The caller's personal data and buying history are matched onto the agent's screen, along with a sales script and an order entry form. When the agent answers, the customer is greeted by name and account data is at the ready, all within the few seconds it took to answer the call.
Welcome to the world of CTI -- Computer Telephony Integration. CTI represents one of the most far-reaching technology trends in today's sophisticated world of communications. Described as the dynamic interaction (a "tie-in") of computers and telephone systems, CTI is changing how businesses use their telephones and computers.
CTI extends beyond the functional integration of computing and telephony. It incorporates a seamless convergence of computing and telecommunications at all levels -- the desktop, the work group, the enterprise and beyond. And while it represents the primary communications medium in people-to-people interaction, it can enhance the the way people naturally communicate with the addition of text, video and graphic elements.
CTI allows the transaction processing and the business support processes associated with computers to be connected with the voice communication services needed for personal interaction. The result is the interaction of the "people" aspects of the business with the process support technology infrastructure.
The potential benefits of CTI go beyond call center applications. Sales departments can optimize selling time by using automatic dialing from a prospect database. A sales representative is connected only when a prospect picks up the telephone.
While making the sales presentation, the rep builds a customer profile. The newly-created database entry can be forwarded to a retailer or used to mail literature or create a call-back directory for follow-up.
The telephone conference call can be dramatically enhanced with the ability to deliver text, graphics and video with voice communication. Team members can share information from various databases, exchange ideas and collaborate effectively from a variety of locations, all in real time.
Additionally, for corporate road warriors, being out of the office no longer means being out of touch with customer contact information and resources. With a simple phone call at any time, business travelers can access messages, customer databases and time-critical information.
One of the ideal opportunities for CTI is when people can be given (or get) information over the phone, the information is stored in a computer, the task is repetitive and a human is involved in getting the information and relaying it. CTI can perform this task 24 hours a day without any personnel required. Examples are the way you can interact with a credit card company or an airline -- to get/make payments, check schedules and make changes, all without requiring an employee to handle the call.
Here is a checklist for companies considering the implementation of today's sophisticated CTI systems. Companies should complete the checklist using input from their user groups or departments being considered for CTI. n ideal candidate will score hits on several factors in each of the three categories.
* Increasing customer service
* Reducing response time
* Greater support for off-site and mobile staff
* Increasing customer retention
* Reducing human error
* Increasing telemarketing effectiveness
* Improving overall productivity
* Staff directly dedicated to customer process
* Staff grouped by departments, work group or project teams
* Telephone on desk
* File, print and other servers are on your network
* Information is accessible by computer
* Toll-free number or other phone company/network services
* Company phone numbers published in advertising and literature
* Single or multiple locations
* Voice mail
CTI Expectations and Corporate Fit:
* CTI will be treated as a strategic resource, not a cost-savings tool
* CTI will become an important management process
* CTI data will be used to improve or influence products and processes
* CTI will not be viewed as a personnel replacement tool, but as a productivity enhancement.
Where the criteria are met, the results are usually dramatic. Paybacks have been as little as a few months.
Randy Wear (email@example.com) is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). It provides voice, data, and convergence solutions that are based on integrated, open systems that work with a variety of organizational and technology environments and structures. Reach Randy at (847) 699-9960.