What is Computer Telephony Integration ?

by Jeff Brodie

CTI is the interfacing of the Telephone system with the Computer system.  The impetus behind this integration and interfacing is to provide a level of business automation and reporting.  Some of the first businesses to utilize  computer telephone integration where professional services firms that sell there time.  Lawyers offices.  Would have the call details records, exported to a call accounting system so that the company could accurately track and bill for their time.   Other uses of CTI are for Customer service call centers to pop client information based on caller ID or other information collected from the caller.

Why would I want to use it?

CTI is used to automate repetitive tasks and ensure accuracy in collecting and reporting of information.   For business that operate customer service centers or sales centers the ability to automate a portion of the tasks that would be used to identify a customer and then pull up the client record on the representatives screen would be an example.  The ability to accurately identify the caller by requesting the entry of a Client number and then the client record being pulled could save an employee  more than a minute on the call.  This equates to better customer service, shorter call times, and a greater number of clients served with the same number of resources.  The ability to automate the business process and improve productivity for an organization.

CTI developed properly will save companies time and money by automating repetitive tasks.

Can I afford CTI?

That question depends on whether you perform a high volume of low value repetitive tasks that could be automated and that by automating these tasks you can increase your productivity and create additional revenue.  So there is a business analysis case that you need to perform internally to evaluate the effectiveness of CTI for your organization.

What do I need to support CTI?

First you need a clear business plan on what you are trying to achieve in your business by introducing CTI?  What business objectives are you trying to achieve?  What will you use to measure its success?  What is the process you desire automated.  The process of integration needs to be clearly outlined so that you end up with what you desire.  This may necessitate investing consulting dollars to have your business process clearly defined and the integration clearly defined.  Then you can begin your process of implementing CTI.

The question I will then ask you is the current telephone system that you are using capable of cost effectively supporting CTI?  Many of the legacy telephone system have limited CTI capability that can be expensive and difficult to implement.  Many of these Telephony interface to Computer system are unreliable or just plain do not work as they are advertised. Many of the new generation phone system which are VoIP based do include more robust capabilities and make it simpler to impelement rich computer telephony integration.

Does CTI really work

Yes it does really work.  If you put the time, effort and investment in to a cti project you will get the results that you desire.  The point is to have a clearly layed out plan and using technology that supports what it is that you desire to do.  You need an experienced integration specialist on your team who has the experience of implementing CTI solutions for organization with a proven track record.

If you do not cut corners, and you use professionals you will get the job done right.  I recommend finding a specialists that understands CTI that has experience in implementing in a number o f business areas such that you can benefit on their experience.  Do not just develop a specification then send it out for an open bid and higher the cheapest company.  It is these organizations that are suffering from failures.  You need to fully understand the value of the organization that is delivering your solution and understand that you will pay for high quality work, expertise and knowledge.   You higher a CTI specialist for their specific knowledge that will make your project successful.

If you look at the value of the project and amortize it over 12, 24 or 36 months with maintenance you will soon see that even a high number can provide significant returns or a number of month.  Eveything looks good from a distance.