Getting Started with Cisco Customer Response Applications 3.1(1)
Introducing Cisco CRA 3.1

Table of Contents

Introducing Cisco CRA 3.1
Overview of Cisco CRA Version 3.1
Cisco IP Telephony Solution Components
Introducing Cisco Customer Response Applications
About the Cisco CRA Engine
About the Repository
Sample CRA Editor Scripts
About Serviceability

Introducing Cisco CRA 3.1

This chapter describes the components of the Cisco IP telephony solution and the Cisco Customer Response Applications (CRA) family of products.

This chapter contains the following sections:

Overview of Cisco CRA Version 3.1

Cisco CRA release 3.1 is a tightly integrated platform designed to enhance the efficiency of any contact center by simplifying business integration, easing agent administration, increasing agent flexibility, and enhancing network hosting.

These features reduce business costs and improve customer response for your contact center.

The Cisco CRA 3.1 solution combines three software packages: Cisco IP Interactive Voice Response (IP IVR), Cisco IP Integrated Contact Distribution (IP ICD), and Cisco IP Queue Manager (IP QM). This single-server integrated platform provides independence in agent location, improves agent scalability, and enhances Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) features such as competency-based routing.

Because Cisco CRA 3.1 is tightly integrated with Cisco AVVID (Architecture for Voice, Video, and Integrated Data) and Cisco CallManager, it provides a natural add-on to any voice deployment across IP (VoIP).

Cisco IP Telephony Solution Components

The Cisco CRA IP telephony solution system includes the following components:

  • Gateway—Connects the enterprise IP telephony network to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and to other private telephone systems such as the Public Branch Exchange (PBX).
  • Cisco CallManager server—Provides the features that are required to implement IP phones and manage gateways; provides failover and redundancy service for the telephony system; and directs VoIP traffic to the Cisco CRA system.
  • Cisco IP Telephony Directory—Stores configuration information and Cisco CRA applications and scripts in a LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) directory that is called the Repository.

Storing applications and scripts in an LDAP directory allow you share all Cisco CRA applications and scripts on all Cisco CRA servers in the network. The Repository keeps one backup version of each script for recovery purposes.

  • CRA server—Contains the CRA Engine, which runs the following applications:
    • Cisco application scripts
    • Cisco Intelligent Contact Management (ICM) translation-route applications
    • Cisco ICM post-route applications
    • Busy applications
    • Ring No Answer (RNA) applications
  • Cisco CRA Editor—Allows designers to create, modify, and debug Cisco CRA scripts.
  • Cisco IP Agent and Supervisor Desktops—Desktop programs that allow ICD agents and supervisors to log in to the system, change agent states, and monitor status.
  • Nuance Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) server—Dedicated server that performs real-time speech recognition.
  • Text-to-Speech (TTS) server—Dedicated server that converts text into speech and plays it back to the caller.
  • ICD Call Statistics, Recording, and Monitoring server—Dedicated server that maintains ICD call statistics and that provides for recording and call monitoring and that for Cisco ICD Enhanced.
  • ICD Call Monitoring servers—Additional dedicated servers that provide for call monitoring.
  • Historical Reports Database server-Dedicated server that stores Cisco CRA databases for historical reporting.

Figure 1-1 shows the components of the Cisco IP telephony solution.

Figure 1-1   Cisco IP Telephony Solution Components

Introducing Cisco Customer Response Applications

The Cisco CRA product family provides a variety of contact processing functionalities for your Cisco IP telephony solution.

Each Cisco CRA product uses the CRA Engine to run applications and respond to customer inquiries. The software package that you choose determines which steps, components, and subsystems you receive. Each package includes the CRA Editor.

The following sections describe the Cisco CRA product family:

Cisco IP IVR

Cisco IP Interactive Voice Response (IP IVR), a multimedia (voice, data, and web) IP-enabled solution, provides an open and feature-rich foundation for the creation and delivery of IVR applications that use Internet technology. In addition to using Cisco IP IVR to handle traditional telephony contacts, you can use it to create applications that respond to HTTP requests and to send e-mail.

