Computer telephony integration, or CTI, was not a sudden innovation. The development of CTI was a product of years of research and development among several prominent U.S. technology companies. Thus, it was a progressive revolution for client–agent interactions.
In its earliest form, CTI was more narrowly defined as “screen pop” technology. Pop-up dialog boxes presented call center representatives with basic information about a caller, like a name or location. Screen pop revealed the potential power of connecting multiple in-house data sources.
CTI had the unique potential to erode digital walls between phone systems and CRMs. While CRMs amassed marketing and sales data about potential clients, a business’s call center agents were best positioned to extract business value from those learnings. Likewise, its sales representatives—whether in the office or on the road—could benefit from real-time access to a full client history.
Certainly, the process of customer information gathering preceded modern CRMs. But before being digitized, that information was often scattered—on paper, isolated within a single person, or divided among the recollections of many employees. Through an intranet or cloud-based system, CTI provides a central access point and a repository for client information, making the essential client data available to all team members in real time.
The Benefits of Phone System Integration
CTI was not the first or last data centralization effort to promise big results. CTI still faces the limitation of data quality—absent or incorrect data has no business value. CTI’s continued growth stems, in part, from managers’ ability to recognize its benefits in daily operations. Those benefits can improve customer service and make historical cost centers less of a drain on company resources.
These are the benefits companies expect from CTI:
- Real-time access to information. In a call center, few representatives have the time to search for client information. Real-time access makes company knowledge actionable.
- Access to information from anywhere. Just as getting information in real time is vital, so too is the ability to get that information on multiple devices in multiple locations. CTI supports companies’ out-of-office field staff and employees scattered across multiple offices.
- Improved call routing. Getting a client to the right person the first time improves call center efficiency. The ability to do so without staffing dozens of secretarial positions is even better. Through the use of automated menus, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) can achieve that goal. At its most alluring, the technology has the potential to allow specialization within call centers by routing certain calls to specific employees.
- Analytics reports to illuminate opportunities. CTI automates a data-entry process that can burden call center representatives. Those data points port effectively into the automated analytics reports that managers can use to identify trends, solve problems, and make smarter staffing decisions.
Elastix CRM Integration
Elastix released Elastix 5 as a beta version in December 2016. Promoted as a “Linux PBX Unified Communication Solution,” Elastix phone systems integrate IP PBX, email, instant messaging, and fax services.
An “open-standards, software-based PBX,” Elastix offers a free version for small businesses that have limited telecommunication needs. The free edition allows for eight simultaneous calls, five web conference participants, and one Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunk. Elastix’s maintenance of a free edition has given the solution traction within the small business community. For full access, users must upgrade to the 3CX PRO Edition license.
The ease of installation is another key benefit of choosing Elastix CRM integration. Elastix 5 is available as a download via a Debian GNU/Linux installer; it can be deployed as an on-premise or cloud-based solution. As part of its rollout of Elastix 5, Elastix highlighted its plug-and-play capabilities with IP phones, gateways, and SIP trunks. The updated product also included improved extension management and the ability to upgrade IP phone firmware from the product’s management console.
The additional benefits of an Elastix CRM integration meet many core needs of call centers and other business clients:
Easy extension management. Elastix makes it simple to add extensions to its contact database; these extensions can also be tied to mobile numbers and email addresses. A system administrator can edit names to change appearances for caller identification. The PIN-enabled voicemail feature allows employees to check messages from any phone.
Efficient call routing. The platform’s custom forwarding rules allow for the rerouting of calls based on various availability statuses (unanswered, busy, etc.). Also configurable are office hours and holiday schedules, with custom rules to reroute calls during non-office hours. By tapping into CRM data, Elastix CTI can use the incoming caller identification to route calls directly to the relevant representative.
Outbound call rule creation. Elastix supports routing of outbound calls through different trunks based on the call source, number dialed, or length of number. Its Caller ID Reformatting allows custom information to appear on the specified outbound lines.
Multi-device presence management. Elastix’s multi-device presence management can push calls, chats, voicemail, and email from an office phone to a smartphone. The software support includes Android and Apple devices. With colleagues able to see the availability of their coworkers, they can better identify the appropriate communication channel to share information and solve client issues.
Robust web conferencing capabilities. For the modern mobile workforce, an effective web conferencing capability is increasingly important. Elastix’s free version limits web conferencing based on the total participants, but its full features are available even in the basic version. Elastix’s clientless web conferencing enables the participants to engage in video conferencing, screen sharing, and remote control. The web conferencing feature requires a simple plugin download, which makes it easy to bring an outside vendor or client into meetings.
Detailed call logs and reports. Elastix provides comprehensive call logs, grouping the log information into standardized reports. Elastix can send out automated reports on set schedules (e.g. daily or weekly), as well as on specific days (e.g. every Monday). The exported files can be in several formats: PDF, CSV, HTML, RTF, or XML. Data points include (1) extension statistics, (2) call cost based on extension group or call type, (3) ring group statistics, and (4) basic queue statistics. Some reports are accessible only with the paid license. The filters include date ranges, specific numbers, and answered versus unanswered calls.
Custom IVR. Elastix supports custom IVR menus, sometimes referred to as ‘digital receptionists’. This auto attendant feature offers custom message creation and menu options to get callers to the right representative quickly—and without requiring additional staff time. The caller dialing options include dialing by an extension or name. The 3CV PRO Edition license also provides integration with Microsoft Exchange Servers to use speech recognition technology as part of an IVR solution.
Ring groups for sales staff. A ring group signals multiple phones simultaneously, with the first answerer getting the call. This feature can help increase the number of answered calls among sales teams when their members are frequently out of the office.
Linked contact directories. For businesses managing multiple contact sources, Elastix provides a linking feature to pool all contacts into a single Elastix phonebook. For the initial setup, an import feature can also streamline the addition of disparate contact sources. The contact linking feature connects with common contact management solutions, like Microsoft Exchange, and databases, including Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and Open Database Connectivity (ODBC).
More about Elastix
Elastix was created by an Ecuadoran company, PaloSanto Solutions, in March 2006. Its founders, Edgar and Jose Landivar, returned to Ecuador after initially considering a start in Sunnyvale, California. Based in Guayaquil, PaloSanto Solutions built its business by developing open-source software for Latin American and U.S. markets.
PaloSanto Solutions managed Elastix until 2016, when 3CX took ownership of the CTI product. 3CX, a provider of software-based PBX systems, maintains its global headquarters in Tampa, Florida.
The Promise of Elastix CTI
Elastix blends the flexibility of open-source software with the built-in features of an established IP PBX platform. The management transition from PaloSanto to 3CX means the potential for tighter integration between hardware and software for a true unified communications solution.
An Elastix CRM integration yields efficiencies that can improve the management of contacts, routing of calls, and call analytics. For companies that have already found a best-fit CRM, Elastix phone systems are a potent connection for high-value CTI.
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