When you think of essential remote work tools, we’re sure solutions like team chat messaging, video conferencing, and task management platforms come to mind immediately.
But while all of these applications certainly boost your small business’s internal communication, they don’t usually focus on improving external communication.
That’s where CTI comes in — especially for remote contact centers and customer service departments.
But what is CTI, and how can it help your business? Which providers offer the best plans at the most competitive rates?
Read on to find out.
Table of Contents
- What is Computer Telephony Integration?
- What Are the Biggest CTI Benefits for Small Businesses?
- What are the Most Important CTI Features?
- The Top 5 CTI Providers in 2021
- FAQs About Computer Telephony Integration
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is the software that links your business phone service and other business applications with the goal of improving phone call efficiency and simplifying call management.
It’s most often used by contact centers, customer service departments, or any business that doesn’t have enough available agents to manage their daily call volume.
Note that it doesn’t require a to have a landline phone to implement.
You can also use your desktop computer system’s VoIP phone, clicking buttons to pick up and make calls, place customers on hold, transfer calls, and complete other call handling tasks.
In other words?
These solutions offer many more features than traditional phone systems and eliminate the need for a landline. Instead, you can access essential client information and manage call flow directly from your computer, using customizable call configurations.
But it doesn’t just manage phone calls. In fact, it’s a centralized communication hub — meaning you can integrate numerous communication channels like SMS texting, faxing, live chat, and more into a single interface. You can even access data from your CRM system from within the dashboard, as well as monitor key analytics and KPIs.
In short: CTI functionality improves contact centers and the overall customer experience.
It’s easy to see how having the ability to manage multiple communication channels directly from your computer benefits enterprise-level contact centers.
But how does CTI help small businesses?
Below, we’ve outlined a list of the most important ways in which its technology benefits SMBs.
Greater Control Over Call Flow
CTI offers a high level of control over call workflows and call routing options.
Skills-based, round-robin, most idle, or list-based routing options improve the call management process and ensure that work is divided evenly among representatives, preventing burnout and speeding up the resolution process.
ACD, call queueing, and call forwarding options allow for greater employee flexibility and make it more likely that a caller will be able to connect with a live representative, as opposed to having to schedule a callback or leave a message.
A stronger call flow also cuts down on customer wait times.
Being able to customize the call path also means that customers will be directed to the agent that’s specifically trained to help them with their current needs.
For example, by navigating through a pre-recorded call menu, a customer can select the department they need to speak with by choosing from pre-configured options.
This means a customer with a question about billing can easily be connected to the billing department, as opposed to anyone else – for example, an HR representative who knows little to nothing about setting up automatic payments.
CTI offers numerous capabilities that drastically increase team productivity.
Caller authentication is one of the biggest time savers. It compares inbound and outbound phone numbers to the customer information stored in a company’s database or Customer Relationship Management software.
This kind of call screening not only helps to keep you in line with industry security standards and regulations but also ensures that the agent taking the call is prepared before they answer the phone.
Caller authentication eliminates the frustrating and time-consuming experience of having to collect, find, or confirm customer information every call.
Additionally, computer screen pops, which automatically pull up a caller’s customer information, prevent agents from having to confirm client information. They also show a client’s past orders, previous customer support interaction history, agent notes, and other relevant data.
Best of all, these pops show agents all previous customer interactions within a single interface — regardless of the communication channels used.
This speeds up the overall resolution process, boosting both customer experience and internal team productivity.
However, CTI doesn’t benefit the inbound call process alone.
Features like automated dialing speed up the outbound call process, allowing your agents to power through lead lists without wasting time on things like unanswered phone calls or disconnected numbers.
Increased Customer Satisfaction
CTI provides features and insight that vastly improve the overall customer experience.
IVR capabilities allow for improved customer self-service, which helps customers resolve issues or get the updates they need faster. This frees up agents to attend to more immediate or important tasks that do require interactions with live representatives.
These solutions also allow for a higher level of personalization — something that a whopping 98% of marketing professionals say improves customer relations.
If agents have the relevant customer data, they know the products/services a customer will be interested in and can reference past orders or interactions. They’ll have a 360-degree customer view for every phone call, and every client will feel like a priority.
Additionally, features like call recording and monitoring allow for a greater insight into employee performance, the current level of customer service, and the most common problems your business is facing.
It automatically logs all customer data in real-time, meaning you can measure KPIs like average hold time, average call volume and call handle time, the number of abandoned, transferred, or missed calls, and more.
Knowing this valuable information means improved employee training, shorter resolution times, and improved employee performance.
Better customer insight means better customer service.
The most essential features are:
- Screen pops
- Automatic dialer modes
- Call routing and call workflows
- Integrations with third-party business software
- Call monitoring and analytics
Below, we’ll tell you a bit more about what these features are and why they matter.
