What is Computer Telephony Integration?
Computer telephony integration, or CTI, is any technology which allows computers to interact with telephone systems. This allows users to perform all call-related tasks, usually handled through a PBX or key system telephone, directly from their desktop.
Computer telephony integration also lets your communication devices to communicate with one another: phone, computer, fax, voice mail, mobile, etc. This gives users centralized control over all of their means of communication through a single interface.
With CTI, these tasks can be carried out from any computer, thereby benefiting smaller companies which lack the resources to maintain costly communications infrastructures. This technology is often used in call centers, since they field a large volume of calls, and continually seek to enhance productivity. Computer telephony integration opens the door to a more flexible and scalable way of operating a call center.
What are the benefits of computer telephony integration for a call center?
This article will explore the various beneficial effects that computer-telephone integration can have on your call center installation, and on your customer experience.
Adopting a CTI system means doing without a PBX and key system telephones. Whether hosted onsite or off premises, this hardware is costly to purchase, requires constant maintenance, and will one day become obsolete.
The burden of this cycle of purchasing, maintaining, and replacing hardware is lightened somewhat by adopting CTI for your call center. Computer telephony integration is less costly, more flexible, and scales more easily than a traditional system. Your agents’ only tool is their desktop computer, and even that isn’t written in stone. For instance, a VOIP business phone system matches a session to every agent, so they can work from different computers, even remotely or from home.
Hiring remote or virtual agents can benefit call centers with long opening hours or seasonal changes in their activity. Call centers can provide assistance to their customers in different languages and time zones without delocalising. Being able to easily modulate staff and material resources saves both time and funds. Computer telephony integration is much more flexible and scalable than traditional systems, since all it takes to run is installing a program onto a computer.
CTI systems allow agents to work over the phone, taking calls and keeping track of customers, all through their desktop computers. This means that every task can be performed over a simple, unified dashboard. Like so:
Your contacts and client base are all imported into your computer, synced up with client profiles. Picking up, transferring, putting on hold, you may perform every action with a single click. When a customer rings, their information will be visible to the agent, who will be better prepared to tackle their support issue. This eliminates the need to switch back and forth between programs to find information during a call, or to have to fiddle with a traditional key phone at all.
Business phone systems have intuitive, easily readable user interfaces to quickly get the hang of every operation. This incredible ease of use saves time and effort for your agents. They can handle clients with more speed and precision, and save their concentration for the task at hand, rather than the logistics of juggling with different programs. The unified dashboard keeps track of everything in a clear and visible display. Your log keeps a detailed account of every call, and you can cross-reference that information with other integrated services.
Computer-telephone integration makes your phone system into a program. This program happens to be designed to be capable of integrating with other programs for a fluid and productive user experience. A CTI system can be configured to work in conjunction with other services to enhance productivity, foster cooperation, and improve the overall user experience for your clients.
There are a great number of integrations aiming to make your business run smoothly, and most often, you can use them together for maximum efficiency. You can integrate services dedicated to live chat, email, call logging, purchase history, feedback surveying, support tickets, and many more. On top of this, all this information is visible in a single dashboard interface. This is immensely helpful to call center agents and managers alike.
For instance, you can integrate a CRM program with a business phone system. This way, when they reach you, the customer’s information and call history will appear to the agent. Likewise, an account of the call will be stored in the customer’s CRM file, for your team’s future reference. This integration seems like perfect common sense, and it’s so helpful and simple that it may as well be. This access to seamless and useful tools would not be possible with a traditional phone system.
Moreover, the service providers keep your CTI system and the aforementioned integrations up to date. They’ll take care of keeping the software relevant and also of continuously providing new integrations for the benefit of their users. This means that you needn’t worry about your integrated services becoming obsolete or being deficient; your own agents are free to make the most of the tools available to them.
Improved collaboration and productivity
The right CTI system will let your agents save time and effort during every step of a call. They’ll be able to hold calls, warm transfer them, queue them, and communicate with each other through the same interface through which they handle calls. Computer telephony integration enables video and conference calling, whisper coaching, and file transfers. The user interface allows seamless collaboration between your team members. With such features available, team members are more likely to solicit help from managers and coworkers alike.
