server and the retrieved information of the first site are delivered to a computer associated with the selected agent. As a result, the agent can obtain information about the first site (i.e., the caller) and immediately display the same information already displayed on the computer in the first site.
In another embodiment of the present invention, the telephone call is initiated by the second site (whereas the above first embodiment involves a telephone call initiated by the first site). The computer in the first site sends to the server, via the communication network, a request to the second site indicating a desire to receive a phone call from the second site. The request includes information related to a telephone number associated with the telephone in the first site. This telephone number is stored in a file in the second site. The file also contains other outbound telephone numbers. The second site contains a device that can dial the telephone numbers stored in the file and monitor the status of telephone lines carrying the dialed telephone numbers. After the telephone number corresponding to the telephone in the first site is dialed and upon determining it is able to receive the phone call (i.e., the line is not busy), an agent who is able to handle the phone call is selected. Information about the first site (which has previously been stored in the second site) is retrieved. The retrieved information on the first site and the information originated from the server are delivered to a computer associated with the selected agent. As a result, the agent can obtain information about the first site and immediately display the same information already displayed on the computer in the first site.
These and other features of the present invention will become apparent from the following description when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a voice and data communication system of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a computer-telephonyintegration system of the present invention.
FIG. 3 is a flow diagram showing the flow of events during an exemplary data and voice communication session conducted in accordance with the present invention.
FIG. 4 is a block diagram of another computer-telephonyintegration system of the present invention.
FIG. 5 is a flow diagram showing the flow of events during another exemplary data and voice communication session conducted in accordance with the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE
The present invention comprises a novel system and related methods for coordinating telephone and data communications. The following description is presented to enable any person skilled in the art to make and use the invention. Description of specific applications is provided only as examples. Various modifications to the preferred embodiments will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the general principles defined herein may be applied to other embodiments and applications without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Thus, the present invention is not intended to be limited to the embodiments shown, but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and features disclosed herein.
FIG. 1 is a block diagram showing a voice/data communication system 100 operating in accordance with the
present invention. System 100 comprises a provider site 102 and a customer site 104 connected by a data communication network 106, such as the Internet. It should be appreciated that the Internet is used here as an exemplary data commu
5 nication network, and the present invention is not limited to be used in Internet. In this embodiment, provider site 102 and customer site 104 are engaged in electronic commercial transactions. Thus, provider site 102 sends (via Internet 106) product information, order forms, confirmation notices, etc.
10 to customer site 104 and customer site 104 sends in (again via Internet 106) orders, shipping address, and payment information, etc. to provider site 102. In this system, provider site refers generally to a location which sells information, products or services and customer site refers to
15 a location which requests such information, products or services. A plurality of other provider sites, such as provider site 108, and a plurality of other customer sites, such as customer site 110, are also connected to Internet 106. It should be appreciated that the present invention relates
20 to coordinating data and telephone communications between any two sites. The description of provider sites and customer sites pertains to an important (but not the only) application of the present invention envisioned by the inventor. The present invention can be applied to many applications.
25 Customer site 104 comprises a client computer 114 running a browser 116 of the present invention. Client computer 114 is connected to a modem 122 which is coupled to a TCP/IP connection 124. As a result, client computer 114 is able to gain access to the Internet 106. A user in customer
site 104 uses browser 116 to communicate with other computers connected to Internet 106.
Customer site 104 also contains a telephone 128 which allows the user in customer site 104 to make telephone
35 communication with a service agent in provider site 102. Telephone 128 is coupled to a public switched telephone network (PSTN) 160 via a telephone channel 162. In the prior art system, it is not possible for the system to coordinate voice (via PSTN 160) and data (via Internet 106)
40 communication between the user and the service agent. One aspect of the present invention allows such coordination to take place. As a result, the user and the service agent can display the same data (e.g., the same web page) at their respective computer screens and communicate orally (or
45 visually if picture-phones are installed in both sites) at the same time.
Provider site 102 comprises a server 132 connected to Internet 106 through a TCP/IP connection 134. Server 132 supplies various web documents (e.g., product information,
50 order forms, etc.) to browsers that request the documents. Provider site 102 contains a service assistance center 140 in which a number of service agents can take telephone calls from users in various customer sites. Service assistance center 140 contains a computer-telephony-integration (CTI)
55 system 142 for accepting calls from PSTN 160 and routing calls to a plurality of telephones, one of them is shown as telephone 144. Service assistance center 140 also contains a plurality of computers, one of them is shown as computer 146. CTI system 142 is coupled to PSTN 160 via a high
60 bandwidth telephone channel 164, such as a primary rate interface (PRI) as defined in the CCITT ISDN 1.431 standard. The service agents use both the computers and telephones to efficiently provide services to various users in the customer sites.
65 It should be appreciated that the CTI system 142 is not limited to route voice communication. It can also route other types of communication. A CTI system that can route video