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Computer telephony integration (CTI)

Computer telephony integration (CTI) bridges the gap between phones and computers to help businesses share internal information and work more efficiently. Try a demo to see what CTI can do for your business.

Complete guide to understanding and using computer telephony integration

Last updated July 12, 2023

Computer telephony integration (CTI) enables telephones and computers to seamlessly work together. Businesses use it to streamline communication processes, personalize customer service, and increase overall productivity.

With so many CTI options available, choosing the right solution for your business can be challenging. In this guide, you’ll learn about the benefits of CTI, the top features to look for, and some of the best available services.

If you’d like to skip to a specific section, click through the table of contents below:

What is computer telephony integration (CTI)?

Computer telephony integration is a technology that enables computers to work with phones.

While it’s primarily used for calling phones from desktop computers, computer telephony integration has even more to offer. CTI facilitates interactions between phones and computers, meaning it can link all of your business applications—from a CRM to service desk software—to a phone system.

Computer telephony integration examples

With CTI increasing in popularity, you might already be familiar with some of its applications without recognizing it. Here are some popular ways businesses incorporate CTI into contact center operations:

  • Click-to-call: Agents can initiate calls from their computer by clicking on a phone number.

  • Automatic call distribution (ACD): Incoming calls get routed to the most appropriate agent or department based on predefined criteria such as caller ID or interactive voice response (IVR) selections.

  • Customer profiles: A customer’s record appears on an agent’s screen during a call, providing the agent with the customer’s information.

  • Voicemail to email: Voicemail messages get converted to text and sent to an agent’s inbox for easier assessment.

Benefits of using CTI tools

Businesses that rely on traditional phone systems forfeit a competitive edge to businesses that adopt modern solutions. Among the many benefits of CTI software, these are the primary advantages your business stands to gain.

  • Increased customer satisfaction

    As a service channel, messaging has seen fast growth, but most customers still love voice solutions. While voice has been around for a long time, CTI software has helped expand its capabilities. CTI solutions also enable your agents to use third-party tools to customize and extend the agent and customer experience.

  • More productive, less burnt-out agents

    Service agents have a hard, often thankless, yet vitally important job. They frequently deal with angry customers and customers usually see agents as the primary representative of the company.

    While businesses can attribute some burnout to staffing issues, a lot of it is due to lacking the proper tools needed to do the job. CTI can help prevent burnout by utilizing call forwarding software so customers can find the right contact and deflecting tickets that don’t require a live agent—but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Minimized call center costs

    CTI helps your contact center do more with less. Rather than hiring another full-time agent, CTI can increase virtual call center efficiency by reducing call handling time through automations and making more resources easily accessible to agents. Call reporting and customer analytics help managers better allocate resources by identifying struggling areas.

  • More personalized support

    Personalization is at the heart of delivering a great customer experience. CTI puts customer data at your agent’s fingertips, so the customer won’t feel like they’re starting from square one with every agent they talk to. The agent will have easy access to relevant details about the customer’s history with the company, and they can then provide tailored service in every interaction.

Features of CTI software

The benefits your company stands to receive from using a computer telephony integration system depend on the features it provides. As you compare CTI phone systems, be on the lookout for these key features since not every system delivers the same level of functionality.

Omnichannel agent workspace

CTI software helps facilitate a seamless omnichannel experience by creating connections between your computer’s applications and your business phone system. For instance, by integrating your business VoIP phone system with a CRM through CTI, your agents can control their calls on the same screen they use to look up your customers’ information.

Computer telephony integration software integrates your phone system with your other business tools. Your agents can easily access customer data without leaving their calling software by viewing a customer’s purchase history, previous communications, and more to provide personalized, efficient service.

Call routing and transfers

Most CTI software can completely replace your business phone system. So any CTI software worth buying must have basic—ideally advanced—call routing functionality. At the very least, you can expect CTI software to route calls using an extension number system.

But more advanced CTI solutions will provide advanced options for routing calls using predefined criteria. The criteria can include customer data that the system leverages to route calls to the right agent, department, or call queue without input from the customer.

Interactive voice response

IVR software adds a self-service option to a call center. Incoming callers interact with pre-recorded messages that direct them to the information or department they’re seeking. IVR can reduce wait times by answering simple queries, freeing agents to handle important requests.

Callback

Computer telephony integration systems can reduce wait times, but during periods of high call volumes customers still may opt out of staying on the line. A callback feature gives customers the option to be contacted once an agent is free so they won’t have to sit idly or call again. It helps your agents manage calls better to create satisfied customers.

Advanced reporting and analytics

For customer service to flourish, company leaders must actively engage in reviewing, sharing, and acting on service data. Fortunately, CTI software can track important metrics like call volume, call length, average resolution time, and more. This makes it far easier to compile easy-to-digest reports that company leaders will read and act on.

