What is Computer Telephony Integration (and Why Do I Need It?)
What is Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) / Multi-Channel Integration?
Your company just decided to open a small interaction center to handle customer service issues. You’re an existing SAP Business Suite customer, and you happily discovered that you already own some CRM user licenses. So you quickly run out to Wal-Mart and get a great deal on a few laptops and telephones. You even hire your nephew and his college friends to hang out answer calls. Now what?
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is technology that allows you to use a computer to control a telephone, typically via so-called softphone buttons residing in a software application (such as the SAP CRM Interaction Center). In this manner a user of the software application can answer incoming calls, place the caller on hold, consult with another colleague, transfer the caller to another department, and so on – all without ever touching an actual telephone. CTI also provides other benefits such as so-called screen-pop, or the ability to pre-populate the computer screen with the customer’s information and history based on identification of the caller via IVR (Interactive Voice Response) data or ANI (Automatic Number Identification). CTI also allows for queuing, treatment (i.e., recorded messages or on-hold music), and routing of calls to the appropriate agent or customer service representative.
Recently, as communication methods have expanded, the casual definition of CTI has also expanded to include other non-telephony contact channels such as e-mail and Web chat. However, technically CTI refers only to telephony integration; rather the term integration of additional channels beyond simple telephony, including e-mail and Web chat is generally referred to as Multi-Channel Integration.
In one of my previous Blog entries “SAPphone versus ICI (Integrated Communication Interface)” I describe SAP’s two certified multi-channel interfaces — SAPPhone and ICI – which can be used to enable CTI and Multi-Channel Integration of the SAP CRM Interaction Center. SAPphone is an older RFC-based interface that works for telephony only. ICI is a newer web-services (XML/SOAP) based interface that works for telephony, e-mail and chat.
Who are the CTI / Multi-Channel vendors?
In the past SAP did not directly provide co-called communication management software (CMS) – software that manages communication channels and handles individual contacts with customers via channels such as telephone, e-mail, and Web chat. Rather, SAP provides certifiable interfaces against which third-party CMS providers can obtain certification from SAP.
A partial list of some of the certified CMS vendors include: Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, Interactive Intelligence, and so on. For a full list of vendors certified for ICI and SAPphone, please do the following:
- Go to https://www.sap.com/dmc/exp/2013_09_adpd/enEN/#/partners?search=telephony
- Enter “Telephony”, “Chat”, “E-mail” or “Sapphone” as the search criteria.
- Select the contact from the results list.
- Click on “SAP Certified Solutions”.
Does SAP offer CTI / Multi-Channel Integration?
Although SAP historically did not directly provide communication management software and relied exclusively on certified partners, SAP now also offers it own communication management software called SAP Contact Center (formerly SAP Business Communications Management (BCM)). SAP acquired a Finnish company, Wicom Communications (http://www.wicom.com), a leading provider of all-IP and software based business communications solutions, which SAP has re-branded. SAP Business Communications Management software provides an integrated, out-of-the-box alternative to Communication Management Software (CMS) from third-party partners.
SAP Contact Center is not intended to replace or displace existing partner implementations. SAP’s commitment to its partner ecosystems remains unchanged. SAP still maintains close partnerships with its certified CMS vendors. SAP Contact Center is an additional option available for SAP CRM Interaction Center customers looking for multi-channel integration. It is an option particularly well suited for customers seeking an out-of-the-box, integrated solution or an “all SAP” footprint with minimal third-party software and proprietary hardware.
SAP Contact Center software is integrated out-of-the-box with the SAP CRM Interaction Center via SAP’s Integrated Communication Interface (ICI), allowing interaction center agents to handle inbound and outbound telephone calls and e-mails. Currently both telephony and e-mail channels are supported, while support for chat is planned. SAP Contact Center provides routing services to route incoming telephone calls and e-mails to the most appropriate interaction center agent utilizing CRM business data as well as agent skills and availability information.
SAP Contact Center also provides a full set of online monitoring and reporting capabilities that integrate out-of-the-box with SAP BW for blended analytics. Other SAP Contact Center capabilities for example include Directory and Presence services, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Voicemail and Call Recording. SAP Business Communication Management software is currently positioned both as an integrated solution with SAP CRM Interaction Center and as a stand-alone application. The integration with SAP CRM Interaction Center is supported with CRM release 4.0 (Add-on for Services Industries) and higher.
SAP Contact Center is available for download from the SAP Service Marketplace (http://service.sap.com) under SAP Support, Portal Downloads, SAP Installations and Upgrades, Entry by Application Group, SAP Application Components, SAP Contact Center Software, SAP Contact Center Software 5.5. BCM is a stand-alone .NET application that runs on Microsoft servers, databases, and browsers. It is currently available in English, German, Russian, Polish, Finnish and Swedish. Support for additional hardware and languages is planned.
Building a business case for CTI / Multi-Channel Integration
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) and Multi-Channel Integration can be both powerful and pricy. Currently, between 10 and 25 percent of SAP CRM Interaction Center customers use CTI / Multi-Channel integration, varying by industry, release and CRM version. CTI can provide a number of cost and efficiency benefits in the interaction center including real-time screen population (screen pop) with customer data and history, caller identification via Automated Number Identification (ANI), Dialed Number Identification Service (DNIS), CTI based routing, and transfer of customer data via Call Attached Data (CAD).
Another benefit of CTI is that it an help you optimize call volume across peaks and valleys by allowing callers, during busy periods, to schedule call backs for a less busy time instead of waiting on hold. Additionally, CTI can help utilize excess agent capacity via blended inbound/outbound calling by switching unoccupied inbound agents to outbound calling during lulls in inbound activity.
The costs of CTI hardware and software can be quite significant, and vary from a few hundred dollars per user, to a few thousand dollars per user, depending on the scope of the project and the vendor. Adding support for additional channels like e-mail, chat, and universal routing increases costs as well. Additionally, if using a vendor other than SAP, you will generally incur substantial integration costs as well; however, with SAP BCM there are no additional integration costs since no third-party adapter or connector is required. There is however, an additional license fee for BCM separate from the standard CRM license.
SAP recommends that CTI purchase decisions should be made based on a business case that compares the potential cost savings of the CTI or multi-channel project against the total costs of the hardware, software, implementation, and maintenance. If the cost savings associated with time reductions outweigh the total costs of the CTI project, then the organization should implement CTI. If on the other hand, the costs significantly outweigh the savings, then the company should hold off on CTI and evaluate again at a later date.