Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is one of the greatest technological achievements of the end of the last century, leading to significant changes in almost all areas of business and everyday life. Computer telephony connects computers and telephone resources combining the advantages of both of these systems, thus being a logical step forward in the inevitable trend of development of communication systems. The basic functionality of a CTI system is to allow the computer user to control the telephony system and the incoming and outgoing communication.
CTI first appeared in commercial use in the mid 1980s. In the beginning, its application was mostly limited to several narrow market segments, particularly call centres where the total volume of calls justified the costs, but the advancements in computer technology significantly increased the capacities of computer-telephony systems, which led to an increased interest in CTI applications in a wide range of users. The manufacturers of hardware and software solutions offer their products on the market and public telephone networks represent the infrastructure that enables the implementation of CTI applications for both large and small users.
These applications can be divided into three main groups:
- Applications for the administration of private telephone networks via an external computer
- Unified messaging applications and customer relationship management (CRM)
- Applications allowing the use of computer networks for voice and fax communication. A private branch exchange (PBX) can be replaced or used alongside the communication server - VoIP communication.
Administration of a telephone system using CTI
Computer telephony provides a simple graphical alternative to the standard capabilities of the telephone exchange. Using a graphical user interface (GUI) rather than a system driven by alphanumeric codes or LCD menu boards, routine functions such as transfer of extensions or adding new ones can be performed by the administrator in the company itself.
What are “unified communications”?
In addition to the integration of voice-driven telephony and computer systems, by using CTI it is possible to interconnect other communication channels used in businesses, such as fax, e-mail and voice mail, and manage them simultaneously. Unified communications can be used for setting up an electronic messaging system at the company, creating a single interface with a single directory and a single place for storing all kinds of messages.
What is “customer relation management”?
Since the telephony system is integrated with the computer system, it enables the functioning of an application which focuses on the interaction between customers and sales personnel in a company. Customer relation management (CRM) is achieved by using technologies for organisation and automation of business processes, especially sales activities, but also marketing activities, customer services and technical support. The ultimate goal is to find and attract new customers, to build better relationships with existing customers, to reclaim the old and the lost ones, and to reduce the overall cost of marketing and sales support.
CTI applications allow:
- Caller authentication. Using one of the several standard methods, caller ID can be displayed on the screen and compared with the one retrieved from the database.
- Voice recognition, for authentication or forwarding of messages.
- To determine how to process a call by stating a request or by keying in the appropriate option (e.g. whether to forward the call to a particular person or department).
- The functioning of Interactive Voice Response (IVR).
- To look up the caller ID in the database and present all relevant information related to that caller on the screen.
- Management of voice or video conferences
- Collecting and displaying messages left by callers
- Receiving fax messages and routing to appropriate fax machines
- Conducting outbound campaigns (telemarketing)
- Activating CRM applications through phone calls.