?
  4. Can external users access Microsoft Teams?
  5. We can’t set up the conversation because your organizations are not set up to talk to each other.
  6. Compare external and guest access in Microsoft Teams.
  7. Microsoft Teams native federation.
  8. External Teams chat not working.
  9. Microsoft Teams guest access limitations.

Can you use Teams externally?

Yes. Microsoft Teams chat with external users is more than possible.

There are a few ways to extend your Microsoft Teams experience to external users.

The options available to you will depend on your Microsoft Teams subscription.

For the most part, these options are available:

Microsoft Teams calls with external users

Aside from the Microsoft Teams calling plans for your PBX, you can also add direct routing. Direct routing uses an external business phone provider to make calls from Teams.

If you want to make calls to external users in other platforms, like Cisco Webex (without leaving Teams) you can. Cisco announced a new call app for Microsoft Teams in April 2020. All you need to do is install the app from the Microsoft app store.

When you click the call button in Microsoft Teams, you launch the Cisco Webex calling system and speak with external users.

Webex calling in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams meetings with external users

Teams to Teams

If you and your contact have external access switched on, go to the chat tab in Microsoft Teams, and select new chat.

New chat in Microsoft Teams

Search for the email address of the person you want to speak to.

If both tenants have external access switched on, you will see the name of the contact. The name may have an external tag next to it. If you don’t find the person you’re looking for, either you or the other user does not have external access switched on.

If you want to invite someone who already has Microsoft Teams to join your team, use guest access. Select Teams on the left-hand side toolbar. Select the team you want your guest to join and click Add member.

Add external users in Microsoft Teams

Once you’re connected to the external user in Microsoft Teams, click the call icon to launch a meeting.

You may also like: How to Setup a Microsoft Teams Meeting for First-Time Users

Teams to Webex

Microsoft Teams chat with external users could mean chatting to users in different platforms.

If your team uses Microsoft Teams but your clients use Webex for meetings, this is the option for you…

Cisco introduced a Webex Meetings integration for Microsoft Teams. Like Webex Calling, you add an app to your Teams environment. This lets Teams users join a Webex Meeting from the Teams client.

With Cisco app commands, you can share meeting links with Microsoft users. The Webex tab in Microsoft Teams will show you a list of upcoming meetings in Webex.

Webex meeting in Microsoft Teams

You may also like: 5 Ways to Connect Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex in 2020

Chat with external users (Teams to Teams)

Whether you are chatting instantly or asynchronously, there are two options for talking to Teams users in other tenants.

External access is a way for Teams users to find external users in Teams. You can use external access to communicate with Skype for Business users too.

Use the guidelines above to find the person you want to chat with. Go to the chat tab in Microsoft Teams, and select New chat.

New chat in Microsoft Teams

If your contact has Microsoft Teams, and external access enabled, you can chat.

External contacts won’t be able to access files on Microsoft Teams. If you want to add more context to your conversations, you’ll need to make your external contact a guest.

Guest access is an alternative to external access. Guest access gives external users access to channels and conversations to teams they are members of.

While guest access gives users more access to files and other features of Microsoft Teams, it’s not ideal. External users have to log out of their Teams account to log into a guest account, or switch context using the dropdown list within Teams.

A much less frustrating option would be to install a universal channel. This way, everyone stays in their preferred environment for chatting.

You stay in your Teams tenant, your external users stay in their Teams tenant, and you can chat without switching between accounts.

Chat with external users (Teams to Slack)

What if your external users don’t use Microsoft Teams?

There are a few ways to connect Slack and Microsoft Team chats.

One option is to use webhooks configured to connect Slack and Microsoft Teams. But, this is a pretty complicated process. Webhooks don’t scale if your business add more users. Plus, Slack has had issues with phishing in webhooks before.

Another solution might be to use bots and APIs. Microsoft has a Slack Connector option to enable some crossover. Direct messaging isn’t an option here though.

Some companies with their own developers could create their own connection app. But, we suggest an easier route…

Create a universal channel to link the Slack and Teams. This way, you can send messages and files without leaving Teams. Your external contact can do the same without leaving Slack. You can see Mio Universal Channels in action below.

Universal channels support the following functionality between Teams and Slack to enable better intercompany collaboration:

  • Basic messages
  • Threaded messages
  • File uploads
  • Editing messages
  • Deleting messages
  • Emojis
  • GIFs

You may also like: 6 Ways to Connect Slack & Microsoft Teams in 2020

Chat with external users (Teams to Webex)

Microsoft and Webex Teams have a native integration for calling and meetings. But, chat isn’t so simple.

A common option is to use a custom bot. IFTTT (If this then that) bots help apps work together. Lots of companies are experimenting with these tools now. You set rules for one app to respond to the actions of another.

