. .

Information Technology

CTI opportunities in Pakistan

Company Profile


Science & Technology

Information Technology

CEO 2B Technologies
Apr 16 - 22, 2001

We, in Pakistan, usually benefit from technological advancement elsewhere in the world after they have been tried, tested and passed. Even so, we need to fit those technologies into our unique business framework and devise a new set of rules to implement it effectively.

One such technology that is established, yet still experiencing phenomenal growth is Computer Telephony Integration or (CTI). This paper will attempt to give you an insight into the development and usage of this people-friendly technology, and how it can be implemented in Pakistan to the benefit of all parties concerned.

Business Trends and Tools

The majority of businesses today are re-prioritizing their goals and objectives as a result of fast-paced advancements in technology, heightened customer awareness, and increasing globalization. Apart from traditional areas, prioritizing customer services is an area that is experiencing great growth due to the technological advancements in this field and also the value and the long-term nature of the rewards reaped from it.

The Traditional Tools: The telephone has been the most widely used tool for interaction with customers because of its convenience, availability and communication method. It is often the frontline tool for customers interaction, is often the best way of capturing primary data and gives you the advantages of real time communication. In fact according to the Gartner Group "more than 70% of business transactions take place over the telephone". But for all its convenience and ability, it has its limitations. It is a stand-alone object that on its own can neither capture volumes of data, nor use that data strategically.

And therein lay the concept of computer integration. The database and data processing power of the computer was the perfect complement to the data gathering capability of the telephone. Once data was stored and analyzed it then turned into valuable information for the company to be used strategically.

The combined power of the computer with the telephone is what gives Computer Telephony Integration its name.

CTI — a Strategic Business Technology: CTI is an enabling technology: it enables greater productivity, efficiency and customer service standards. In fact, its basic use is 2-fold:

•To drastically improve customer service standards and

•To increase productivity and efficiency within the organization

CTI has enabled the concept of call and data flow to become synchronized.

CTI is one of the most rapidly growing technologies of today. Research by Frost and Sullivan indicates that, "The CTI industry continues to grow at a steady rate with 1996 revenues of $1.5 billion and growth projected at an annual rate of 27.4% compounded."

One of the reasons that CTI is popular is the fact that it is helping companies realize business benefits that were out of their reach before. CTI is bringing to the business world a new concept of service and efficiency and both its tangible and intangible benefits are helping businesses realize their unexplored potential.

Secondly, CTI technology has developed and matured enough to yield concrete benefits. Standards supporting CTI are now well established and forums such as the ECTF (the Enterprise Computer Telephony Forum) are leading the way of further open-standards based communication.

Another factor leading to immense business potential of CTI is the sub-technologies that have evolved with it. Technologies like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Customer Management (ECM) are supporting technologies that have added robustness to a business's overall framework. CTI easily integrates with these technologies, making itself even more adaptable in the business scenario.

Companies worldwide are using CTI to enhance, augment and improve their standard of service. The true benefits of CTI are realized when the technology is used to address real business needs. CTI is not a panacea to turn bad processes into good ones. Instead CTI should be built upon sound business processes and sturdy support infrastructure.

Two key factors contributing to the use of CTI as a strategic technology are:

•The service differential and

•The revolution in customer service standards

The Service Differential: Companies looking for areas of differentiation were left with a dwindling array of choices: product differentiation wasn't so strong due to the large number of competitors, technological advancements were becoming mainstream as standards evolved, demand for technology was increasing, and prices were becoming more competitive. Thus, customer services emerged as, not only a unique differentiator, but also a solution for gaining competitive advantage.

Meanwhile the standards and technologies for enabling companies to capitalize on the service factor were also emerging. Business communication was focused on establishing effective channels of communication, especially with customers. The telephone was a traditional method, the fax was another, then came along the Internet and all its myriad options from text-based e-mail to real time video conferencing. With all these varied methods of communication, it became important to develop and use technology that would prove effective as well as convenient for customers.

If companies were to differentiate on the basis of customer services, then that service had to be unmatched and consistent: only then would customers become brand loyal.

The Revolution in Customer Services Standards: Suddenly, the focus shifted again on customers. Except for one key difference. Previously the hype was all about attracting new customers, dazzling them with products and services and hoping they continue to buy from you and not from your competitor. This effort was part of an overall strategy to gain market share and to continually increase this share by luring customers away from the competition. This strategy, however, only worked in the short-term. The key to maintaining market share while keeping costs steady, lay in retaining customers by giving them consistent quality services.