Computer telephony integration software comparison chart

SoftwareStarting priceFree trialKey features

Zendesk

$55 per agent/month

14 days

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

RingCentral

Contact sales

14 days

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

Five9

$149 per user/month

Unavailable

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

Aircall

$40 per user/month

7 days

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

Thrio

$89 per user/month

Unavailable

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

Mitel MiVoice Business

Contact sales

Unavailable

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Call routing and transfers

Nextiva

$25.95 per user/month

Unavailable

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

Ameyo

Contact sales

Unavailable

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

Upland InGenius

Contact sales

30 days

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers


The 9 best computer telephony integration systems

  1. Zendesk

  2. RingCentral

  3. Five9

  4. Aircall

  5. Thrio

  6. Mitel MiVoice Business

  7. Nextiva

  8. Ameyo

  9. Upland InGenius


1. Zendesk

An image shares one of the computer telephony integration features from the Zendesk platform.

The Zendesk computer telephony integration system upgrades the capabilities of traditional voice by adding cutting-edge technologies. You can embed a call button in your app webpage to give your customers easy access. The cloud-based voice platform is ready out of the box so your inbound call center can add customer information and start taking calls immediately.

You’ll have control over call forwarding, setting max queue sizes and wait times. Advanced call forwarding reduces wait times and improves first contact resolution rates. Programmed commands can manage customer overflow and properly route after-hours calls.

In-depth reports track call center metrics so managers can improve operations, comparing performance across communication channels. You can also use the software to record and monitor calls to ensure quality while respecting customer privacy.

Talk Partner Edition is great for businesses committed to their current CTI, but still want to integrate with Zendesk. There are over 90 pre-built telephony provider integrations, so your team can get up and running right away.

Features:

  • Call routing

  • Reporting and analytics

  • IVR

  • Call transfers

  • Callback

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with robust customer profiles

  • Advanced calling capabilities

  • Apps and integrations - pre-built and custom

  • Automated power dialer

Pricing:

  • Suite Team: $55 per agent/month

  • Suite Growth: $89 per agent/month

  • Suite Professional: $115 per agent/month

  • Suite Enterprise: Talk to sales

Free trial:

14 days

2. RingCentral

An image shares one of the computer telephony integration features from the RingCentral platform.
Image credit

The RingCentral CTI contact center software is a cloud-based communication solution that lets businesses integrate their telephony systems with their existing software applications. RingCentral's CTI service offers features like skill-based routing and automatic call distribution.

RingCentral's CTI integrates with popular software applications such as Salesforce, Zendesk, and Microsoft Dynamics. This integration enables businesses to automate tasks, such as call logging and call routing, by providing agents with real-time customer data, call scripts, and other resources. Additionally, RingCentral's CTI service includes features such as click-to-dial, screen pop, and call recording.

Features:

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

Pricing:

  • Contact sales

Free trial:

14 days

Learn more about the RingCentral app for Zendesk.

3. Five9

Five9 is a cloud-based contact center solution that’s capable of delivering CTI integration features out of the box. Businesses of varying sizes use the platform to deliver phone support. Basic plans have digital-only and voice-only options, with the top plan combining features and adding analytics.

Agents can use the service to engage with customers over their preferred channels, supporting voice, email, and chat. Five9 also provides screen pops that display a customer's information on an agent's screen as soon as they answer a call. It has click-to-call functionality that enables agents to initiate calls directly from within their business applications, eliminating the need to switch between different programs and speeding up the interaction process.

Features:

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

Pricing:

  • Digital: $149 per month

  • Core: $149 per user/month

  • Premium: $169 per user/month

  • Optimum: $199 per user/month

  • Ultimate: $229 per user/month

Free trial:

Unavailable

Learn more about the Five9 app for Zendesk.

4. Aircall

An image shares one of the computer telephony integration features from the Aircall platform.
Image credit

Aircall provides a cloud-based phone system with advanced CTI tools to help businesses with their communication processes. Aircall's CTI capabilities integrate a business’s phone system with its existing software applications, such as HubSpot and Zendesk, providing agents with real-time access to customer data.

The platform’s CTI features include advanced call routing and queuing capabilities, such as ACD and IVR. Additionally, the service has screen pops, a shared inbox, and role-based permissions. The click-to-dial feature enables agents to initiate calls from their CRM.

Features:

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

Pricing:

  • Essentials: $40 per user/month

  • Professional: $70 per user/month

  • Customer: Contact sales for a quote

Free trial:

7 days

Learn more about the Aircall app for Zendesk.

5. Thrio

An image shares one of the computer telephony integration features from the Thrio platform.
Image credit

Thrio is an omnichannel contact center solution that allows businesses to manage customer interactions across email, chat, SMS, and social media. Thrio CTI features include advanced call routing and queuing capabilities, like ACD and IVR. It also has screen pops that share customer data and click-to-dial.