You can create systems where Microsoft Teams bots pick up Webex messages. But, bots take a lot of time and effort to manage. Each time you stumble across a new scenario, you must create a new command.

Even if you have a dedicated developer, the cross-platform experience isn’t seamless. And is considerably more time-consuming than the alternative.

A pre-built solution like Mio Universal Channels will always be the easier route.  Create a universal channel to link Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams.

This way, you can send messages and files without leaving Teams. Your external contact can do the same without leaving Webex Teams. You can see Mio Universal Channels in action below.

Universal channels support the following functionality between Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams to enable better intercompany collaboration:

  • Basic messages
  • Threaded messages
  • File uploads
  • Editing messages
  • Deleting messages
  • Emojis
  • GIFs

Can I invite external users to Microsoft Teams?

Yes. Microsoft Teams chat with external users is made available via a few scenarios. We detail them below.

Invite by email:

If you want external team members to join Microsoft Teams, you can invite by email. 

Select Chat or Teams on the left of your Teams app. Tap Invite People at the bottom of the page.  

Invite external users to Microsoft Teams by email

Teams will give you the option to add people from an email contact list, invite by email, or copy a link.

Click Invite your contacts to add people from your email contact list.

Click Copy link to copy a direct link to your Teams workspace to your contacts.

Choose Invite by email to send a request to any contact.

When you enter an email address, you’ll have the option to add that contact as a guest, or a full member.

Add a member or guest in Microsoft Teams

Skype to Teams

In 2020, Microsoft added integrations for Skype and Skype for Business. Now, you can invite external Skype users to join a group discussion in Microsoft Teams. Contacts can stay in Skype and you get their messages on Teams.

If you’re a Skype user, all you need to do is search for a Skype user with their email address (you can’t search for a Skype user with their ID or phone number).

This works for the consumer version of Skype too. Skype users can search for and start a conversation with a Teams user, and vice versa.

If you’re a Teams user, right-click on Chat and click on New Chat.

Search for the Skype for Business user using their email address. You also can’t search for a Skype user with their ID or phone number.

Conversations here are text only. You can’t access emojis, @mentions, and other features between Skype and Teams.

Skype to Teams

External federation is the best way to communicate with users on other platforms.

You’ve heard of Slack shared channels? Well, now you can create your own Microsoft Teams shared channels. What’s more, they extend out to Slack and Webex Teams too.

If your external contacts don’t use Teams, you can install a universal channel to create federation between your Teams tenant and your external contact’s Slack or Webex workspace.

Mio Universal Channels syncs conversations between Microsoft Teams and other tools. That means people can message Slack users from Microsoft, and vice-versa.

Chat with Microsoft Teams and Slack users without leaving Cisco Webex Teams

If you need to chat with contacts on more than one other platform, this is supported too. You can add Slack users, Webex users, or even more Teams users to your universal channel.

You may also like: Ultimate Guide to External Federation in Microsoft Teams

How do I add an external contact to Microsoft Teams?

The most obvious choice is to use either external access or guest access.

External access

External access gives someone access to your entire Teams domain. This means that users from other companies or locations can find and contact you. External users can call your team through Microsoft’s app and send messages.

External access is on by default for Teams users. Go to Org-wide settings then External access to manage external access.

You can click the Allow list to choose which domains you want to allow. There’s also the option to block certain domains.

Guest access

If you want your users to access Teams and channels, you might prefer guest access. Guest access invites a user to be a part of your team. Your guests can request access to resources, share files, and join group conversations.

Guests get access to all your Microsoft Teams tools and appear on your company’s Active Directory.

To add a guest in Microsoft Teams, they will first will need an Office 365 account. Once configured, add them by following these steps:

  • Open the Teams app and select Teams in the left bar
  • Click More options then Add member
  • Enter the user’s email address
  • Click Add

Add an external user who doesn’t use Teams

So, what if your external users don’t want to use Microsoft Teams?

That’s where Mio Universal Channels come in.

You can set up a universal channel from your Teams account to connect with users in Slack or Webex Teams.

Try it for free

To install your first universal channel, follow these steps:

  • Make sure you’re on a paid plan for Microsoft Teams
  • Open Teams on your browser or device
  • Click Apps on the sidebar (ensure you have admin permission)
  • Search for Mio Universal Channels
  • Click the down arrow
  • Choose Add a team
  • Search for the Team you want to add
  • Select Set up a bot
  • Look for a direct message from the Mio Universal Channels bot
  • Click Authenticate
  • Share your universal channel URL with users that prefer Slack or Webex Teams

Once you’ve installed, you can start chatting like this…

Chatting to externals users in Microsoft Teams

For full details on installing your first universal channel in Microsoft Teams, check out these instructions.

Can external users access Microsoft Teams?

By following the steps above, external users can join your channel or team.

