As a 11 year veteran of the telecommunication and technology industry, I am continually impressed with the value and advancements of Skype VoIP (now owned by Microsoft). I began using Skype years ago primarily for inexpensive international calling. As a Salesforce CRM consultant, I now suggest it to organizations as a business solution, especially the Small Medium Business (SMB) Market?

Back in 2005 when I was selling Call Center technology, I remember meeting a CIO of a regional bank and proposing a PBX / ACD / VoIP with CTI solution for his 15 users taking inbound calls and making outbound calls. They were very interested in Screen Pops and Quick Call Dialing. I remember my proposal was around $200,000. The funny thing about this was that only a short 6 years ago, that was the going rate for a VoIP PBX, Call Routing, and CTI. Actually, the CTI component was bid out at over $70,000.00.

Let’s fast forward to 2012. If I offered any customer that is interested in a CTI solution a proposal for $200,000 or even $70,000, I probably would be thrown out on the streets.

The ROI for CTI has always been strong, whether you have a inside sales need or manage a service or support center that takes or makes calls.

Salesforce has developed such a strong partner ecosystem that the cost of CTI is now almost irrelevant. In my opinion, CTI has now turned into a no brainer. As an example, if you have a 12 year old Remedy Service system and are looking to upgrade, Salesforce Service Cloud (i.e., RemedyForce) basically includes CTI.

To implement CTI to Salesforce today, all you need is the PBX vendor’s TAPI driver software on each computer and the CTI software (which can cost $99/user/one-time). This will allow you to interface to your companies VoIP PBX such as Nortel, Avaya, Cisco, NEC, Shoretel, etc. All you have to do is contact your PBX vendor and ask them for the TAPI driver download link (just make sure that the driver is for your version of PBX). The setup inside Salesforce is actually real fast. If I was to bid out a CTI project today, a 15-user support center would basically cost around $1,500 for the CTI software (TAPI software is usually free) and probably a few days of consulting.

What about Skype as a telephony option?

If you are a SMB and are interested in CTI, there are a ton of options available to you. One is the purchase of the CTI software (mentioned above). Another is to go with specialized vendors who charge by the minute. Another which may be the most intriguing is the use of Skype. There exists a free Salesforce AppExchange module which supports Skype and enables CTI with Skype. However, most people don’t understand how that can actually work for a 15-user support center or inside sales team.

The biggest perception as to why you are not using Skype for your small call or contact center is probably because you don’t fully understand how to use it. As most already know, Skype now provides outbound calling to any phone number. They also provide an inbound calling option by providing you a phone number. Did you know that in the setup of the Skype service, it will ask you, “What phone number should I transmit to your calling party?” This feature is HUGE. This allows you to make outbound calls leveraging Skype and Salesforce CTI, and the people you call have no idea you are using Skype. All they see is your office or cell phone number. On the inbound side, they would call your call center or office DID, your office line would be call forwarded to your Skype phone number for inbound screen pops in Salesforce. All of this, and your customers have no idea you are only paying $30 a year per line for unlimited US calling Skype service.

For a SMB, with very little cost, you’ll be able to maintain your corporate image, branding, and fully leverage your office phone infrastructure. No-one will know the difference — you could be calling from home but appear to be at the office. Lastly, the Skype solution does not care what kind of PBX you have. If your office PBX is not VoIP or you have 6 offices with 6 different PBX’s, the Skype solution will still work.