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What is computer telephony integration (CTI)? A guide

Computer telephony integration technology empowers your team to be more efficient and improve the customer experience. Learn the importance of CTI and how to implement it.

By Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Last updated May 13, 2024

Computer telephony integration definition

Computer telephony integration (CTI) is a technology that enables computers to work with phones. Call center agents can use CTI software to make and receive calls directly from their desktops, resulting in streamlined workflows, increased productivity, and more comprehensive customer service.

There are two types of customers: those who prefer to contact a business over email, messaging, or social media when they have a problem, and those who choose to pick up the phone and speak to a representative. Businesses must prepare for both, but asking support agents to juggle between computers and phones can become inefficient.

Computer telephony integration synchronizes phones and computers, allowing support agents to handle every type of support interaction from their desktops. In this guide, we cover what CTI is, how it works, and how you can use it to provide a better customer experience (CX).

More in this guide:

How does computer telephony integration work?

Computer telephony integration involves several systems working in harmony to allow support agents to take calls from their computers. It’s important to note that CTI is not a standalone product—it’s typically a feature of larger software, such as call center software or customer service software.

The CTI process typically involves several key components and steps:

  • Connection: CTI systems connect computer systems with telephone systems either via direct physical connections (like through telephone lines or LAN) or through the internet using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technologies.

  • Interaction handling: The system enables a range of functions, such as dialing numbers automatically from a contact list on a computer, showing customer information on a screen when a call is received, or routing calls to the appropriate agent based on pre-set criteria (like language preference or customer value).

  • Data synchronization: When a call is received or placed, the CTI software can access and update relevant data across the systems. For example, when a customer calls, the system can automatically pull up their profile, including past purchase history, prior support tickets, and personal preferences.

  • Enhanced features: CTI allows for advanced features like call recording and call monitoring, and it even provides analytics on call data, such as call duration, wait times, and caller demographics. This data can be used to improve customer service strategies and workflows.

  • AI and automation: Various routine tasks can be automated using CTI, such as generating call summaries and transcripts.

Overall, CTI combines these features and capabilities to help you deliver good customer service.

Benefits of CTI in a contact center

Computer telephony integration can improve your operation in multiple ways. Here are some of the top benefits of CTI.

Bullet points show how CTI can improve a business.

Improves customer experience

A key concept lies at the heart of an outstanding CX: Make the customer’s life easier. They don’t want to deal with endless automated prompts, wait on hold for minutes or hours, or repeat their information multiple times. Managers can dispel these concerns and more through the right CTI tools paired with effective customer service management (CSM).

For example, you can empower your agents to solve customer complaints swiftly by routing calls to the right agent. Be sure to arm your support team with full customer data and insights so they can personalize the conversation, resulting in efficient interactions that boost the CX and increase customer loyalty.

Enhances agent productivity

According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2024, 71 percent of organizations are using digital channels primarily for first contact and the phone as the primary channel for resolving complex customer issues or escalations. This array of preferences shows your agents need to be ready for any customer inquiry no matter how it comes in.

A stat from Zendesk detailing most organizations use digital channels for first contact.

With omnichannel CTI software, your agents never have to leave their digital workspace. They can resolve customer problems over every medium from their desktop, meaning they can be more productive and efficient in their work. Additionally, CTI solutions with AI agents or knowledge bases can help agents deflect calls to lower ticket volume and make it more manageable.

Strengthens workforce engagement

Computer telephony integration is usually a feature included in more comprehensive software. If that software also includes workforce engagement management solutions, you can use CTI to assist those initiatives.

On the workforce management (WFM) front, CTI helps with time and attendance tracking, real-time team management, and more that can help your call center agents be more productive. On the quality assurance (QA) side, CTI can help you record and review calls to monitor agent performance and identify knowledge gaps and training opportunities.

Increases scalability

Successful businesses attract more customers, and more customers result in more support tickets—and as you grow, you need a support solution that can grow with you. However, using a landline phone for support isn’t scalable, especially for growing businesses.

With CTI, you can better meet growing support volume and do more with less. For example, since it routes calls to the right agents with the full context of the situation, they can better service your customers at scale and lower time to resolution.

Learn more about the power of Zendesk CTI

Discover how our computer telephony integration capabilities can improve your operations.

How to implement CTI in your call center

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of computer telephony integration, we’ll detail how to bring it to your organization. Here are some of the top tips to follow.

A numbered list details four steps for implementing CTI.

Define your goals

Before investing in CTI and call center software, take a moment to define your customer service objectives. Evaluate what you want to achieve with the technology and how it can help you reach your targets. Also, be sure to approach this with a customer-first mindset—in other words, think about what your customers want and how you can improve their overall experience.

Choose the right voice software

After establishing your goals, weigh voice software that aligns with your needs. Say, for example, you want to adopt an AI-powered approach to customer service—in that case, evaluate providers like Zendesk that can deliver these top-of-the-line features. You’ll want to be sure your chosen partner has all the capabilities you need to hit your goals and support your customers.

A stat from Zendesk detailing 42 percent of CX leaders see generative AI influencing voice-based interactions in the next two years.

Get your team up to speed

After investing in CTI, conduct agent training sessions on the software and brush up on essential customer service skills to ensure your team can utilize the technology as effectively as possible. Include key stakeholders in this training so agents have a wide support network to go to with questions if needed. Also, to expedite this process even further, opt for a product that prioritizes ease of use so it’s easy for employees to work with the software right out of the box.

Review and improve

Finally, be sure to review your performance and improve where necessary. Evaluate customer service key performance indicators (KPIs) like customer satisfaction (CSAT) to monitor how your CTI software influences performance. From there, implement training initiatives or adjustments to further improve your CX.

Frequently asked questions

Enhance your phone support operations with Zendesk CTI capabilities

Computer telephony integration helps support teams bridge the gap between phones and computers, resulting in a more streamlined and effective support structure. To get the most out of CTI, you need to partner with a provider that has top-of-the-line features—and for that, you need Zendesk.

Our CTI capabilities include AI-powered call assistance, IVR, omnichannel Agent Workspaces, advanced reporting and analytics, and more to help your team provide an outstanding CX. It’s easy to use, fast to set up, and cost effective.

Start a free trial of Zendesk today.

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