What is CTI?

CTI is a technology that brings together the two main communication tools that all businesses have at their disposal today, the computer and the telephone. Traditionally the computer is used to store our customer contact details and the telephone is the tool we all you use to actually make that contact if we need to speak to them. CTI applications are a way to help make us all work far more efficiently and appear extremely professional when dealing with our customers on the phone.

When a known customer rings into your telephone system they can be identified by their CLI (Calling Line Identification) which is their own telephone number, passed on to you by the local telephone exchange. By linking the telephone system to the computer, this CLI information can be sent directly to your customer database and be matched with the existing listing it has, containing the customers telephone number that it is now receiving.

The computer having received this information from the telephone system and matched it accordingly, can now be set to open up a specific page relating to the customer who is calling you, from whatever software application you are using, i.e. Access, Outlook, Goldmine or even a bespoke package. Now you can answer them by name and be ready to make adjustments to their account information strait away instead of making them wait while you search and click around your PC applications to find the desired area relating to them.

How is this integration achieved?

The Telephone system generates real-time event. Each time the telephone system carries out an action, i.e. receives a call, makes a call transfers a call between extensions, hangs up a call etc. The system generates an event code relating to each specific activity. This event code is sent down a linking cable to a designated computer, no doubt sitting on your office LAN (Local Area Network). This designated computer is classed as the network gateway for all CTI applications because it is the point all information between the telephone system and the computer network, enters and leaves. The gateway, after identifying an event code from the telephone system that needs to trigger a response on the computer network, passes the instruction onto the exact computer belonging to the user who is just commencing verbal contact with a customer. As the telephone call is made or received, so the particular member of staff can look at their screen and see the page they require, ready to use, being opened up for them.

The obvious benefits

Here are a few examples of how CTI could be used to heighten the efficiency of your company processes.

·      Members of the accounts department could answer customers calls ready with the accounts software showing the customers balance on their screen.

·      Customer service could respond to enquiries with an Access database open and ready to log a pending request.

·      Your dispatch department would have no need to ask the customer for delivery addresses if it they were already looking at them on their screen at the point of speaking to them. All of these examples are ways of ensuring your company departments run more effectively. Less time searching the database not only means your customers perceptions of you is a professional one, but statistically each call should be processed in a shorter time, allowing for more calls to be dealt with by your teams, on a per person per day basis.

Additional benefits

Because with CTI applications, the telephone system is continuously sending information to the computer gateway, regarding all its activities, software can be incorporated to make good use of this on your behalf. This information can be collected and turned into statistical reports relating to many areas, some of which are listed below.

·      Numbers of out going calls your department make

·      Numbers of incoming calls your departments handle

·      Specific telephone activities carried out by individual members of staff

·      Track who's dialling what numbers and when

·      Busiest periods of the day

·      Quietest periods of telephone activity in the day

·      Abandoned call statistics

·      The ability to generate call information on individually advertised DDI's or phone numbers which allows you to quantify your marketing strategies

·      Generate all reports suggested over your specified date range The list can go on and the potential of such information is quite obvious to managers who are tasked to ensure departments run as efficiently as possible and can perform to expectations, while operating within pre-set budget guidelines. It becomes easy to see if staffing levels are correct and where the areas are that are leading to poor performance within the company. This type of statistical information is common place within Call Centre environments, but if you're running CTI applications it becomes available and usable for you.

Is CTI technology for me?

There is no doubt that CTI would become a great tool for you to use as like all companies, you strive for the most effective operational practises. What you must realise is, to go down the CTI road you must be prepared to invest in it in the first place.

·      As not all telephone systems can deliver CTI event information, it is likely that you will need to address the issue of upgrading to one more suited to your newly discovered requirements.

·      It may be necessary that you're your existing computer network requires some form of upgrade carried out for it to function correctly in a CTI environment. Advise on this mater should be sort from your network maintainers

·      Depending on the software you are using within your business, particularly if it is of a bespoke nature, there may well be an unavoidable cost due to necessary development of CTI software to work with this product.

·      It is advisable to find out if any CTI software you become interested in, can be developed and be upgraded to deliver more functionality as you expand and require it in the future

·      Is the product you have become interested in, easily and widely supported? How easy will the product be to use and what are the training implications regarding your staff, regarding time and cost?

·      What is the likely overall initial cost to get the whole project up and working? There will always be a point where if the outlay is above a certain amount, than it is hard to justify a CTI driven workplace even in the long term. Whatever conclusion you come to, it should be based on good sound financial reasoning. CTI is most certainly a huge benefit to the business world and more companies are taking advantage of the technology all the time. Do any of your business colleagues use CTI in their companies? If they do, no doubt they will help to convince you of its many advantages.

The worry is, are your main competitors using CTI technology already? If they are, is it not likely that with such improved efficiencies on their behalf in areas such as customer service, they may soon be talking to your customers too.