Factors to consider when evaluating computer telephony integration (CTI) software

6 minute read

Investing wisely in the right contact center software is important to the success of your contact center and selecting a computer telephony integration (CTI) solution is no exception. After all, CTI is arguably one of the most important tools a contact center has at its disposal. Choosing the right solution is a guaranteed way to boost performance, reduce costs, and improve the customer experience.

However, choosing one CTI product over another can be incredibly difficult for anyone who is unaware of what a modern CTI solution should offer and what areas of the business it should be improving. Due to the technological advancements that have been made in the field of voice integration for customer relationship management (CRM) systems over the last few years, many things have changed. Modern CTI solutions offer businesses a lot more now than they did five years ago.

For instance, in the past, CTI required a complicated desktop installation, along with added telephony drivers, administrator rights on each computer, and a specially trained technician present to ensure the process was carried out smoothly. The time and cost required to complete this process was a huge deterrent for many business owners. Fortunately, things have evolved.

Now, many modern CTI solutions are browser-based and require no desktop application to install whatsoever – not even a browser plug-in. As a result, businesses are now able to roll out the solution to ten thousand agents as quickly and effectively as if they were rolling it out to one. As well as providing a much more efficient service that causes zero disruption to the business, this type of CTI solution also benefits businesses by supporting their future growth. They can quickly scale up their CTI package at the click of a button.

Features to look for in a CTI implementation

If you’re thinking about investing in a CTI solution, here is a list of implementation factors to consider before making a purchase decision:

  • Requires no desktop installation – Massively reduces downtime and technical staffing costs, and enables much greater scalability.
  • Needs no browser plug-ins – Launches “out the box” with no further installation needed.
  • Works in multiple browsers and operating systems – Minimizes disruption and encourages user adoption.
  • Integrates directly within the CRM window – Adds efficiency with a “single pane of glass” view for users.
  • Supports agent features – Offers log in and log out, agent status, and wrap up codes for ease of use.
  • Requires no extra component licensing – Ensures no unpleasant surprise costs further down the line.
  • Supports workflow customization – Integrates workflows so the system can be configured to work with unique business processes.

How long does a phone-to-CRM integration take to install?

For smaller sales and service teams in the range of twenty users with a standard setup, a CTI installation can be completed in as little as one or two hours. For somewhat larger installations at contact centers with a few hundred seats, the process can take one week to a month.

For large enterprises with thousands of agents, full deployment can take considerably longer, depending on the complexity of the requirements, planning phase, and testing. Enterprise installations typically need:

  • Multiple servers or virtual machines available on which to install the software
  • An audit of processes, custom objects or entities, automations, and procedures impacted by telephony, and a plan to migrate them to the new system
  • Resiliency planning
  • Licensing review
  • Installation of test systems
  • Design and implementation of any customizations that may be required
  • Installation of production systems
  • Thorough testing
  • User training
  • Rollout and switchover

Cross-platform support

Many CTI implementations are developed for a specific operating system, browser, or phone system. When considering a CTI solution, this is an important point to think about. Check with the vendor and make sure that the implementation is equally capable across all the platforms in use – and ones that may potentially be incorporated in the future. There should be a true integration without the need for browser plug-ins or an application that’s separate from the CRM.

Licensing issues

It’s important to thoroughly understand licensing requirements and the hidden costs these can incur. Some CTI systems are built on top of other components, say, from the telephony system. To roll out such a CTI system, these other components need to be installed and configured as well, and they may require a separate license for each user. Such CTI implementations may require additional licensing options that can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more for an installation.

The cost of these extra licenses aside, additional components may create system complications as well. Components may lag behind the main telephony switch in supporting features, or they may not support all functionality.

Is the CRM integration supplied by phone system provider enough?

If your contact center has very simple requirements, the basic integration supplied by a phone system provider may be sufficient. However, there are some things to be aware of:

  • The phone vendor’s focus is on providing a phone system. Their CRM integration is often an afterthought, and not much effort is put into supporting it.
  • The solution is often based on out-of-date technology. Cloud-based CRM updates are usually pushed two to four times a year. Without a focus on CTI, it’s difficult to keep up with new features, optimizations, and security changes.
  • The systems lack features and polish. They don’t compare to what can be provided by a dedicated CTI vendor.
  • If there are issues during implementation, it can take a long time for a new release to be available with the required fixes. It may only align with a new telephony switch release, which can take years to occur.

The customization trap

It’s an unfortunate practice, but some vendors do not disclose all costs of their CTI system upfront and then spring them on unsuspecting buyers after the purchase decision is made. For instance, a vendor may not include installation costs in their quote or may charge an exorbitant amount for professional services. Once the system is installed, the vendor may charge extra for custom coding or workflow configurations to support business process or custom objects and entities.

It is important that potential CTI buyers be wary of these business practices and be sure to choose a CTI vendor that has a good reputation for being honest and transparent with customers about costs of services.

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