White Papers:
The Complexities of CTI

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Computer telephony integration (CTI) is intricate to build and maintain. CTI software ties 2 complex systems together to bring information from a phone system into a customer relationship management (CRM) system. This gives agents in a call center, service desk or sales department the ability to see existing customer data when phone calls come in, to reduce clicks and misdials on outbound calls, and to reduce call wrap-up time – all at lightning speed. A CTI connector is a complex application that needs to speak to both the phone system and the CRM, but that's not all. There are a number of other technical factors to consider.

Delivery in the Browser

One complexity is that information used by CTI is delivered in the browser. Normally, when a user arrives at a web page, the information is static. With CTI, information needs to be pushed to the page unsolicited as it happens, from either the CRM or phone side. Having the user constantly refresh to see if a phone call has come in is completely unreasonable – the information needs to be pushed without any intervention from the user side. CTI needs to update the page on its own.

Agents Have Unique Workflow Needs

Contact center agents have it tough. They need to talk, type, read and think fast to deliver exceptional customer service. To build a great CTI solution, it’s important to know why agents need CTI, how they’ll use it and how deeply to integrate telephony with the CRM.

For a CTI application to truly drive productivity, it must search for the relevant record, pop the right entity and write to the correct places in the CRM. It’s expected that different groups will have different requirements, sometimes within the same organization. They may not even understand these needs up front but will discover the requirements as they use a system. In the experience of the team at InGenius Software, businesses realize they’re looking for workflow integrations only after they’ve been using CTI and understand its potential. Consequently, the product has been architected for this flexibility.

Technology Changes Continually

The technology used to deliver CTI updates continually and it’s difficult to fully appreciate the churn. Changes to browsers, CRMs, telephony systems and servers are ongoing and it’s essential to manage these expeditiously.

Diagram of the technology that changes continually with CTI: browser, server technology, telephony systems and CRM.

Browsers Update Frequently

Browsers used to deliver updates twice a year. That number is now up to 11 times a year or more. One notable change is that browsers have become more security conscious. They’ve changed how data is stored locally, which can cause issues with CTI regarding how data storage is handled and how data is communicated.

Each browser update runs the risk of a new bug or known issue. For example, an IFrame is an element that allows CTI applications to run within the browser window, integrate into the CRM and provide the single pane of glass experience users are looking for. CTI providers need to be prepared to keep on top of every browser release and understand the impact it has on their applications.

CRMs Update Regularly

Cloud-based CRMs put out multiple releases a year, and each of these updates brings new features, optimizations and security changes. CRM updates are pushed to organizations at a rate that offers wonderful innovation, but also requires testing on the CTI side to ensure nothing is broken, and development to ensure new features are being used to full advantage.

 

Users of on-premise CRMs could, in theory, continue to use an older version, but they would be missing out on more than new features. An older CRM version doesn’t keep up with current security standards and eventually, will no longer supported by the CRM vendor.

Telephony Systems for Contact Centers Evolve

Compared to browsers and CRMs, phone systems might seem like an easier product to integrate with. The reality is that authenticating a CTI application with a phone switch is difficult. Also, as phone systems evolve, they can have features that stop working or are deprecated. When a new switch version is released, the CTI application programming interface (API) the telephony system provides might have a bug, or it might even break.

Server Technology Advances

Depending on implementation, a CTI solution may be delivered as a client-server deployment. This has its own complexities, often with a dependency to upgrade server versions in step with the server vendor. For example, it may be necessary to update the .NET framework for the Windows operating system, among other things.

Another consideration in this context is high availability. Most customers believe their CTI solutions are mission-critical and require a high availability solution to ensure that agents are never without their CTI productivity tools. Building for high availability involves implementing multiple servers and putting them in different physical locations, as well as maintaining backup systems.

CTI Experts Manage the Change

The current pace of technology innovation means that it’s no longer okay to build software as a onetime activity. For an effective CTI connector, developers need to stay focused on its maintenance and optimization permanently. It’s not enough to wait until the product breaks before it’s revisited.

Developer Skills

Writing complex software to integrate the phone system, the CRM and the browsers requires knowledge of CSS, HTML, JavaScript, telephony, browser nuances, network technologies, how telephone systems work, and real-time software development, plus the security requirements and enterprise-level standards needed for each of these. These skill sets are just the basics for creating a CTI application.

Industry Expertise

Building CTI requires in-depth knowledge. As an example, InGenius Connector Enterprise is built on 20 years of experience in the CTI industry. Software companies need the full complement of people in place to tackle every part of CTI, right from the initial design, to development, testing, deployment and ongoing customer care.

InGenius Software as a company is 100% focused on CTI. That level of expertise makes it much easier to anticipate problems before they happen, and to know what customers are looking for almost before they know themselves. With the benefit of customers across multiple industries and situations, patterns start to develop. This knowledge is used to build the CTI solution, through user interface updates, included functionalities and workflows.

CRM Partnerships

Enterprise-level CTI vendors establish trust relationships with the CRM vendors they work with. For InGenius, this means sitting on partner advisory boards, getting early access to software through pilot and preview programs, and providing feedback from customers at scale. Partnerships allow CTI solutions to get pre-releases of software, so any bugs can be worked on before that software is released to the market. This approach eliminates potential system downtime. When InGenius reports an issue to a CRM provider, it’s as a representative of thousands of users. As a trusted development partner, this information goes directly to CRM decision makers.

Logos of common CRM partnership programs: Silver Microsoft Partner, ServiceNow Bronze Technology Partner, Now Certified, and Salesforce AppExchange Partner.

CTI software goes through an external evaluation if it’s published to a CRM’s app store. This process ensures that applications are built to a CRM’s standards of compliance and security. An application on a partner stores gives customers confidence that the solution has been reviewed and approved by the CRM vendor.

Telephony Partnerships with Certifications

CTI software is also generally tested by telephony technology vendors to achieve certifications. Similar to the reviews performed by the CRM app stores, telephony partners test CTI solutions to ensure that the integration is successful and delivers seamless interoperability, and then awards compatibility designations.

Early releases of telephony are also available to CTI partners so teams can suss out the problems that will occur in the future and fix them before release.

Logos of popular telephony system certifications: Avaya DevConnect Technology Partner, Mitel Solutions Alliance Developer Partner and Cisco Solutions Partner.

Simplicity for Users

The most interesting outcome of all these CTI complexities, is that ultimately, a well-crafted product brings simplicity to the users.

A big part of the success of a CTI solution is its usability. For customers, that means that CTI experts can customize speed dials, configure search results, screen pop right into an authentication workflow, log to a custom field or make any other changes to drive down agent clicks. When an organization comes to an established provider with an idea, the outside view – backed by experience – can help them achieve what they’re looking for, but in a better way. The benefit of this can improve the usability of CTI and the user experience, with much less effort.

A CTI solution brings a lot of value to teams and organizations that spend time on the phone, and delivering a simplified agent experience to mask the underlying complexity is important. The best CTI developers are focused intently on CTI, so you don’t have to be.

 

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