What is Computer Telephony Integration ?
Computer telephony integration (CTI) enables integration of an organization’s telephone system with an employee’s desktop or the preferred CRM. Essentially, it’s the connection that allows inquiries to go straight to the desktop of the contact center or support employees. Contact centers generally use computer telephony integration to help optimize their work tasks. Organizations using a CTI alleviate work pressures by automating the process of call handling to gather insights in real-time to further improve their knowledge management system.
In the older CTI versions, the user would select a name or phone number on their computer and the linked landline phone would call that number. However, CTI software now provides a desktop application for the traditional phone dial-pad, where calls are made directly through the computer.
The evolved CTI of today offers much more than just handling incoming and outgoing calls. In addition to routing phone calls, it also connects with other live contact methods from the customer to the computer. This allows the employee or agent to handle multiple communication channels through their computer or mobile device. It also gives better context to the person handling the query so they can handle the customer interaction in a more efficient, effective, and personalized manner.
Additionally, CTI software allows its users to access other integrated applications such as team collaboration tools, customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, video conferencing tools, and helpdesk software. It streamlines all call-handling features including integrated third-party apps into a single interface that is accessible on the agent’s computer screen. This means CTIs automate and improve the day-to-day business processes, prevent constant switching from one app to another, and provide quick access to data and functionalities, improving both the employee and customer experience.
CTI software allows handling of all inbound and outbound communications from various platforms including email, social media, chats, messaging, self-service options, and screen sharing. It should make the process of connecting with other business systems much more efficient. A good CTI solution will help improve the customer experience as it effectively and quickly allows communication on the customer’s preferred channel. Also, it reduces the average handling time (AHT) as the agent or employee is provided with a context before connection, providing a personalized customer experience. Overall, it helps to increase revenue as happy customers tend to be repeat customers, spending more in the business.
How Does a CTI Function?
Computer Telephony Integration software uses voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) functions that turns the computer into a seamless extension of the phone. It allows customer data like emails and phone numbers to be interactive, giving access to one-click dialing. When the CTI software is installed, it makes it easier to make calls while working on other software or tools. It shows all the customer information on the screen while also providing the agent with the ability to manage all phone controls such as call forwarding, call routing, muting, holding, transferring, or recording calls. These features make CTI valuable to both the agents and also the managers that are required to monitor calls. Additionally, the software also collects valuable data like time, date, duration of call, phone number and its origin location.
The other CTI feature is that it connects with the customer relationship management (CRM)system and enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to enter the call information into these systems. This data helps provide data for analytics and reporting to observe the overall customer experience. As VoIP allows voice calls over the internet instead of a wired device, employees can access the phone system from anywhere and any device if they have a working internet connection. VoIP enables CTI to be available across different device types like desktop computers, tablets, laptops, and smartphones. Through the CTI server, it can also collect data related to customers’ queries from integrated software and applications. It then shares what it has gathered with agents or employees to provide faster customer resolutions.
With computer telephony integration in place, organizations can improve operations by:
- Managing call flows, routing, and other call-handling features
- Identifying information, like caller data stored on a third-party platform, and displaying it on the agent or employee’s screen
- Giving access to third-party integrations like team chat, video calling, and management tools
Key Features of Computer Telephony Integration
There are certain features that are must-haves in all computer telephony integration software. When looking for a CTI provider, the following should be considered.
CTI software should be able to seamlessly integrate with your preferred CRM platform and task management apps for easy functioning. This integration allows combining of all third-party tools into a single platform, which provides access to different communication channels, customer account histories, workforce optimization tools, and sales activity.
When choosing a CTI provider, businesses should ensure they offer built-in integrations with currently in-use business software tools. This should be a must, not a nice-to-have option for businesses that use less popular industry-specific applications.
Arguably the most important feature of the CTI system, screen pops help identification of the knowledge base, relevant CRM, and interaction data that are stored in any integrated application. When a call is about to start or during a call, these screen pops appear with important data displayed on the employee or agent’s screen, preventing the need to switch between tabs and applications to locate relevant information.
To provide a better picture of how this works, here’s an example. When customers call from a certain number, the CTI recognizes it using caller ID and searches the CRM system to pull up all call-related data including transaction history, account number, order information, and past interaction notes. Additionally, screen pops can also display canned responses, agent call scripts, and best action recommendations using artificial intelligence.
To help speed up the lead list penetration and sales call processes, automated dialers provide numerous outbound dialing modes. It automates Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) compliance, eliminates manual dialing, filters out busy signals, disconnected, or non-answered phone numbers, and updates the dialing list. This ensures auto-dialing agents only connect with live leads that are willing to talk. Here are the different types of dialer modes:
- Predictive dialer: Using a pacing algorithm, time amount is estimated for placing the next call, depending on the call length and agent call volume.
- Progressive dialer: This uses screen pops for displaying call scripts and CRM data on the agent or employee’s screen. It also runs a countdown clock for a preset duration before placing the next call.
- Preview dialer: It works the same way as the progressive dialer, except there is no preset timer and the agent or employee can click a button to indicate that they are ready for the next call.