If the user doesn’t use Microsoft Teams, you can still chat with them if they use Slack or Webex Teams. All you need to do is install a universal channel

To install a universal channel in Microsoft Teams, follow these steps:

  • Make sure you’re on a paid plan for Microsoft Teams
  • Open Teams on your browser or device
  • Click Apps on the sidebar (ensure you have admin permission)
  • Search for Mio Universal Channels
  • Click the down arrow
  • Choose Add a team
  • Search for the Team you want to add
  • Select Set up a bot
  • Look for a direct message from the Mio Universal Channels bot
  • Click Authenticate
  • Share your universal channel URL with users that prefer Slack or Webex Teams
  • Start chatting once they install

You can view the full instructions here.

We can’t set up the conversation because your organizations are not set up to talk to each other

This is a common error message.

To allow users to chat with external contacts, you need to allow external access in Teams.

Go to your Microsoft admin centre and click Teams. Tap on Org-Wide Settings then External Access. You will need admin permissions.

Enable Users can communicate with Teams and Skype for Business users.

You can also enable communication with consumer Skype users.

To block people from certain domains, click on Add a domain. Type the domain name, then click blocked. Use the “Done” button to finish.

If your external user doesn’t have Microsoft Teams, install a universal channel. Universal Channels allows Slack and Webex Teams to talk to you. You don’t even need to leave Microsoft Teams. 

Chat with Microsoft Teams and Slack users without leaving Cisco Webex Teams

Compare external and guest access in Microsoft Teams

There are some major differences between guest and external access. The table below provides a quick checklist to track the differences.

FeatureExternalGuest Access
Chat with  external contacts
Call external contacts
See presence of external contacts
Search for external contacts
External contact can share files
Access Teams resources
Access to group chat
Meeting access
Blocking options
Support for @ Mention
Private call access
Video messaging access
Access to screen sharing
Meet now options
Edit or delete sent messages
Use stickers in conversation
Use Giphy in conversation

Neither external access or guest access will allow you to chat with external users who use other platforms. For this, you can install a universal channel and connect to users in Slack or Webex Teams.

Microsoft Teams native federation

In Skype for Business, you could turn on the federation option. This allowed users to add external Skype for Business contacts in other companies, as well as standard Skype users.

Skype for Business Federation

This experience was perfect for users that had contacts that were customers, suppliers, or any form of external party.

From your Skype for Business interface, you have access to your internal contacts, external contacts, and could group according to your personal preference or most frequently messaged contacts.

Important: federation and guest access are different scenarios. Federation allows chats with external tenants and shares presence information. Guest access requires switching to your secondary tenant (tenant you are a guest on) to access files and participate in team collaboration activities.

As of 10th December 2019, Microsoft has now enabled federation for Microsoft Teams multiple accounts – one a one to one level.

Enabling Microsoft Teams chat with external users is just as easy as it was in Skype for Business. 

In the Microsoft Teams admin center, head to Org-wide settings, then click on External access.

By default, your tenant should be set to On.

Just toggle the button if not.

Microsoft Teams external access

As you can see above, there are two options for external access.

The first allows Teams users to communicate with Skype for Business and Teams users.

The second allows Skype for Business users to communicate with Skype users. For clarity, that’s consumer-grade Skype.

External Teams chat not working

If you’re struggling with Microsoft Teams chat with external users, you’re not alone.

Common problems include:

  • Being unable to add an external contact
  • Failing to send messages to Skype
  • Unreliable external chat functions
  • Messages don’t deliver
  • Presence is inaccurate

Microsoft recommends checking external contact access when these issues happen. It may be that something back-end isn’t right. Consider removing and re-adding contacts to your team.

It may also be worth asking your users to uninstall and reinstall clients. Check your Microsoft Teams client is up to date too. If Microsoft notices an error, they may roll out a patch.

Microsoft Teams guest access limitations

While putting this post together on Microsoft Teams chat with external users, I reached out to a few Microsoft Teams experts to hear what common limitations customer reported.

Paul Taylor, Project Manager at Symity, said:

“One issue I come across is that guests discover they can chat and call me when they have switched their tenant to ours as a guest. But they’ll only get a reply from me when they are switched. Really, they should communicate via federation, but it’s an area of confusion between chat when switched as a guest and federated chat.”

Mark Vale, Founder of Commsverse, reported:

“Not being able to add the corporate account to an ongoing meeting when the user is a guest.”

Tom Hadfield, CEO of Mio, commented on common feedback he gets from Mio customers:

“While talking to customers about messaging external users on other platforms, it became clear that messaging external users in Teams is a common problem. Some Mio customers set up a universal channel Teams to Teams so they no longer need to switch between tenants all day.”

However you’re trying to connect to external users in Microsoft Teams, installing a universal channel can help.

For Teams to Teams, or Teams to other platforms, you can install up to three universal channels (for free) here.

Click to install
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