CTI solutions often are grouped into a number of basic solution categories. While these categories generally overlap in arbitrary ways and incorporate other categories, they do make it easier to refer to individual CTI solutions as being used for a particular purpose.
- Call Accounting
Call accounting applications involve using software to track information about individual calls (who was called, when the call was placed, the length of the call, etc.) in order to track telephone usage, recover costs, bill for services, reconcile telephone bills, and more. Call accounting applications are generally easy to justify in environments where telephone use is intensive and time is billed. These products tend to pay for themselves quickly.
Auto-dialing refers to automating the making of telephone calls. Auto-dialing allows a computer user to simply indicate a desire to talk to someone; the CTI software takes complete care of the process. This can include looking up the right person, finding an appropriate telephone number, determining the best way to call the person (factoring in the current location time zone, etc.), dialing the number and associated billing information, retrying as necessary, and indicating its progress throughout the process. While arguably among the most basic of all CTI solutions, auto-dialing is the most universal in terms of appeal and has the potential for tremendous time savings.
- Screen-based Telephony
Screen-based telephony refers to the use of application software that presents a telephone user interface on a computer screen and acts as an alternative to the user interface provided by a physical telephone set. This virtual telephone is usually (but not always) more functional than the telephone set that it supersedes. More important, though, is that it can be customized to meet the specific needs and usage style of a particular individual, who might need more or less functionality than is otherwise available through the telephone set. The functionality of screen-based telephony encompasses auto-dialing and adds support for other telephony features and services. A fully featured screen-based telephone application, SBT for short, provides access to every telephony function available on a given telephone system.
- Screen Pop
Screen pop solutions involve having a computer system present (or "pop") information pertinent to a particular incoming telephone call onto an individual's computer screen, just as that telephone call arrives at the individual's telephone. This allows the person to prepare for the call even before it has been answered, or even to choose not to answer the call based on the information presented.
- Programmed Telephony
Programmed telephony refers to the broad range of CTI solutions that involve unattended computer interaction with telephone calls. In contrast to screen-based telephony which involves creating an alternative telephony user interface for a human actively managing a call, programmed telephony delegates to a computer the responsibility for interacting with telephone calls. In fact, most applications of programmed telephony can be thought of as creating a user experience for the person at the other end of the phone call. Programmed telephony involves CTI software that allows rules for individual call disposition to be established (or programmed). Programmed telephony applications can be as simple as an application that rejects all calls from a certain list of telephone numbers, or as complex as interactive voice response systems that take messages, locate people and information, and redirect calls.
- Voice Processing
Voice processing refers to a subset of programmed telephony solutions that involve using media access to interact with human callers in some fashion. Any application that interacts with callers by playing messages, recording messages, working with speech information, and detecting or generating tones is referred to as a voice processing solution.
- Call Routing
Call routing solutions belong to a class of programmed telephony solutions that automate the delivery of calls to selected individuals. Calls can be routed based on associated information provided by the telephone system, or on an actual interaction with a caller using voice processing in some fashion.
- Call Screening
Call screening solutions involve using CTI technology to filter calls and handle them differently, depending upon who is calling or what they are calling about. Call screening solutions may involve screen-based telephony, programmed telephony software, or a combination of the two. Attended call screening is just a screen pop solution in which a screen-based telephony software user actively decides to accept or reject a call before the call is actually answered, based on information from the telephone system that indicates who is calling. On the other hand, unattended call screening involves routing software that is set up to redirect calls automatically on some basis. For example, an application could act as a private secretary on behalf of a user. It could answer each call, capture information about the purpose of the call, pass only urgent calls on to the user, and take messages in all other cases.
An auto-attendant solution uses voice processing, in lieu of a human operator or attendant, to interact with callers and direct their calls to the desired person.
- Information Retrieval
Information retrieval solutions are voice processing solutions that allow callers to track down and retrieve information without having to interact with a human clerk. Examples include access to prerecorded messages, access to information stored in databases (such as retrieving a bank balance or order status), and retrieval of documents that can be returned via fax or electronic mail.
Fax-back is an information retrieval solution specifically involving the retrieval of faxable information. All information requested is provided to the caller in the form of one or more fax transmissions to a selected fax number.
- Personal Agent
A personal agent is a piece of programmed telephony software that can act as an autonomous agent for a given computer user. Typically it utilizes voice processing to interact with callers on a user's behalf. The personal agent may provide call screening, if the user is present, or will handle calls independently, if he or she is away. A personal agent might provide any or all of the programmed telephony capabilities described above in the process of handling a call.
- Call Center
When a team of two or more (potentially many hundred) individuals in a particular location handle calls on a dedicated basis, the result is a call center (and the individuals are referred to as call center agents). A call center may be just inbound (such as a hotel reservation call center) or just outbound (such as a telemarketing organization), or it may be a pool of call center agents who handle both kinds of work.
- Distributed Call Center
A distributed call center involves all of the functionality and activity of a call center, but the call center agents themselves may be working from two or more locations. A distributed call center might involve a single pool of call center agents working two different time zones, overflowing calls from one to the other at peak times. A distributed call center could involve having each call center agent work from his or her own home, so that no central work location even exists.