Screen pops are one of the biggest benefits of CTI, and are easily the most important feature.
Using customer data in your CRM software and collected from the IVR system, screen pops automatically “pop up” on an agent’s screen to display customer history, contact information, the selected menu options, and other essential information.
Pops work for both inbound and outbound calls, ensuring that the agent has all the relevant information before they get on the phone with the customer. Plus, they won’t have to navigate to completely different business software to access it.
Automatic Dialing Modes
Call center agents know better than anyone just how time-consuming getting through lead lists can be.
In fact, it takes an average of 8 cold calls to actually connect to a real person.
Automatic dial modes eliminate busy signals, outdated phone numbers, and voice mailboxes by waiting until a caller is on the other end of the line before an agent is connected to them. Not only do agents not have to spend time physically typing in the numbers, but automatic dial tools also connect calls based on real-time agent availability. (In other words, your lead won’t be connected to an agent that’s not actually available to talk.
There are 4 main kinds of auto-dialing modes: preview, predictive, power, and progressive.
Preview dial mode is a manual mode where agents actually review lead records before placing the call. To keep agents productive, managers can set a maximum amount of time for reviewing those records.
Predictive dial mode actually starts making a call to the next name on a lead list the moment an agent decides to hang up the phone — meaning that no manual dialing is involved. Predictive dial tools can detect fax machine numbers, busy signals, and answering machines. If they do, they move onto the next name on the list.
Power dial mode lets agents control the calling speed, and each agent is assigned to make a set number of calls per day.
Progressive dial mode calls one customer for every available agent. Whereas predictive dial modes use algorithms based on average call lengths and more to automate calls, in progressive dial modes, the agent must indicate that they are ready for the call to be made.
This post provides more insight into dialing modes.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
IVR, short for Interactive Voice Response, is a phone menu system that routes users to the correct departments and employees via the telephone dial pad.
You’ve likely interacted with countless IVR systems without realizing it. “Press 1 for customer service,” or “Please enter your credit card number, then press the pound key,” are two of the most familiar examples.
These systems make it easy to record personalized greetings, collect essential caller information, and offer automated, self-service customer support. In other words, this often means that a caller will be able to solve their own issue by following the menu options of pre-recorded messages.
If a customer does end up needing to speak with an agent, it’s easy to route the caller to the best representative by collecting important information from the phone tree options.
Call Routing and Call Workflows
Call routing lets you pre-configure incoming call paths to ensure that customers have the highest chance possible to both connect with a live agent, and to connect with the agent that is the most qualified to assist them with their particular issue.
Creating efficient call workflows allows admins to direct call paths ahead of time, so there’s no need to keep a customer on hold for an extended amount of time while you search for the right agent.
Additionally, these platforms should allow for call forwarding.
This means that, if an agent doesn’t answer their office telephone, the call is automatically forwarded to their smartphone, then home phone, and then voicemail box. Admins may also choose to have that call forwarded to another available agent or department.
Integrations With Third-Party Business Software
CTI systems need to be able to integrate with other business communication tools, APIs, and any additional third-party software you’re using.
After all, without the ability to integrate with your preferred CRM system, screen pops are impossible.
Popular tools to integrate with include:
- Microsoft Teams
- GSuite and Microsoft Office
Call Monitoring and Analytics
CTIs don’t just provide advanced features — they also offer analytics about your customers and your agents. These analytics are
Popular analytics to examine include:
- Average call length
- Average hold time
- Average number of blocked calls
- Call abandonment rate
- Average answer speed
- First call resolution rates
- Customer satisfaction
- Customer demographics
- Most popular channels
In addition to looking at analytics, managers can also review call transcripts and recordings to review agent performance and learn more about customer sentiment.
Features like call whisper, call monitoring and call barging make it easy for managers to listen in on agent phone calls.
Call whispering lets managers connect with agents while they’re on the phone with a customer. The customer won’t be able to hear the manager, but the agent can. This way, the manager can provide important tips or essential information to the agent to ensure a call’s success.
- NICE InContact
Below, we’ll give a brief breakdown of the available features and plans each provider offers.
RingCentral CTI is one of the most feature-rich options on this list, meaning that it’s ideal for mid-size level businesses with a moderate to high daily call volume.
It authenticates callers by examining data stored in your CRM software, provides real-time and historical reporting, and offers advanced call controls like call screening, call forwarding, and Caller ID.
Additional RingCentral features include:
- Call barge, monitoring, and whispering
- Automatic call recording
- Hold music
- Dial by name directory
- Call logs
- Hot desking
- Voicemail to text
- Online faxing
- Predictive dial mode
Contact RingCentral for a quote.
To learn more, read our complete RingCentral review.
NICE InContact CXone is a cloud-based customer experience platform that comes complete with adaptors for CTI technology.
