The solution seller

The solution seller

CTI Communications ~ On active service

ARN: What products and services does CTI Communications offer?Barraclough: Primarily, we provide technology in call centres. This includes the real-time management of phone calls, e-mail, Web and outbound calls, as well as the background processes of the information related to these calls, typically the helpdesk management and financial planning. Probably our biggest project is a customer management solution we did for Telstra.

What are CTI's key business strengths?

We provide the support and equipment that enables our customers to utilise technology to its fullest capacity. I think the technology is becoming more "vanilla" as time goes on. Implementation that gives you maximum productivity is becoming more complex. We put a lot of effort into helping the customer solve the problems all the way through, giving them ongoing support.

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?Support, support, support. We like to work closely with our customers to cover all their solution problems. We have been working with one of our clients for six months developing a solution. Normally we would wrap up a solution in about four weeks but as we show these guys more of what the technology can do they keep adding options. Quite often thecustomer doesn't know exactly what they want. Pretty much all the technology we offer is leading edge and is not widely understood. The customer will start off with an expectation and as we expose more of what the technology can do for them they seek more and more benefits.

We have to get all these expectations up front so we can design a complete solution that the client understands. The standard joke I have is, "Hey, you better like it because you're going to have to live with this technology for the next five years, which is longer than the average Australian marriage".

Describe your client base.

There are a lot of financial institutions involved, quite a number of telemarketing companies and there's a fair degree of government contact. On the government side, our contract with Brisbane City Council is one of the major projects.

What areas of technology are you keeping an eye on?We have a crew working on some IT telephony technology at the moment. We are probably looking at releasing the end product of that research sometime next year. We have just released a little box which you can plug into the USB port in your computer which will allow you to make and take calls on your handset whilst you are on the Internet. There has been a great response to this kind of technology in rural Australia where is it difficult to get another line put in, and most suburban residents don't want to pay for the cost of an extra line if they don't have to. We've also had interest from Asia and India. We will definitely be in the voice recognition business, hopefully we will be making some announcements in this area soon.

What are your plans for the next couple of years?We are trying to make a couple of acquisitions which will establish us more strongly in the voice recognition arena. There are two deals being signed even as we speak so I can't really say that much about them. The companies do have some sites, that's about all I can hint at, but the money from the ASX float will be used for acquisitions.

What do you see as the business issues currently facing solutions providers?Our biggest problem at the moment is getting good staff. The whole industry is expanding, everybody is dog-eat-dog so everybody is stealing skilled employees from everybody else. As far as opportunities go, all the technology coming out will lead to massive expansion of the industry. Coupled with the current lack of market penetration, this presents huge prospects and this is saying nothing of our neighbours down in New Zealand and up in Asia. Even if Australia becomes saturated there are a million more people up there.profileCTI Communications Based: Sydney Number of staff: 65 nationally Annual turnover: $14.2 million Current growth: 40 per cent Services: -Call centre technology and solutions

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