The typical contact center relies on a variety of different systems to manage communications with customers. This technical environment is growing more complex with the use of new and expanding channels of customer communications. While the telephone remains the number one choice, other channels such as email and web chat are becoming standard modes of communication in the contact center.
Each communication channel requires a unique set of contact center systems to deploy and manage. There is a wide variety of vendors providing contact center systems that range from fairly basic to highly complex. The intricacy increases with factors such as multiple communications channels, geographically distributed contact centers, the use of “specialty” applications such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, sophisticated routing applications and new, SIP-based applications.
Compounding the challenge is the fact that each channel of communication currently requires a unique method of integration with CRM systems.
For telephony systems, integration is typically done through a Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) Server. A CTI server is a server-based application that manages the flow of call events and data with the phone switch (PBX) and, in some cases, other call center systems. A CTI server is a middleware application that typically interfaces with the PBX and with other applications via a proprietary Application Programming Interface (API).
CTI servers are available from leading PBX and contact center system vendors, such as Aspect, Avaya, Cisco Systems and Nortel. For email systems, integration is typically done through a Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) gateway or API provided by an email system. An SMTP gateway manages the flow of emails to and from other applications.
For chat systems, integration is typically done through an interface provided by the web server, such as IIS from Microsoft. The web server interface manages the real-time flow of interactions from the chat application to other applications.
For fax systems, integration is typically done through a fax server that is capable of converting the fax document into an attached email file and outputting the email through an SMTP gateway.
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