You will empower your team to truly work as a cohesive unit, and this will make a favorable impression on your customers. The latter will also notice that your call funnel ris more efficient, with shorter waiting times and fewer dropped or missed calls. Studies show that computer-telephone integration reduces the average length of a call. As a result, your team fields a larger volume of calls and resolves issues quicker. Therefore, your team increases its productivity, and your customers enjoy a higher quality of service.
Features which enhance the customer experience
The reason that CTI so markedly improves productivity is because it enables a host of features which would be difficult or impossible to implement on a traditional system. Let’s look at the example of a VOIP business phone system. Here are some features to improve your customers’ experience and help you provide quality service at no extra effort cost to your staff:
- Interactive voice response: filters customers before they even talk to an agent. The filtering criteria can include agent language, type of issue, geographic location of the call, etc. This allows for specified routing of calls, and boosts first call resolution, a crucial metric of customer satisfaction.
- Automatic callback: Automatic call-back allows customers to be contacted at their leisure, rather than wait on hold, which is often a trial of one’s patience. By being placed in a queue, customers know they will be called back, and are freed up to go about their day. This feature increases customer satisfaction by saving the customer time and frustration.
- Click-to-call: Adding a click-to-call button lets customers with their own CTI to call without having to dial your number. By saving your customers effort, you can increase their overall user experience.
These features vastly improve the user experience of a business phone system. They are the fruit of the added flexibility and modularity of computer telephony integration. Alongside the various integrations we touched upon earlier, these features can make your business phone system into a complete solution to improves the entire customer life cycle.
Computer telephony integration benefits not only your customers and your agents, but will also make a call center manager’s job easier. CTI enables call monitoring, call recording, and real-time analytics. Managers can:
- Assign calls to the agent best suited to solving a specific support issue (language, location, IVR selections, etc.).
- Follow an agent’s performance during a call.
- Offer assistance in real-time if the agent is struggling.
- Monitor the performance of single agents or the team as a whole over a variable span of time.
- Track the numbers for missed calls, dropped calls, waiting time, etc. to find areas needing improvement.
- Survey customer satisfaction through user habits.
- Follow the progression of a customer’s life cycle.
Your dashboard logs a record of every customer interaction, and this data can be useful to a manager’s decision-making process. The increased accuracy of data entry is also a side effect of CTI technology. This efficiency trickles down to the team, and then to the customer experience.
Best practices for choosing computer telephony integration
Computer-telephone integration simplifies the job of a call center agent so that, hopefully, the customer experience itself will improve. With convenient features to reduce wait times and to expedite problem resolution, CTI technology makes your call center better serve its customers.
Call centers still suffer from a negative perception in many customers’ minds. Nevertheless, you can mitigate or reverse this impression with the help of the right business phone system. However, despite their flexibility, a single CTI system won’t suit every company just right. Here are tips on choosing the best solution for your business.
Consider your needs
Pick a solution which best fits your business in terms of size and activity. Poll your team and customers, analyze your process, find your strengths and weaknesses. Then, decide which features best suit your business and the milestones you hope to reach. Is your activity seasonal? Do you need to operate 24/7? There are all considerations to keep in mind when picking your CTI system.
Choose a solution which serves your business today, enables its growth, and will scale as your business expands. Take advantage of free trials and benchmark different providers to stay informed.
Focus on success
Your call center deserves a business phone provider with a vested interest in your success. Helping your own customers succeed benefits your business, so your provider must display similar investment. The right provider will keep their SaaS model up to date and proactively provide you with the tools you need.
Look for integration support
We saw how useful and important it can be to use the right integrations with your computer-telephone integration. Your provider’s service should provide integrations with the other tools you need to satisfy your customers.
Ask about integrations with helpdesks, CRMs, script builders, survey templates, etc. Choosing the right provider means seamlessly meshing with the other services you need to function.
Ask for training
Chances are, your team will need help adjusting to this new work tool. If the provider doesn’t offer proper onboarding in the form of training sessions and self-service tools, you may find yourself unable to get the most out of their service.
Be present during the change
Whatever the size of your call center, the transition to computer-telephone integration from a traditional one is always delicate. As a manager, you must stay on top of any adjustment issues along the way. Monitor your performance closely during and after implementation, so as not to let any dips in customer satisfaction slip through the cracks. Luckily, business phone system providers will help you with the transition.
Speaking of which!