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Advanced CTI Issues Businesses Should Consider

A failure to find a CTI solution capable of meeting shifting demands can be highly detrimental to a business.

What to deliberate when planning a computer telephony integration purchase

Though many computer telephony integration (CTI) installations may start off simple, they can quickly grow in complexity as systems and processes evolve. A failure to find a solution capable of meeting shifting demands can be highly detrimental to a business.

With this in mind, there is a list of “next-level” issues businesses should consider when evaluating a CTI solution to ensure that they choose the right product, get the best possible return on their investment and are protected from potential risks.

Integrations for business process workflows

Keeping things simple is ideal, but sometimes customizations are necessary. When a company has perfected a specific way of doing things, CTI should support their unique business processes. As processes evolve, it should be easy and safe to reconfigure the CTI software to support these new business rules. Ask questions to see if workflows will be simple to implement and will work seamlessly. Ensure that workflow integrations will not require a special build of the CTI software or professional services.

Custom CRM objects and entities

Many CTI products only support standard out-of-the-box CRM items without providing the option to work with custom objects and custom entities. Considering this, it is extremely important to understand exactly what a vendor provides as part of a basic package and whether support for custom objects is included in the cost.

Telephony features

Some CTI solutions only support basic telephony functions such as answering a call, hanging up and dialing a call. Contact centers likely require more advanced features such as agent log-in and log-out, agent status, wrap-up time, supervisor functions, barge, multi-line and shared line support. For any businesses that require these advanced functions, it is essential to check if they are supported by the solution provider and what they cost before signing any contract.

Dialing rules & geographical zones

Another factor that is crucially important to the success of a CTI implementation, but is so often overlooked, is dialing rules and zones. In lively contact centers where time is precious, businesses expect their CTI system to operate without problems, and need their agents to be able to dial easily and accurately.

In an ideal world, a CTI system would just work. Users should expect that if they click on a phone number in a contact record or a case, the number will simply dial properly without complication. However, in the real world this is incredibly difficult because:

  • Phone number formatting is often not standardized in the CRM
  • Local calls often require a different prefix than long distance calls
  • Internal calls are often handled differently than external calls
  • Telephony switches are sometimes shared between offices – so a call may be local for a user at one extension, but may be long distance for another user
  • Matching an incoming phone number to a number in the CRM records can fail if the CRM data is formatted differently than the caller ID data

Fortunately, with a sophisticated CTI implementation, the administrator is given the freedom to configure a system of rules and geographical zones that will handle all the above scenarios and ensure that productivity rates are never damaged.

However, configuring these rules can be one of the most difficult parts of a CTI deployment. It’s essential to find a CTI solution provider that supports its customer and guides them through the set-up process every step of the way to ensure all needs are met.

Flexible phone system support

For companies that have already invested significantly in telephony infrastructure, they likely want to leverage what they’ve already invested in. Understanding whether the purchase of new hardware is required is crucial information.

Most CTI implementations communicate directly with the telephony switch to monitor the state of each user’s phone. It doesn’t matter whether a softphone or a standard desk phone is connected to the switch. However, if a business does want to use a softphone, it’s wise to ask the CTI provider about this and perhaps even carry out a test to ensure that the CTI solution can run with softphones.

It’s also worth considering whether support is available for different types of phone systems simultaneously using the same CTI solution, say if different call centers are running on different equipment.

Ease of installation and updates

One of the great benefits of a “no desktop install” implementation is that set-up can take place through an online meeting with no on-site professional services needed. Enterprise administration is easy, with licensing, user management and updates handled centrally. As you evaluate CTI, check that the solution doesn’t require deployment to individual desktops.

Security

Security is a major factor in any area of business and customers are smart to be concerned about the risks of a CTI solution. For instance, organizations should understand how their data will be transferred, how searches happen, if their company data will be exposed to thousands of desktop applications throughout the company and if their data will be encrypted. These are all valid questions customers are entitled to ask their CTI solution provider before committing to a contract to ensure security, and in some cases, legal compliance, for their contact centers.

Resiliency and failover

Given that a modern CTI application should be able to run in a high availability mode, businesses should look for a system that can “fail over” to a redundant standby system so that users are not affected if the main system goes down.

Scalability

Though scalability generally isn’t an issue for smaller contact centers, it undoubtedly becomes important as a business grows and must support a large number of agent seats in the hundreds and thousands. If growth is on the roadmap, a business must choose a CTI solution that can scale cleanly and quickly as the number of users increases.

It’s also important to consider the effect of connecting multiple CTI servers to a single telephony server. The load of the CTI application shouldn’t affect the underlying telephony infrastructure. After all, with desktop CTI solutions, hundreds of desktop applications could be connecting to a telephony system at once and potentially cause a lot of problems for users.

Call attached data

Many larger business phone systems allow data to be attached to a phone call and may allow the data to be manipulated as the call progresses. This “call attached data” flows along with the call as it’s handled by the IVR system, then passed to a queue, and then on to one or more agents.

For any businesses that uses this process, it is essential that the call attached data flows properly when a call is transferred between switches, into and out of queues, and even to different phone systems. For example, if you use an externally hosted IVR system as a front-end, does the IVR data that users have entered end up in the call attached data?

Given how this functions, the CTI system must make use of the call attached data, be able to both read and write to these fields, and display them appropriately as strings, numbers or clickable drop-down items.

Perhaps the greatest incentive for doing this is that the loss of call attached data can be a major annoyance for callers, forcing them to have to tell a new agent all their info again and again, and resulting in an increased number of dropped calls and customer loss for the business. However, if this is handled well, the user experience is much improved, along with customer loyalty rates.

Software updates

CRMs, telephone companies, browsers and operating systems are continually releasing new versions. These new software versions can completely break a contact center’s computer telephony integration unless their CTI provider is also continually updating. Make sure the vendor you’re working with is committed to long-term maintenance of their product. How long have they been in business? Do they have specialized CTI knowledge to keep up with all moving pieces in the industry? Ideally, a CTI provider will have strong relationships with the CRM and phone partners its product works with, so that it can build new versions in advance of their partners’ releases. This way, there’s no lag time waiting for CTI to catch up – it always just works with the latest and greatest.

In addition to software fixes, a CTI company that is always updating is also likely expanding their product at the same time. Knowing a vendor has a history of solid software maintenance means they’ll likely continue to add features, so your users’ experience will continue to improve.

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