What is Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)? A call center guide

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is a technology that connects a phone system to a computer or mobile device, eliminating the need for a landline phone. It is mainly used in call centers to manage incoming and outgoing calls to improve call efficiency and simplify call handling. In this article, we explore what is CTI in call centers and its benefits for small and medium-sized businesses.

A diagram explaining how CTI works in a call center environment

How Computer Telephony Integration Works

CTI works by using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to turn a computer into an extension of a business phone system. This allows you to perform various telephony functions, including the ability to answer, mute, hold, transfer, and hang up calls.

CTI links to business applications such as ticketing platforms, help desks, and customer relationship management (CRM) software. When a call comes in, the system checks the caller’s contact details against the CRM database. The agent will now be able to access all relevant information about the caller, including billing history, location details, and previous call records, within a single interface.

CTI Key Features

In addition to adding phone controls to your computer, a CTI phone system does more. It comes with a screen pop, auto bookmarks, and reporting functionality. To learn more about these features, click on the tabs below to discover some key CTI features:

Screen Pop is a popular CTI feature that automatically displays caller information on agent screens once a call arrives. These include customer profile, interaction history, past orders, or agent notes. Instead of wasting time requesting and confirming customer information, the screen pop feature provides all the relevant details within a single interface.

A short demo of how Call Pop works on Nextiva's call center platform

Nextiva Call Pop helps you determine customer account details before answering the call. (Source: Nextiva)

In an outbound call center, automatic dialing saves agents time by bypassing the actual dialing process. With CTI, the software automatically dials a list of phone numbers into a lead list and connects the call to an agent after someone is on the line. Thus, it enhances your outbound calling efforts.

A sample view of how Dialpad Power Dialer works during an ongoing call

Dialpad Power Dialer automatically dials the next phone number on your lead list right after you hang up the previous call. (Source: Keyboard)

There are four auto dial modes: predictive, power, preview, and progressive. To understand how each type works, read our guide on how outbound dialers work.

Interactive Voice Response is a CTI-based technology that manages incoming calls by routing them to where they need to be. Unlike an automated attendant, which is a more simplified routing system, an IVR system uses voice input and machine learning to manage calls.

A sample view of how to create an IVR menu in Twilio Studio

Twilio Studio simplifies the creation of an IVR menu through its drag and drop mechanism. (Source: Twilio)

CTI systems also enable robust reporting functionality to help understand overall call center performance. Monitors key metrics in real time and provides detailed reports with intuitive data, including call volumes, call durations, and agent productivity. Learn more about this in our article on call center reports.

A sample view of the live reporting dashboard via RingCentral Analytics

RingCentral is primarily known for its in-depth analytics tools and advanced reporting dashboards that help analyze call quality and track key metrics. (Source: RingCentral)

CTI makes call training relatively easy by allowing supervisors to listen, whisper and intervene on an active call between an agent and a customer. In this way, the supervisor can provide assistance to the agent in order to ensure quality, training and customer service.

A sample dashboard view of how the 8x8 call monitoring feature works when accessed through a browser

8×8 call monitoring tools allow supervisors to track phone conversations of selected extensions. (Source: 8×8)

Benefits of computer telephony integration

There are many ways CTI improves the efficiency of call center operations, from collecting caller information to customizing call flow to speeding up the call handling process. To better understand the benefits of CTI as a call center technology, please click on each item below:

CTI-based phone systems eliminate the use of desk phones, which are expensive to set up and maintain. Since CTI is deeply integrated with your business software, agents only need to log in and work from their desktop or even mobile device. This makes CTI implementation cheaper, especially if your staff needs to be remote.

CTI is a vital tool for call center agents when it comes to automating routine tasks and deflecting inquiries that don’t require a live agent. Agents don’t have to deal with every incoming call because the call routing capabilities will take care of that. Additionally, linking CTI to your customer relationship management (CRM) system improves agent efficiency as they don’t need to search multiple databases or switch between tabs to access customer information.

With the screen pop feature, customers don’t have to repeat themselves because all the information is at the agent’s fingertips. This reduces call handling time as the agent can resolve issues and move on to the next call more quickly. Personalized agent engagement also makes the caller feel important to the business.

Call routing features like IVR enhance the customer experience by providing self-service options, such as paying bills or setting up account notifications. Callers feel empowered if they can solve their problems independently instead of waiting for a live agent to help them.

One of the standout benefits of CTI is how it makes the entire customer contact process digital. It allows call centers to communicate with customers through voice calls, text messages, emails or social networks. This promotes a more omnichannel experience for reaching the customer and saves money in the long run.

Main providers that offer CTI

Now that you fully understand what IT integration is, you may want to learn about the leading CTI system providers in the market. Ideally, the right solution for your business should provide a handful of useful CTI features that are easy to learn and adapt to various call center situations. Check out some of the popular CTI providers by clicking the tabs below:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I choose the right CTI solution for my business?

The answer depends on the current business applications you are using. If you want to tie a CTI solution to your existing CRM system, make sure your chosen provider includes your CRM in their list of integrations. Many CTI solutions vary in price, features, and scalability, so look at multiple vendors to explore your options. The best CTI software should be flexible enough to meet your business needs.

Do contact center solutions require an additional fee for a CTI?

No. A CTI solution must be part of the contact center package you purchased. However, other providers will require you to subscribe to higher tier plans for advanced CTI features like autodial, screen popping, and analytics.

What kind of call centers need a CTI solution?

Almost any type of call center operation will benefit from a CTI solution. However, it is generally popular in industries that involve a lot of phone interactions with customers, such as healthcare, finance, e-commerce, and hotel management.

Bottom line

A computer telephony integration system speeds up and expands customer contact. CTI has benefits for call center phone systems as well as customer service and sales, which is why it is being adopted into the communication tools of many small businesses. For more information on specific providers that offer CTI integration, check out our guide to the best phone systems for call centers.

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