Gradually the emphasis shifted from attracting new customers to retaining valued customers. This strategy was especially profitable to those businesses where the cost of acquiring new customers was higher than the cost of retaining them. Furthermore, the opportunity costs of losing a customer became too important to ignore because companies could not afford negative publicity in the market.

The Call Center: the Flagship Application of CTI: One of the first applications of CTI has been by the call center. Call centers are places dedicated to high volume activity of incoming and outgoing calls for the purpose of communicating with customers or other business intermediaries.

A typical call center has a number of Customer Service Representatives (CSR) or "agents" dedicated to placing and/or receiving calls. The most common business processes supported by call centers include customer service help desks, sales, marketing, telemarketing, technical support or other specialized business activity.

Call centers typically need CTI to

—Achieve high and consistent service levels
—Reduce operating costs
—Increase CSR efficiency and reduce turnover
—Increase supervisor control
—Improve management planning and decision-making processes
—Create competitive advantage

Call centers are now evolving into "contact centers". Customers do not want the hassles of different platforms for different methods of communication. Instead they want to be able to use any convenient mode to communicate. This has led to the concept of data convergence, which combines services like the phone, fax, e-mail, voice mail, and the Internet into the call center. The combination of these modes of communication on inherently the same platform allows customers to use the most suitable, convenient, cost-effective and reliable method of communication.

Introduction to CTI

CTI Defined: Computer Telephony Integration is an enabling technology that harnesses the convenience of the traditional telephone with the data processing power of the computer.

At the backend, CTI integrates the capability of the telephone switch with programmable computing devices. At the front-end, CTI enhances the functionality and features of the phone with integration of processes such as customer data retrieval.

Core Concepts Leading to Development of CTI

The challenge

The issues

Faster/better customer service

Customer had to identify himself/herself every time he/she called
When a call was transferred, customer had to repeat all previous conversation again

Easier access to important information

Customers can only talk to agents during business hours, which are different when you operate globally

Efficient problem-solving

Callers get transferred from one agent to another until they find the right person to solve their problem/query.

CTI Evolution: CTI technology was first used in commercial operations in the 1970s. However, it was not till the early 1990s that CTI was used with the personal computer. Over the past decade, standards have rapidly evolved in the industry to make CTI a reliable technology with visible benefits. Standards, such as those developed by Microsoft in the development of TAPI and JTAPI went a long way in developing an application-programming interface for CTI. Other forums like ECTF also contributed vastly to standards of CTI development.

The evolution also involved the call control features of the switch and then eventually the CTI server. In first party call control the call was controlled by the calling parties, i.e. the user's PC interface and the switch. In third party call control, the call control functionality rested with a third component: the CTI server. The CTI server was connected to the switch by way of a CT link. The switch therefore, was programmable through the CTI server.

The main advantages of third-party control were that it was adaptable to larger sites, and since the CTI server controlled call events, there was no need to have separate hardware and software for each desktop phone.

Core CTI Functionality

•Screen Pop: Using a variety of functions like CLI (caller ID), ANI (automatic number ID) and DNIS (dialed Number ID Service), an agent can identify a customer's call before responding to it. The feature of screen pop automatically pops up a screen containing a customer's data on the agent's PC interface, at the same time as an agent receives a call from that customer. This feature saves a customer valuable time, which would otherwise be spent in identification formalities.

•Call / Data Co-ordination: This feature is especially useful when a customer's call needs to be transferred from one agent to another. Using call/data co-ordination, the call of the customer is transferred along with the data of the customer's transaction up till this point. The data transfer also includes any information added by the first agent to assist the second agent in order to avoid repetition by the customer of his previous conversation.

•Interactive Voice Response (IVR) unit: An interactive voice response unit is the answer to customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. An IVR system works when a user uses a touch-tone phone to access menu options, upon which the unit responds with a voice message to the user. The voice message could also lead to further menu options, or to a live operator. The IVR helps routing of calls to the appropriate department or service, and also allows the user to retrieve information through an automated process. Costs for a business begin when a live agent interacts with a customer. Therefore the two methods of reducing costs are to automate as much of the information retrieval process as necessary and suitable, and secondly, to direct a customer to the appropriate department or service by having prior knowledge about his reason for calling. An IVR unit performs both these tasks, and also affords the customer with convenient self-service options.

