DSC Tech Library
CTI Computer Telephony Integration
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to Computer Telephony and Computer Telephony Integration software and products.
Computer Telephony Integration CTI software is a rich set of phone software library routines that enable application programs to control your phone system.
This comprehensive CTI software lets you increase employee productivity, enhance customer service and reduce costs by combining the capabilities of our PACER phone system with the custom functionality of your Windows, Unix or Web applications.
Data collected by your phone ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) or IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems can be passed to your existing PC, Unix or Web applications through our phone software.
The PACER predictive dialer can automatically call your customers and pass only connected calls to your agents. With our computer telephony software, your telephone and computer work together to provide cost-saving benefits.
IP Poised To Storm The Call Center
It's only a matter of time... say four to five years...
Don't call it a revolution but Datamonitor analyst Daniel Hong says VoIP will soon become mainstream in call centres, with the UK lagging greenfield markets such as India and China.
The IT industry has a tendency to over-hype new technologies and the introduction of voice over IP (VoIP) in call centres has proved no exception. Yet like any hype cycle, it's followed by a sharp downturn towards disillusionment and a perception of failing to meet expectations. Many industry watchers claim that VoIP is still wallowing in the darkest recesses of the call centre manager's mind but in looking for a revolution they may have overlooked the progress the technology has made.
Slow progress of IP has been blamed on problems such as poor voice quality, an inability to scale up beyond more than 100 agent positions as well as limited routing and queuing features. Vendors can now prove that IP can almost match reliability levels of traditional telephony but it is only in the past year that they have been able to point to a track record of successful implementations in mission-critical environments.
While it is true to say the vast majority of call centres still use traditional switching (aka Time Division Multiplexing or TDM) and plan to do so for the foreseeable future, IP is progressing towards a point of dominance. The next four to five years will see IP become mainstream in the call centre. An insular view of just the mature call centre markets, such as the UK and US, would naturally present a bleaker picture of IP take-up as legacy investments need to be more carefully considered when investing in new technology. Yet in newer greenfield markets such as India and China, IP investment will far outstrip that of TDM.
Reliability, security and proven technologies outweigh cost in some cases but for the vast majority of call centre operations cost saving has indeed been the key driver for IT choices over the last five years. This has been evidenced time and again with consolidation, offshoring and early moves to IP deployments. While ease of deployment and network cost savings make for a compelling argument on their own, it is IP's promised benefits of easier multimedia routing and queuing, multi-channel integration, remote agent deployment and multi-site virtualisation that are now driving investment.
Furthermore, as call centres become more dispersed and virtual, IP's impact will have an even greater effect on TDM. Last year more customers than ever invested in IP technology and it is now the fastest growing technology in the call centre market.
IP is being pushed by vendors as the 'next generation' of customer contact and deployed in every type of call centre environment. Traditional call centre technologies are proprietary, meaning any change or upgrades comes at a relatively high cost, but in comparison changes and innovation in an IP telephony environment are less expensive and require less upheaval.
Smaller call centres were the first to deploy IP solutions, as there were lower legacy investments to be considered. The same is true in the offshore markets (India, the Philippines, China and Central America/Latin America) which also make more use of distributed call centres and hosted/managed IP services, for which IP is well suited.
In the mature US and UK markets, the effects of offshoring and saturation at the high end mean that call centres in the sub-100 agent size-bracket are the areas most likely to experience any significant growth in IP usage at present. Over the course of the next five years, IP will continue to move upmarket until IP contact centres match the size and scope of traditional TDM contact centres.
In the UK, one of the most high profile instances of IP deployment has come from BT, which upgraded its legacy infrastructure in December 2004 to connect 10,000 agents based across 124 sites. As more proof of the scale of the BT project comes to light, take-up of IP will increase dramatically.
From a customer service standpoint, VoIP reduces cost and enables greater leveraging of self-service applications. Take, for instance, the interactive voice response (IVR) - the heart of phone-based self-service in the call centre. On an IP infrastructure, IVR systems no longer require telephony cards as both voice and data travel through one converged network. This can substantially reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) for call centres. In addition, with VoIP enabling easier multimedia routing and queuing, the IVR can be utilised more effectively on the edge of the call centre's network.
In order to interconnect different applications on the converged IP network a new standard, sessions initiation protocol (SIP), was created to ultimately replace the older standard H.323, which had limited capabilities. In fact, all the leading IVR vendors such as Avaya, Edify, Genesys, Intervoice, Nortel and VoiceGenie support SIP and in doing so have integrated VoIP capabilities into their platform offerings.
For instance, Intervoice's Omvia Media Server supports the SIP protocol through its use of Intel's Host Media Processing. Subsequently, its Voice Express suite of packaged speech applications can be deployed as a software-only configuration which eases the move to IP-based IVR. It is examples such as this that show how vendor support for VoIP will ultimately benefit the customer through reduced costs, increased flexibility and platform.
IP is already on its way to becoming the default in call centres. Spending on maintaining and upgrading legacy equipment will still be huge but the investment pendulum has swung in favour of IP technology. By 2008, half of all telephony platform-spending in call centres will be for IP. Consider that there are four million call centre agents around the world today and that post-2008 half of all spending will be on IP - and you see the scale of IP's success is impressive. Not a revolution but nevertheless a strong market movement.
Daniel Hong is the CRM analyst at Datamonitor.