Telephony Integrations Made Easy (Pt. 1)

Telephony Integrations Made Easy-pic

Over the course of my career here at Interactive Intelligence, probably the most common question I’ve been asked is “Can you integrate my phones with my <XYZ> CRM?” Luckily the answer is almost always yes. And even better, it just keeps getting easier and easier with advancements in technology.

My typical response to that question, however, is: “what are you trying to accomplish?” The term “integrate” is pretty broad and depending on a customer’s business there are many different integration points between your telephony system and back end systems like CRMs (customer relationship management), POSs (point of sale), or DBs (database).

Before we go into specifics, just a couple definitions to set the stage:

  • CTI (Computer Telephony Integration): this term is a little dated as any modern telephony solution should have a CTI, which is a user application allowing, at a minimum, control of phone calls (pickup, hold, transfer, disconnect, etc.) directly from the user’s computer screen. This effectively duplicates the the physical phone’s button pad and then typically extends it with all sorts of functionality such as directories, speed dials, presence management, etc. This integrates the user’s phone with their local computer workstation and does NOT refer to integrating to back end business systems. It can be a conduit for adding such integrations, however… more on that later.
  • Softphone: this term is sometimes inaccurately used to describe CTI above, but what it really means is a phone running on a user’s computer workstation in place of a physical phone. Typically a USB headset is used, but really any microphone/speaker combination on a workstation will work. First generations of softphones required software to be installed and managed, however modern versions on platforms like our PureCloud® utilize WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) and run directly thru the browser with no install at all. Softphones are usually optional and are typically used in conjunction with a CTI application.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look let’s at the most common example of telephony integration with a back end system:

Data dip/skills based routing/screen pop:

90 percent of the time when a customer is looking for an integration, this is what they want. This scenario is most common in fields such as customer service or tech support where inbound calls/interactions are coming into a queue of contact center agents. We want to identify the caller, match them to some sort of record, route accordingly, and then pop a third party screen on the agent’s desktop when the call is connected.

This sort of integration can be accomplished quite easily across any of Interactive’s product line (CIC, CaaS or PureCloud). Since all three of those products already have a CTI in place, we’re able to easily expand upon that.

When a call comes in, we can either identify the caller via their caller ID/ANI or have them input some sort of identifying information via the dial pad. Then, via a REST or SOAP web service call to the desired back end system, we can pull back pieces of information and store them as attributes on the call. These may be used as skills to route the call by, or indicators of the caller’s priority in queue. Lastly we can use those same pieces of info to determine what screen of that back end system to pop via URL on the agent’s desktop (maybe a trouble ticket, or an account record, etc.) when the call is answered.

In CIC, CaaS and PureCloud the SOAP and REST connectors are pre-built, and the URL screen pop action is already present, so these integrations are a snap. We only need to configure the addresses of the systems we wish to communicate with as well as define mappings between each system’s data. No custom development is required!

BONUS POINTS: Since we’ve associated the phone call (or even email or web chat) with a record in the back end system we can now do all sort of cool things utilizing that data: search recordings by account/customer number, run reports on activity by caller, write out disposition data to the back end system, etc.

In my next installment, we’ll dig into a few of the next most common types of requested integrations:

  • Outbound sales call
  • Web lead/outbound callback
  • Embedding the telephony application within other desktop applications

We’ll also take a look at the full suite of pre-built integrations Interactive has already built to some of the most popular CRM systems such as SalesForce.com, ZenDesk, Oracle CRM On Demand, and Microsoft Dynamics – they include the above mentioned integration scenarios and much more.

Are you looking to make changes/improvements to your company’s communications or customer experience solution?

Please send me a LinkedIn request, email me or give me a quick call at 317-715-8555 so we can discuss if Interactive Intelligence would be a fit for you.

Dave Recktenwald

Dave Recktenwald

Dave Recktenwald is a territory sales manager in Southern California for Interactive Intelligence. Since joining Interactive in 2005, Dave has held a variety of engineering and management roles within support, professional services and sales. In that time, he has helped hundreds of customers across the globe successfully implement Interactive Intelligence solutions to solve their technical and operational challenges. Dave holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from Purdue University.