Overview of CTI uses and advantages

To demonstrate the uses and advantages of CTI, we will work through a call scenario in each of its stages.

Call routing and identification

Benefits of CTI:

Reduce agent costs

Increase customer convenience

Often customer calls are routed to the first available agent without attention to suitability of an agent to take a particular call. For example a credit customers' calls should ideally be routed to different agents than cash customers' calls. Since costs for a business are directly linked to agent talk time, it is a cost-effective practice to route calls to the agents most suitable to receive them to save on unnecessary time wasted by inefficient routing. Using CTI, calls can be "intelligently" routed on the basis of customer input via an IVR, by CLI, ANI, or DNIS. Each of these identifies to some degree the ID of the caller and the service requested by the caller.

Talk Time

Benefits of CTI:

Reduce phone time and costs

Personalize customer service

Using the screen pop feature of CTI, an agent can identify a customer and personalize his greeting when answering the call. Since costs are directly proportional to the time spent with a customer, that time should be utilized as effectively and efficiently as possible. CTI enables this by providing database connectivity to the agent, so that the latter has all the necessary information to successfully complete the transaction.

Furthermore, time is again utilized efficiently using CTI's call/data co-ordination feature. Whenever a call needs to be transferred from one agent to another, time is saved by transferring all associated data with the call. This saves the customer the frustration of having to repeat his previous conversation, and allows the agent to have up-to-the minute information about the customer's transaction on his PC screen.

Gathering & Managing Information

Benefits of CTI:

Increase agent efficiency

Improve market research and promotional capabilities

Greater supervisory control

The digitized call recording feature of CTI allows the customer's interaction to be recorded for future reference, and also provides greater supervisory control to management. For example, a database containing complaints received from customers would help management to track the likely cause(s), timing and nature of complaints. The digitized recording feature together with the database connectivity feature of CTI enables an organization to gather important data for market research and analysis purposes as well as promotional campaigns. Predictive dialers for outbound marketing campaigns assist the business in efficiently utilizing the information in the database to know its customers and to decide on the best strategy for targeting them for future products or services.

Software based desktop phones enhance agent efficiency by providing a feature-rich GUI for agents on their PCs. One-window operations helps agents to efficiently co-ordinate all call events from their desktops.

Analysis and Planning

Benefits of CTI:

Better workforce management

Increase management efficiency

The use of tools such as real time statistics and historical reports allows users of CTI to base decisions on trends analysis, employee work habits, identification of peaks and slump times of business, agent productivity, customer demographics and psychographics.

Potential for CTI in Pakistan

Infrastructure Requirements: Businesses in Pakistan need to undergo a series of steps to determine if they can use CTI and reap its benefits. They need to have the following basic infrastructure requirements in place:

•Knowledge and understanding about CTI concepts and its underlying business benefits

•Awareness about the local market, the vendors and the technology options available

•Well-defined internal processes (especially communication processes) in place and clear business rules

•Identification of CTI application in functional areas of your business

•Develop long term objectives and project plan for implementation

•Develop a business case for CTI implementation

Functional Business Areas for Exploring CTI potential: In this section, we will examine the functional areas of business activity where your business could benefit from CTI. We will consider how CTI will complement and enhance business processes to yield both tangible and intangible benefits.

Financial Services: CTI incorporated into the financial services sector can be used for a variety of functions:

•Automated Information Retrieval: The process flow would consist of a customer calling his financial institution using a touch-tone phone. He gets connected to an IVR, which prompts him to enter necessary verification information (like account number, PIN code). The customer then chooses from a host of menu options and the IVR retrieves his information from the customer database maintained by the bank. He can thus retrieve information automatically at any time without reliance on a live agent to take his call. In this way, the customer can retrieve a host of information available from the bank, such as account balance, interest, lending and exchange rates, special promotions, credit card balance, etc. During normal working hours, the IVR can also have the option of connecting him to an operator, if he so chooses from the menu.

•Brokerage Services: A customer wanting to know about the status of his investments in the stock market could do so by accessing his broker's customer database through an IVR, and getting real time information on activity in the stock market affecting his investment.

Reservation Systems: Airlines, hotels, travel agencies, etc use reservation systems. These areas of business activity can benefit from CTI by deploying CTI-enabled applications into their reservation process.