- Power dialer: This dialer automatically calls the next number, as soon as the agent or employee is done with the previous call.
Interactive Voice Response
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a self-service feature where a pre-recorded greeting or call menu is automatically played when a customer calls a business number. It guides customers to direct their calls to the right department by following the preset menu options and entering the corresponding numbers. The IVR then forwards the calls to departments, extensions, individual agents, voice mailboxes, or call queues, based on the organization’s routing strategy.
The IVR system also gathers caller information like account number, contact details, and also the reason for calling. If there is a need for the call to be transferred to a live agent, the IVR system displays all this information on the screen of the agent or employee so that the customer does not have to repeat themselves. Many IVR systems are able to automate the entire interaction like account balance updates, appointment scheduling, order tracking, or bill payments. This also is accessible 24/7, making it appreciated by customers.
An effective call routing strategy can help in the elimination of long hold times, even distribution of workload among agents, and increase of resolution rates in the first customer call. It also ensures the customers get to speak to trained and skilled agents or employees to handle unique issues. Some routing strategies include list-based routing, time-based routing, skill-based routing, intelligent call routing, schedule-based routing, most-idle routing, and language-based routing.
Call Monitoring and Reporting
Real-time call monitoring is a must for any computer telephony integration software. It can provide an opportunity for in-conversation agent coaching and alerts managers when the call quality standard drops. For managers, it should allow them to join the call instantly to listen in, provide guidance using call whisper, or use the facility of call barge to take over the phone control if the conversation is getting out of hand. Ideally, CTI software should also be able to collect data related to support quality, agent performance, call volume, and customer requests in real-time. It gives managers and admins the chance to adjust routing strategies, call flow paths, and call queues for better handling of calls.
Choosing the Right CTI Provider
CTI systems can represent a significant investment. Organizations need to ensure they not only purchase a quality product, but also one that provides excellent value for their money and a solid return on investment. Key factors to look for when selecting a CTI software provider could include:
Security and Compliance
Given that most enterprises today operate on the global stage, it’s important for your CTI solution to be compatible with both legal and compliance-related laws wherever it does business. For example, with laws like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and other relevant legislation, whatever CTI software your organization chooses should offer the best guaranteed uptime, end-to-end encryption and compliance. Ideally, the CTI software should also provide penetration testing, risk assessment, and automated backups.
A robust customer support facility is a must, especially to aid with installation of the CTI software and agent onboarding. The communication hours, support hours, and priority support options should be analyzed to ensure its effectiveness.
Ease of Use
Features like customizable agent dashboards, intuitive interfaces, push notifications, shared inboxes, on-demand tutorials, and personalized user training should be looked at as these help in making the software easy to understand and use. Software that isn’t intuitive represents a considerable training burden and can cause compliance issues.
Benefits of Computer Telephony Integration
As with any new software, there are some key benefits, and CTI is no different. Here are the benefits to utilizing CTI software:
Personalized Customer Service
The integration of CTI with your CRM system helps provide immediate access to customer information and their account history. This allows the agent handling the call to proactively address the customer’s issues. It also enables the agent to retrieve notes of prior interactions so repetition can be avoided. This helps the agent provide new and more relevant support to the customer. Personalized support helps increase customer satisfaction, retention rates, and opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.
CTI screen pops prevent agents from constantly switching tabs and applications, which saves time and reduces distractions. It also helps improve team productivity levels and increase the resolution process speed. CTI also displays all customer-related data at one location so agents don’t have to spend time on manual searches during customer calls. In the case of IVR, the system also displays all customer inputs to the agent before they’re connected to the customer. This way, the agent is able to understand the issue and access relevant information before taking up the call for enhanced customer service. Also, as all the data is synced automatically, agents are free from manual entries.
Improved Customer Experience
CTI software improves the customer experience in various ways. IVRs allow 24/7 customer service and reduces the number of agent-handled calls. Call forwarding and call routing allow the customers to connect with the agent as needed, leading to increased first call resolution rates. The automated callback feature allows customers to choose if they would like to get a call back from the agent instead of staying on hold. Features like call control and optimized call flows help adjust agent assignments and call queues to meet the call volume and help the customer connect with the right agent.
Better Remote Team Connectivity
Using computer telephony integration software gives the agents the mobility and flexibility needed in today’s work environment. It helps both work-from-home or hybrid work situations. The agents can receive and make calls from their computer or mobile devices from anywhere, thus ensuring the best call results at any time. Also, communication from all channels is synced to the agent’s dashboard for record maintenance. CTI ensures all agents have the same and up-to-date information and allows team members to collaborate and communicate in real-time.
Computer Telephony Integration Offers a Host of Business Benefits
For an organization with a large number of phone calls, a CTI increases effectiveness and efficiency. This leads to better customer satisfaction and retention. If the correct computer telephony integration system is brought in, it seamlessly integrates with existing systems. It becomes a tool that is used continuously to deliver better customer outcomes, as well as providing the internal systems with thorough data to aid in better future decision-making.