Technology has advanced almost miraculously over the last several decades; unbelievably, there are now thin and flat televisions that hang on living room walls like pictures and smartphones that put major computing power in the pockets of over 90 percent of America’s citizens.

The rapid pace of technology has led to many improvements in both everyday living and how business is done. Particularly impactful for business is Computer Telephony Integration (CTI). At its core, CTI is computer-telephony integration linked with CTI ports and (sometimes) a CTI route point. CTI provides businesses with a more efficient and less costly way of handling incoming and outgoing calls. Let’s take a closer look at CTI technology, how it works, and how it can benefit a business.

What is a CTI port?

CTI ports are virtual ports, but they are similar to trunk lines in classic PBX systems. They are the link that allows access to the combined system. By connecting telephone lines through a computer, businesses can streamline their offices and IT maintenance staff. Particularly useful for call centers, it enables full computerization and greater capabilities. CTI makes calls more efficient. For incoming calls, interactive voice response (IVR) can be added that routes calls to the appropriate division for better customer service. In call centers, auto dialers help personnel take or make more calls and more effective calls. The computer is faster and more accurate and frees up personnel for other tasks.

When a CTI system is implemented, some thought should be given to configuring CTI port access, as the business can add other functionality to alleviate pressure on personnel. Elements like voice or video conferencing management, fax message routing, caller authentication, and even setting up a computer agent to provide service to customers, are possible.

How is a CTI Port Different From a CTI Route Point?

A CTI route point is another useful virtual device; this one can receive multiple calls at once, and efficiently distribute them to the various CTI ports. The manner in which the calls are distributed is based on application-controlled redirection. Think of the last phone call you made to your utility company or a government entity. Were you on hold for what seemed like forever to speak with a human being, or was your experience better than that? Did the company ‘answer’ with a computerized human voice and begin gathering information to help with your situation, before routing you to the right person? This type of service is only available by marrying a CTI route point and at least one CTI route port, though typically there are many. It’s the technology most successful call centers currently use.

How Does CTI Help Businesses?

CTI is a huge level-up for call centers that are doing things manually, without the benefit of any computerized connection. Connecting telephones to a computer allows a wealth of information to be displayed on agents screens—much of it automatically and almost instantly. With CTI configured properly and connected to a business’ customer relationship management (CRM), customer information is retrieved based on the number they are calling from. This level of precision and preparedness does wonders for a company’s reputation and perceived professionalism than would a time-consuming fumbling for records and having to ask customers for their names several times in succession.

What are the advantages of implementing CTI?

CTI capabilities offer numerous benefits for call centers and other businesses, and they improve the productivity of call center agents by making their jobs easier and less stressful. In fact, CTI has advanced and evolved mainly to serve call centers. It has also enabled virtual call centers around the country, with supervisors having the capability to oversee their charges, regardless of where they are located. CTI allows for massive numbers of calls, which is typical for a call center. It begins gathering information from the caller as soon as the call is connected. It might verify the phone number the customer is calling from, or use IVR to ask some pertinent questions. Customers typically can answer by typing or talking, and they can start the call by letting the system know why they are calling and what the agent can do to help. As the computer uncovers the customer’s needs, it efficiently routes the call to the correct agent or even a payment system that can help them further. Gathering data before the agent gets the call provides them with the knowledge needed to conduct a friendly, business-like conversation.

Service and support levels can be upgraded substantially by using CTI and data-driven call processing. This goes beyond initial data gathering to logging calls and accessing previous call histories, as well as integrating with search engines, CRMs, and other software. Having added information makes it possible to personalize calls and respond to issues more quickly, especially in the event of someone calling back shortly after a previous call. This type of service earns customer loyalty and referrals.

When a call center team is empowered with the right tools to do their job effectively, they will offer strong support services. This is vital in a call center environment because sometimes the people calling are mad about something beyond the agent’s control. Still, the agent must calmly handle the customer and resolve their issues. They need all the help they can get! CTI goes a long way towards making their job easier and better. An effective team offers great customer support and efficiency.

One of the greatest benefits of CTI is better service at lower operational cost. When CTI ports are properly configured, it streamlines call center work, enhances customer support, and lowers the number of agents needed to do the same amount of work. A call center team can handle many more calls when CTI is enabled, so the same number of people can help far more customers more quickly. No long hold times, no irate customers, no overtime required.

Businesses that are considering implementing CTI for their business would be wise to discuss the configuration and needs with an expert. Knowing how to configure the CTI route points and each CTI route port correctly is critical.

Ultimately, CTI systems are able to drive solid growth in a company and do so without the burden of more staff and added overheads.

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