•Hotels: A hotel can use CTI to automate its room reservation process by having customers input their room requirements (example, 2 bedroom, located on sixth floor, etc) and giving them a list of available choices matching their query. The system will be connected to a database to check room reservation status, and callers can then be given rates, and other information.

Similarly, the hotel can also use CTI to provide other facilities to its patrons, like wake up call services whereby the customer enters the time of his wake up call through an automated menu and the system calls him at the designated time. Food menu options and ordering room service can also be made available to the customer via the same IVR/database connectivity.

•Airlines: Airline bookings can be handled by a CTI system by giving the caller information about destinations, flights, availability and fares. This system could work in conjunction with existing software by providing an IVR to answer and respond to caller queries at any time. Callers who need information about airline landing and departure times could also use the system to receive automated replies to their queries, thus saving on operator time. The same system that gives a departure and arrivals listings in the airport could be connected to the CTI application, allowing remote access via a telephone.

•Travel Agencies: Travel agencies could either hook up with an airline system's database or have its own CTI applications giving information to callers and routing calls to available agents. Skills based routing ensures that valued customers get preferential treatment and privileges.

Help Desk Services

•Corporate Sector: Organizations that have customer support or technical support departments usually have a help desk for customers to call in during emergencies. These help lines offer 24-hour support to problems. When a caller dials a help line number, he can provide information as to the product ID that his query is related to, or other information used as a reference. He can then have access to a database of common problems and their solutions. If the database does not satisfy his problem, he can talk to a customer support personnel. If such a person is not available at the time or all lines are busy, the system can give him a call back option, where he enters his phone number or e-mail address to receive a reply from the support personnel.

CTI software can also be integrated with help desk software that an organization may already be using. CTI will add value in terms of call back options, database support, and 24-hour service to the existing software.

•Information Hotline, Emergency Numbers, Complaints Registry: The services provided to the general public, like 17 for information, 18 for complaints, etc, can be backed up by CTI applications. The CTI functionality will enable the maintenance of a database of complaints for future analysis and will also enable the callers the option of leaving a recorded message in the case of busy tones.

Order Entry / Order Status: Using a CTI system, the process of placing orders or checking on order status can be automated. This is especially beneficial for use in the courier industry where customers want to be able to place routine orders and track their order status using an IVR. Customer service is also of extreme importance here because customers want prompt and consistent services for placement of orders.

Sales, Market Research, Marketing & Telemarketing: The database and outbound applications of CTI are enormous cost reducers for sales and marketing campaigns.

•Sales and Marketing: For effective marketing campaigns it is essential that a business should have access to a wealth of data about its target customers, and their demographics and psychographics. For sending direct mail or other promotional material to prospective customers, or existing customers, CTI applications such as predictive dialers can be used. Furthermore databases can be updated using out-dialing IVR applications.

•Market Research: Data can be gathered for market research purposes, and surveys can be carried out using the outbound dialing features. The surveys can be carried out by means of market researchers or automated questions needing a touchtone reply only. Furthermore, survey forms can also be e-mailed to prospective readers for their input at a later date.

Package Tracking and Delivery / Courier Management

•Package Tracking and Delivery: Tracking of couriers and packages is made more efficient for the business via a CTI application. The personalized, consistent service provided to callers is an incentive for them to remain brand loyal, and the efficient tracking of their packages assures them of reliability. The computerized tracking and delivery systems offer a level of customer support that allows the caller to input information like package number automatically in the system to generate an estimated time of delivery and other features. Information about a package can also be e-mailed or faxed to customers if they so request.

•Courier Management: Companies that want to make the services of their couriers more efficient can use CTI to track routes availability, and using trends analysis and other market data can determine peak times for business activity and plan courier activity accordingly.

Industries Where CTI is Most Widely Used

The most common industries for CTI applications are:

•Help Desks and Information Hotlines
•Financial Services
•Telecommunications sector
•Telemarketing and Sales companies
•Print Media
•Insurance Industry
•Government Agencies
•Educational Institutions
•Distribution Services
•Hospitality Services
•Airline Services


The potential for CTI applications is vast, yet largely unexplored by local organizations. The key to using this technology to its maximum benefits lies not in the implementation itself but the way in which CTI is used to address the needs of business. Good processes and sound business rules have to be laid down before automating them. CTI is the technology that then enables you to reap tangible and intangible benefits from them.