Today's guest blogger is Luke Simpson, a Technical Architect at Sonoma Partners.
This is the 3rd in my series on Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) with salesforce.com. If you haven’t read the first two posts, I definitely encourage you to do that. You can find the 1st post here and the 2nd post here. The last two posts have covered CTI in a general sense and the CTI Adapter implementation method specifically. In this final post, let’s evaluate the Open CTI framework that was introduced in the Summer ’12 release for salesforce.com.
As I mentioned in my last post, the name of this series is ‘CTI is Not Just for the Big Guys Anymore’. As the name implies, everyone is considering CTI today. When a consumer interacts with a call center today, she or he expects a personalized experience. Social Media has spoiled us to the idea that if you are trying to sell me something, you should understand my specific situation instantly and be able to adapt to it. So having all of the customer information immediately at a service representatives fingertips is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is a ‘must have’. This also becomes an area where organizations can differentiate themselves based upon the level of personalization that they can provide to the call experience. This is where the Open CTI framework proves to be a difference maker, in the way the UI can be customized while lowering maintenance costs.What is so Different About Open CTI?
In Figure 1, below, we can see the standard architecture for a CTI desktop adapter prior to Open CTI. The caller is routed from the CTI Server through the salesforce.com CTI adapter to the agent. The adapter, which is prebuilt and installed on each client machine, performs all routing between the systems. Most CTI desktop adapters are configurable to a point, and salesforce.com does an excellent job of providing the ability to configure the softphone within the salesforce.com UI to display a fairly large variety of entities and fields when a call is received or made.
figure 1 - courtesy Gautam Vasudev
If you would like more detail about the Open CTI architecture, I would encourage you to read Gautam Vasudev’s post on CTI integrations in the cloud here. Gautam does a great job explaining the technical benefits and considerations.Customization Detail is Greatly Increased
Because Open CTI is a framework, each organization has the ability to modify the UI of the softphone to an incredible level of detail. When using the softphone that is available to a desktop adapter, the basic UI cannot be modified. Organizations can choose what entities and fields should be displayed, but there is no way to modify color schemes, phone layout, menus or to integrate data from other systems. Compare the two images below, figures 3 & 4. In Figure 3 we see the standards salesforce.com softphone that must be used with the desktop CTI adapter. In figure 4, compare the layout of the demo Open CTI softphone layout
The softphone displayed in figure 4 is an entirely custom HTML5 pages that interacts with the CTI server via the Open CTI framework. Obviously the example is fairly simple: 1) We have a dropdown that can be set by the user to show current status; 2) a menu bar that allows the user to select options, dial out or search a help page; 3) A Search dialog to look for contacts in the system; 4) A list of recently people recently contacted. The Action buttons located to the left of the Contact names allow the user to answer an incoming call or dial out with a single click.
The possibilities for customizations within this framework are outstanding! Any information that you have which is accessible via the web is now available to be displayed within your softphone. So you have information not currently stored within salesforce.com, but that you want the user to have the ability to see within the context of a call, you can retrieve it. An example of this would be for current account balances. It would be incredibly advantageous to an organization to allow users to see a flag of account status based upon the current balance immediately on the initiation of a call. Often many customer issues can be resolved with a simple piece of information such as notifying that a credit card has expired, that a bill is overdue, or on the bright side that a credit is owed back to the customer.
In addition to the customization options, Open CTI still provides the organization with basic CRM integration that we have come to expect. Screens automatically opening to a Contact or Case record, options to change status or open a new Case? All of these and more are available through the framework.
click to expandPro’s & Con’s
Open CTI is not without its challenges, and it is understand the differences between the two approaches:
The first obvious difference between the Open CTI framework and the desktop adapter is the UI. Open CTI is incredibly customizable, but begins as a blank slate. An implementer will need to spend time considering the layout of the softphone, the various buttons & menus, etc. The desktop adapter, on the other hand, provides a softphone UI that is ready to deploy out of the box. The limitation to this is that you have much less capability of modifying this pre-built UI. Also, while the desktop adapter only requires configuration, the Open CTI framework requires custom code to customize and setup the UI. This means that the skillsets needed to deploy an Open CTI softphone need to be far more technical than those needed for the desktop adapter.
Another difference comes in the architectural requirements for each method. While the desktop adapter requires a small application to be installed on each client machine that Open CTI does not require, the Open CTI framework requires a web server to host the pages that interact with salesforce.com. Those pages may be deployed within salesforce.com as an application, but that would then require testing and architectural support for communications between the application and the telephony server through whatever firewalls and security are deployed. The desktop adapter does not require a web server, and is designed to communicate directly with the telephony provider.
In addition to the architectural and customization differences, Open CTI requires the implementer to consider authentication and security when designing the solution. As the softphone is a custom HTML5 web page, organizations will need to determine what security concerns must be addressed within the application, and then create solutions to those potential issues, prior to deployment.I’m Interested in Implementing CTI Within my Salesforce.com Deployment, Which Way Should I go?
Without trying to sound like a Consultant, “That depends on what you need!” Sonoma Partners has a long history of helping organizations determine the right solutions for you specific problems and then helping do solve those problems. Whether you are a small firm looking to integrate your phone and CRM system for the first time, or a Fortune 500 that would like to catch the wave of the next big thing in the Salesforce.com customer experience, we would love to help. Hopefully this series has helped you to understand a little bit of the options that are available to you. If you have any questions regarding the use of CTI or the Service Cloud, please reach me at email@example.com.