Computer Telephony Integration
Computer Telephony Integration or CTI is the ability for computers to interact with telephones. CTI combines computer systems with telephone systems to increase the capabilities of each. A great example of CTI today is our smartphones. It’s literally a combination of a telephone and a computer. In business, CTI takes on a slightly different use case, which is the focus of this blog.
Computer telephony integration started with relatively small ambitions but over the past 30 years it has evolved into its own multi-billion dollar industry. CTI is used by over half the world population every day to drive better interactions with businesses and each other.
The first CTI was based on the CSTA (computer supported telecommunications applications) protocol introduced in 1992 by the ITU and was the most adopted protocol for computer telephony integration. AT&T and Novell launched TSAPI a few years later and Microsoft jumped into the CTI arena with the introduction of TAPI in 1993 for combining telephones with Windows applications and an industry was born.
As CTI has evolved, the business use cases have as well. Most businesses look to CTI to improve the agent and customer experience, reduce the time it takes to help customers, and to maximize the number of calls agents can handle over time.
Typically, CTI covers 4 major functional areas for businesses:
- Screen Pop – This industry term refers to a process whereby a callers information is “popped” to an agent even before the call is answered so the agent will know more about the customer before saying “Hello”.
- Click-to-Dial / Automated Dialing – This time saving feature allows agents to either simply select a record in their application and the telephone call is automatically made, or it’s even enabling more rapid dialing of phone numbers through capabilities like power dialing and predictive dialing.
- Phone Controls – Rather than having use a telephone set to answer the phone, place it on hold, or initiate a conference call, phone controls can be placed directly in an application through a mechanism commonly referred to as third-party call control.
- Intelligent Routing – Is the ability to request additional data and assistance from computer systems so calls can be routed to agents that can best help the customer or are idle and ready for another phone call.
CTI today has matured past the initial intentions. With the introduction digital telecommunication, technologies computing systems and telephone systems have essentially been fused together. CTI has expanded beyond just telephony integration and now includes other channels like chat, SMS, video and social networks. There are dedicated CPaaS (Communication Platform as a Service) and CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) companies which focus entirely on CTI. CTI has also deepened within business applications, as CRM companies like Salesforce, SAP, and Microsoft look for ways to combine their applications with CPaaS and CCaaS platforms.
My Own CTI Journey
I started AMC Technology in 1995, to build CTI solutions. The industry was just getting started and the initial CTI projects were very complex, costly, and lengthy. I built AMC to take these complicated CTI protocols and turn them into solutions that customers could practically use.
Today, just as CTI has evolved, we have as well. Our mission of improving interactions remains the same, but we now offer DaVinci, an XiPaaS (Experience Integration Platform as a Service), so businesses can focus on driving value to their customers through their own unique experiences rather than focusing on the mechanics of CTI.
26 years ago, CTI captivated me with its unlimited potential to bring people together through better interactions and it captivates me even more today.