Managers can supervise agent activity with digital screen sharing. Intelligent call routing connects incoming calls with the most skilled agents for the issue. It also provides agents with scripts to guide conversations and recommend the best actions.

Features:

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

Pricing:

  • Essentials: $89 per user/month

  • Professional: $109 per user/month

  • Premium: $135 per user/month

Free trial:

Unavailable

6. Mitel MiVoice Business

An image shares one of the computer telephony integration features from the Mitel MiVoice Business platform.
Image credit

Mitel MiVoice Business gives businesses a feature-rich communication platform that promotes collaboration. The platform appeals to remote and hybrid work environments by allowing businesses to create virtual workspaces users can access via desktop, desk phone, or smartphone.

Mitel MiVoice Business can scale to meet the needs of large and small businesses and growing organizations. It can also integrate with other providers like Zendesk and Salesforce. The service has enhanced call screening, unified messaging, and an auto-attendant.

Features:

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Call routing and transfers

Pricing:

  • Contact sales

Free trial:

Unavailable

Learn more about the Mitel app for Zendesk.

7. Nextiva

An image shares one of the computer telephony integration features from the Nextiva platform.
Image credit

Nextiva provides a communication platform that provides CTI solutions for improved customer management. Its IVR capability is enhanced by an intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) that can handle routine inbound calls and promote self-service actions.

Nextiva has workforce management and optimization options that help managers forecast staffing needs and monitor performance. The service connects communication across channels, like SMS, video, and social media, allowing unified reporting.

Features:

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

Pricing:

  • Essential: $25.95 per user/month

  • Professional: $30.95 per user/month

  • Enterprise: $40.95 per user/month

Free trial:

Unavailable

8. Ameyo

An image shares one of the computer telephony integration features from the Ameyo platform.
Image credit

Ameyo by Exotel provides call center and help desk agents with CTI phone systems to assist with customer conversations and service. The omnichannel system maps conversations so agents can understand the context and apply personalized service.

Ameyo uses intelligent routing to connect customers with their dedicated or preferred agents. The autodialer improves call connection rates by enabling predictive, progressive, and preview dialers, helping agents quickly dial out large lead sets. The CTI integrates with CRM systems, like Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Zoho, to centralize customer information.

Features:

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

  • Callback

Pricing:

  • Contact sales for pricing

Free trial:

Unavailable

Learn more about the Ameyo app for Zendesk.

9. Upland InGenius

An image shares one of the computer telephony integration features from the InGenius platform.
Image credit

InGenius by Upland is a computer telephony integration software that aims to connect customers and agents with resources in a unified system. It integrates the existing business phone system with CRM and supports complex workflows. It has standardized best practices in the contact center for agents to follow.

Visual reports and dashboards capture department trends, helping to identify and resolve pain points. Managers can track agent call counts and talk time so that the managers can monitor performance and staffing. Agents can use click-to-dial straight from their CRM and configure dialer functionality.

Features:

  • Omnichannel agent workspace with customer profiles

  • IVR

  • Advanced reporting and analytics

  • Call routing and transfers

Pricing:

  • Contact sales for pricing

Free trial:

30 days

How to choose the right CTI solution

Computer telephony integration products have several features that can support your operations, but finding the software that provides the right mix for your team can feel overwhelming. Use these questions to help narrow down your options.

What is the total cost of ownership?

The total cost of ownership (TCO) refers to the direct and indirect lifetime costs of using CTI tools. TCO should account for the software and hardware you purchase and how you implement, maintain, and operate the system. The ideal CTI system will reduce your TCO by deploying quickly and efficiently scaling to your needs. When a CTI can quickly adapt to your operations, you can avoid adding unnecessary employees to your workforce.

Can your team try the software for themselves?

Free trials are a great way to reduce the risk and unknowns associated with your purchase. If you can get a prospective CTI solution for agents and managers to try, you can uncover issues before you commit. And even if you don’t choose the software you’re trialing, the trial period will help give you and your team a better idea of what you should be looking for.

Does it empower agents to be successful?

CTI tools should make it easier for your agents to perform in their roles. If a CTI disrupts processes or complicates operations, it isn’t fulfilling its role. Look for a CTI system that improves collaboration and information sharing, like providing case history in a single interface.

Frequently asked questions

Computer telephony integration has the potential to improve the performance of a contact center. Look to these common questions for additional information on how CTI can benefit your team.

Try CTI software for free

Zendesk customer service software integrates with many telephony business applications, allowing companies to take their phone support into the digital age. Call forwarding, metrics analysis, advanced caller ID, and many other advantages are only a click away. And with Zendesk, all customer interactions and data are stored in a single location, meaning call center agents always have the context they need to provide great support.

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