CTI in the 21st Century

In the first of a series of three articles looking at CTI in the 21st Century, Phil Reynolds, Technology Evangelist & Joint CEO at Oak, goes Back to Basics by asking what is CTI and why is it so relevant to your customers today.

I’ve been in the telecoms industry longer than I care to remember but there are many things that seem never to change; ISDN lines are reliable, BT still has a monopoly in my opinion, the most reliable computer in the world is a telephone system, and CTI is as meaningless today as it has ever been.

So what is CTI other than an overused acronym that has something to do with computers, telephones and integration? What does it mean, not just in terms of technology but in terms of the business opportunity that awaits the channel? Where can I find it? Is it on my telephone system? Is it on my computer? Is there some magic connection between the two?

Well, as they say in all good hair product adverts, “here comes the science bit”. The starting point for all of this is the humble telephone system sitting quietly on the wall, or in a rack, or virtualised in some data centre. A telephone system is an ultra reliable real time computer, a computer that can switch calls between lines and extensions so people can talk. And it’s the real time component that’s very relevant to CTI.

To be able to handle telephone calls the telephone system must at all times be ready to answer calls, make calls, and connect calls together. The telephone system can’t spend 5, 10 or 20 seconds booting up when a call arrives, it can’t run some complex sub routine that takes minutes to run, and God forbid that several calls all arrive at once. No, a telephone system must do everything instantly on multiple lines for multiple people on multiple extensions and it must go on doing this day in day out, week after week, year after year with little or no human intervention. It’s a sort of modern day miracle. Can you imagine a personal computer that could do this? It’s also true that the telephone system has been around a lot longer than the PC.

So is any of this relevant? Well yes, it’s the real time aspect of the telephone system that empowers all of these different events happening on the telephone system at the same time and being managed by the telephone system and it’s on-board software, everything happening in real time right now.

What if the telephone system could share all this information in some way?

What if it could be shared as it happened and not 5, 10 or 20 seconds later?

What would you do with all of this information if you got it?

What if you could simply run a cable between the telephone system and your computer and all of the information from the telephone system appeared on your computer?

Well with CTI you can do all of the above but what does this give you? Here are a few statistics that you could produce for example:-

  1. Number of calls waiting to be answered.
  2. Ring time of longest waiting call.
  3. CLI’s of waiting calls which you could look-up on a database.
  4. CLI’s of calls in progress so you could see who your extension users are talking to.
  5. Extension status, what’s happening on each extension right now.
  6. Line status, what’s happening on each line right now.

And of course if you were running a call centre then you might be able to get the following:-

  1. Number of agents logged in.
  2. Number of agents on calls.
  3. Number of agents on a break.
  4. Number of calls in a queue/hunt group.
  5. Longest waiting call in a queue/ hunt group.

So this is all incredibly valuable information that, if delivered in real time, can be used to run a business more effectively, something that businesses and call centres are willing to pay for. This information could be displayed on a wallboard or on a supervisor’s PC.

But CTI doesn’t stop there. It’s not just about information coming from the telephone system but about sending information to the telephone system, information or commands to ask the telephone system to do things for you such as:-

  1. Dial a number for you.
  2. Answer a call for you.
  3. Transfer a call for you.
  4. Move a call to a different queue/ hunt group.

So, in summary, CTI is a two-way link to your telephone system allowing you to get a lot of information from your telephone system and to control calls on your telephone system. CTI though has no real standards and is different on every telephone system but the end results are normally quite similar.

At Oak we know a lot about CTI and have a number of exceptional products that are in great demand by end users and are available from Oak Accredited Partners worldwide.

Next month: Hunt Groups, Queues, what are they and how should they be used properly to get the best results?

And in true anorak style I’m meeting Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, next month to talk about the evolution of computers… 



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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine