In the digital era, the voice channel appears to continue to be holding  strong. In fact, voice is an integral and often predominant part of the customer experience — with no signs of diminishing call volumes on the horizon. Depending on the industry, voice is typically the first or second channel by popularity for sales and service customer interactions.

In fact, you might be surprised to learn that despite the rapid rise of apps, communities, social channels and self-service options, there doesn’t seem to be a decrease in calls. The volumes appear to be increasing. Recognizing this critical channel that has been and remains a mainstay in customer service, we’re ushering in a new era of open voice integration to our Service Cloud Lightning Platform.

This openness comes with two key imperatives. First, integrating the voice experience with Salesforce creates a unique opportunity to liberate customers from expensive desk phones. And second, providing automated call history and visibility into business metrics that are voice driven is of critical importance in the digital era where omnichannel capabilities, including voice, are table stakes. All of this comes together through Computer Telephony Integration (CTI).

Our journey in CTI started in 2006, when Salesforce brought traditional CTI, with all the bells and whistles, to the cloud. Connecting on-premise, firewall protected telephony systems to a web based CRM solution had never been done at this scale. We needed an architecture that could support any customer, anywhere in the world, with any telephony environment, and that came to market in the form of a desktop toolkit that telephony partners could use to display a softphone in Salesforce.

By 2011, a host of new web technologies allowed us to truly achieve our vision for a scalable zero desktop footprint integration. We introduced Open CTI: a cloud based framework that allows a softphone to reside inside Salesforce and connect with a telephony system. With over 50 partners and 100 supported telephony platforms, our customers love the flexibility it allows.

One question customers often have is with respect to Open CTI and Salesforce Voice. What is the difference? It all comes down to the telephony. Salesforce Voice provides a way to provision numbers and make calls directly from Salesforce, connecting the user and customer. If you already have a telephony system in place, Open CTI is the way to go since it will integrate to that existing system.

This year is the year of Lightning at Salesforce. What does that mean? We’re laser-focused on delivering the Lightning Experience for every customer. This powerful user experience is a game changer, with its powerful set of tools that allow customers and partners to build, customize and deliver incredible user experiences faster and easier than ever.

Introducing: Lightning Open CTI

With the Summer ’16 release, Open CTI is being piloted in the Lightning Experience and is available to partners for feedback. Lightning Open CTI brings the best of Salesforce Classic, combined with all the benefits of the Lightning platform, to Open CTI. Think new CTI components like a softphone or voice mail, all available in the Lightning App Builder to drag and drop onto the experience. With the component exchange, setting up CTI can be easier than ever. Finally, the Lightning Design System will lead to one integrated look and feel for users, which is being extremely well received by our partner community.

In the age of the connected customer, voice is more than just a mainstay -- it is the one critical channel that customer service leaders depend on to drive key business results. Voice is often the difference between a customer churn and loyalty, a promoter or a detractor. At Salesforce, we recognize and respect the relationship between voice and great service experiences, and will continue to provide the market fast and innovative ways to support voice in the Service Cloud platform.

Here’s what some of our partners are saying:

Open CTI for Lightning means maximized productivity for sales reps – a critical component for today’s world-class sales organizations.

— Dale Gantous, CEO, InGenius

The InGenius Softphone

… we see Open CTI in Lightning as a game changer to deliver an intelligent, state of the art user experience for an omni-channel customer journey.

— Mike Burkland, President and CEO of Five9

The Five9 Softphone

Want to learn more about why 2016 is the Year of Lightning, and what Lightning is all about? Download the free Salesforce e-book.

About the Author

Gautam Vasudev is Director of Product Management for Service Cloud at Salesforce. He’s been with the company for over 8 years, both in the R&D and Product Management positions, with a constant focus on and passion for customer service.