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Force.com Connect for CTI


CTI stands for Computer Telephony Integration also known as Computer Telephony, and enables us to manage phone calls through a computer. It can be used in call centers to redirect calls to right department and also in our home computer to make phone calls.

CTI provides following key benefits:
– Browser-based softphone provides a user with full call-control capabilities, such as Answer, Call Transfer, End Call, and etc.
– Screen pop is an automatic look up window with the caller’s identity information, using the data collected by the telephony platform.

Salesforce administrators can easily configure CTI from within the Salesforce set up screen. It allows to set up multiple call centers, customize directory number lists, and customize phone layouts. It is also possible to integrate different telephony platforms with a single Salesforce organization. Please have a look at a typical CTI enabled customer phone call flow.

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The Customer calls to request a service. The telephony platform comprises of phone switch or PBX, ACD (Automatic Call Distribution System), and IVR (Interactive Voice Response). The telephony system collects the customer’s caller ID and the number dialed by the customer. The IVR then prompts the customer to enter additional information, such as an account number. Based on ACD routing rules, the call will be routed to an appropriate agent. At the same time, the collected data will be passed to Salesforce through CTI adapter. This data can be used to look up the caller’s Account record and the information will be screen popped on the agent’s browser window. So, the agent doesn’t need to spend time on manually searching the customer’s records.

Standard functionalities of most CTI adapters
Screen pop – Screen pop is used to quickly view all Salesforce records that are related to the call. The default Salesforce screen pop provides Caller ID matching the entire Salesforce.com database on phone number fields, including contacts, cases, accounts, and other records. You can also pop data into custom Visualforce pages or into agent scripts using Visual Workflow.

Softphone – Softphone provides the full control to the user to answer, call transfer, call conference, and hold. With “Click to Dial”, users can automatically make a phone call by clicking the phone number in any contact, lead, activity, account or list view.

Automatic call logging will generate closed task record for every call and link the task to an account, contact, lead or other Salesforce record. This log record includes information, such as call ID, date, call duration, and text that was entered into softphone comments box.

Common features of CTI adapters
Synchronization and Control of ACD agent states, such as Log in/Log out, Ready and Not Ready for Calls as well as activity tracking using Wrap up, Not Ready, and Log out reason codes. Additional functionality can be added by customizing the CTI toolkit and integrating it with other systems. The custom functionality is built usually on project-by-project basis with the CTI partner. Examples of such custom features are call preview, predictive dialing, and other outbound call functionalities.

System integration with IVR’s ACD and other telephony systems.

Call metrics, such as number of calls abandoned, and average waiting time, are imported from an ACD or phone switch into Salesforce for reporting purposes.

Call recording for business purposes and linking the recorded message to a Salesforce record for future reference.

Salesforce CTI strategy
Salesforce focuses on CRM and cloud computing, but not on the technical aspects of telephony platform. Salesforce’s strategy is to provide integration with existing telephony systems, and provide a seamless, unified user experience regardless of the telephony infrastructure. Salesforce accomplishes this with our CTI toolkit that provides a common softphone interface for users, and an API library that can be customized to integrate with any telephony platform. Salesforce enables global partners to create, sell, implement and maintain CTI adapters. These partners work with customers to provide telephony solutions.

CTI Adapter: Best practice
It is strongly recommended that you select an existing CTI adapter from a certified partner, and do not attempt to build one on your own.

Force.com connect for CTI helps improve
• Call Handling
• Response times
• Agent performance
With Force.com Connect for CTI, you can connect your telephone system with Salesforce.com web interface thru CTI adapter.

Architecture and capabilities
(i) Inbound Architecture
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In a non–CTI environment, customer calls and the phone call is picked by the telephone system. Telephone system routs the call to an agent’s phone based on the call routing rules within the telephone system. In this case, an agent often needs to ask customer for information to look it up in salesforce.

With Force.com CTI, the same phone call routing takes place, but the call information is routed to a CTI adapter running on the agent’s computer. CTI adapter can find the matching lead, account, contact or other information within salesforce and it will show the information in agent’s browser.

(ii) Outbound Architecture
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In a non-CTI environment, agent will first look at a Salesforce record, then enter the contact numbers on their phone, and finally dial the number. But, with CTI, the agent can call the number directly using Softphone.

CTI Toolkit 4.0 High-Level Architecture
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Telephony System
As explained earlier, the telephony system is a combination of phone switch (PBX), ACD, and IVR functionalities. PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange. A PBX connects the internal telephones within a business and also connects them to the public switched telephone network. ACD is a telephony feature to distribute the phone call to a right agent. It manages incoming calls and distributes them based on certain criteria, such as the needs of the caller, agent skill, department, and etc.

IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response. IVR helps the customers to interact with company’s host system or database through telephone key pad or speech recognition. So, the customer can receive the answers for their questions by following the IVR dialogue.

Agent’s desktop contains the browser, CTI Softphone, and CTI Adapter. Salesforce contains the customer information, CTI Adapter configurations and Call Center user profile information.

Components of a CTI Adapter
CTI Connector It communicates directly with the telephone system, and translates the messaging between the softphone and the telephony system. It maintains an XML representation of current state of the Softphone, and interacts with the Salesforce database via Webservices API to look up caller’s information passed from the telephony system, such as caller ID, dialed digits, or customer entered data. Partners will customize this portion of CTI toolkit library to extend the defined objects and methods for integration with a telephony system.

Browser connector converts the XML Messages in to HTML to render the softphone in the Salesforce user window. A continuous communication link is maintained with the browser via AJAX. When the browser connector generates new Softphone HTML, it updates the Softphone in the browser. Browser connector also communicates with Salesforce to authenticate the user, and determines appropriate labels and layouts for the Softphone. Generally, this portion of the toolkit code base is not customized and often it is same for all users regardless of the CTI adapter and telephony system in use.

Summary
Force.com Connect for CTI enables agents to collect their customers’ data quickly and efficiently while the customers are on the phone, increasing the call center agent’s productivity as well as the customer satisfaction.