It integrates with numerous CRM and unified communications solutions, including Salesforce, Zendesk, SugarCRM, and Oracle.
The InContact Customer Card integrates with your CRM platform to show agents data regarding customer sentiment, conversation history, notes from other agents, and more. It also uses natural speech analysis to better guide callers through pre-recorded menu options.
It also offers cell phone number verification, live call list updates, and predictive, progressive, and proficiency dialing modes. You’ll also enjoy advanced analytics taken from over 250 key metrics.
Contact NICEInContact directly for a quote.
Read our complete review of NICEinContact to learn more.
Genesys’ PureCloud is especially ideal for SMBs looking to optimize self-service capabilities.
In addition to being able to collect payments via Interactive Voice Response, Genesys offers multi-lingual self-service, intelligent voice recognition, and the ability to choose to transition to a live agent.
It integrates with numerous tools including Oracle, Salesforce, Zoho, and Zendesk.
Top features include:
- Skills-based, relationship-based, and other routing options
- Automated call notifications
- Live agent monitoring
- Speech recognition
- Agent scripting
- Progressive and predictive dial modes
- Call screening
- Drag-and-drop call flows
- Call recording
- Call scheduling
Learn more about Genesys in this post, and contact Genesys directly for a pricing quote.
Mitel CTI was built on Google Cloud and is specially designed with a mobile-first, remote workforce in mind. It is known for its advanced automating dial modes and lead management and outgoing calling features like agent scripting, predictive dial modes, and advanced call recycling rules.
It also includes features like call presence, click-to-dial, hunt groups, and call history. Users can even set up hotkeys. Mitel also announces the expected wait time to customers on hold, as well as their current position in the queue.
Additional features include:
- Skills-based routing
- Custom historical reports
- Scheduled callbacks
- Instant messaging between agent and supervisor
- Silent call monitoring and call barge
- Call logging
- iOS and Android mobile app
- Warm transfer
- Automated data imports from files, spreadsheets, and databases
- Blended call lists
- Call parking
Mitel pricing is quote-based and is not publicly available on their website.
Aircall’s CTI integration is a cloud-based call center tool that is especially celebrated for its ease of setup and intuitive interface.
Its unique custom tags feature makes categorizing interactions simple by allowing you to customize your own labels and attach them to any call. You can tag calls by agent, department, type of interaction (customer service vs. sales), and call activity (planned demo, offered quote, finalized contract, etc.)
Admins can also assign specific calls to individual agents to complete, and attach comments to the call assignment. Assigned calls are automatically entered into an agent’s to-do list.
In addition to standard features like audio conferencing, voicemail, and call recording, Aircall also offers:
- Shared call inbox and shared contacts
- Warm call transfer
- Call queuing
- Concurrent calling
- Advanced routing options and ring groups
- Custom business hours on a per-number basis
- Power dial mode
- Call filters and searchable call history
- CRM integrations
- iOS and Android mobile apps
- Call monitoring and call whispering
It integrates with over 60 third-party software solutions including Salesforce, Shopify, Slack, Freshdesk, and Zapier.
Aircall has three paid plans ranging in price from $30.00/user per month to $50.00/user per month and up.
Whether you want to increase team productivity, improve call paths, or provide a more personalized customer experience, Customer Telephony Integration will revolutionize your company’s workflow.
Call center software with CTI also connects a remote workforce and allows smaller businesses to better distribute their agent’s resources.
Still need a little clarification?
Below, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about CTI software.
Frequently asked questions
Though retailers and telemarketers clearly see the most benefit from contact center software, it’s also popular in the below sectors:
- Hospitality management
- Software development
There are several available types, but the two most common options are Desktop and System.
The Desktop system (AKA first-party telephony) is when the IP PBX telephone system connects to your desktop computer, and vice versa.
The System option (AKA third-party telephony) uses a central server that connects to your phone system -- meaning there isn’t a direct connection between the computer and the phone. Instead, everything is connected via the Local Area Network (LAN.)
CTI both creates revenue and saves companies money by:
- Improving customer service, therefore encouraging repeat purchases and decreasing returns/client loss
- Optimizing your workforce by allowing representatives to make more sales calls using dialer modes and spend less time on manual call management, phone controls, and data entry.
- Offering more employee flexibility and increasing agent satisfaction, therefore decreasing employee turnover
- Helping you to better identify and ameliorate recurring problems and improve training
For a more detailed cost-benefit analysis, check out this post.
One of the biggest focuses when developing future CTI platforms and upgrading existing ones is a better mobile experience. In the future, these tools will have built-in mobile accessibility across multiple communication channels. The same goes for social media platform integrations, so your business can respond instantly to social media messages.
Remember that CTIs are just one facet of call center software.
To learn more about and compare top providers, read user reviews, and understand how contact center solutions streamline communication, check out our interactive table of the top call center software platforms.