Cisco IP IVR automates call handling by autonomously interacting with users and processing user commands to facilitate command response features such as access to checking account information or user-directed call routers. Cisco IP IVR also performs "prompt and collect" functions to obtain user data such as passwords or account identification. Cisco IP IVR supports Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) access to Microsoft Structured Query Language (SQL) servers and Oracle, Sybase, and IBM DB2 databases.

The Cisco IP IVR package supports the IP QM functionality to participate in Cisco IP Contact Center (IPCC) solutions. In addition, you can use Cisco IP IVR to extract and parse web-based content and present the data to customers by using a telephony or an HTTP interface. Cisco IP IVR also supports a real-time reporting client, a historical reporting client, and add-on features such as Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Text-to-Speech (TTS).

Cisco IP ICD

Cisco IP Integrated Contact Distribution (Cisco IP ICD) serves as an IP-based Automated Call Distribution (ACD) system. Cisco IP ICD queues and distributes incoming calls that are destined for groups of Cisco CallManager users.

Cisco IP ICD includes a web-based real-time and historical reporting system that you can use to monitor system, Contact Service Queue (CSQ), and resource performance.

The Cisco IP ICD system includes the following major components:

  • Resource Manager (RM)—Monitors the ICD agent phones and allows you to organize agents according to the types of calls that they can handle. The system provides these capabilities through resource groups or skills-based partitions.
  • Contact Service Queue (CSQ)—Places incoming calls in a queue and distributes them to the appropriate set of agents when agents become available.
  • ICD Agent and Supervisor Desktops—Allows ICD agents and supervisors to log in to the system, change ICD state, and monitor status.

Cisco offers Cisco IP ICD in the following three configurations:

  • IP ICD Standard—Designed for entry-level users; includes the steps necessary for creating basic ICD applications.
  • IP ICD Enhanced—Designed for enterprise-level users; includes steps that allow for assigning call priority.
  • IP ICD Enhanced with CTI Option (available only to ICD Enhanced customers)—Designed for enterprise-level users; adds full IVR support (except for IPCC integration) including database integration, eXtensible Markup Language (XML), VoiceXML, HTML web integration, custom Java extensions, and e-notification services.

Cisco IP Queue Manager

Cisco IP Queue Manager (IP QM) provides an IP-enabled Voice Response Unit (VRU) that can be used as a queue point for calls that Cisco IP Contact Center (IPCC) manages. Calls can route to Cisco IP QM for "prompt and collect" operations while the callers are in queue and waiting for an available IPCC agent.

Cisco IP Queue Manager takes advantage of Cisco IPCC, which as a high-end contact center can distribute calls to multiple sites, with powerful pre- and post-routing capabilities.

Note   Cisco does not make IP QM available with Cisco CRA on the Cisco ICS 7750 system.

Cisco IPCC uses Cisco Intelligent Contact Management (Cisco ICM) software to direct calls to other systems such as VRUs and ACD systems.

You can configure the CRA server to use IP Queue Manager and to make the included ICM VRU interface work with Cisco IPCC.

The ICM VRU interface allows Cisco ICM scripts to invoke Cisco CRA Editor steps and logic from the CRA Engine. As a result, Cisco ICM can handle calls centrally and direct them to your IP telephony system on the basis of caller-entered data, information stored in a database, or other parameters.

In addition, ICM multichannel software provides a flexible, integrated architecture to support a variety of agent and customer interactions for a contact center. The contact center manager can configure agents to handle voice, Web collaboration, text chat, and e-mail requests and to have the agents switch among those media types on a task-by-task basis.

CRA 3.1 provides the following enhancements to CRA 2.x:

  • Replaces translation and post-route CTI port groups with translation and post-route applications that enable the configuration of multiple CTI port groups to more efficiently provision the IP Queue Manager.
  • Supports multiple translation and post routes with different configurable service identifiers.
  • Automatically marks the call contact as handled after a CONNECT request to a valid extension successfully processes, which provides consistency with Cisco ICD.
  • Supports use of the Delay step in VRU scripts that are interruptible by Cisco ICM.
  • Supports subscripts that are interruptible by Cisco ICM.
  • Adds a Call Hold step in the Cisco CRA Editor that can be used to play back real-time Music on Hold and thus replace prerecorded music prompts.

Note    You must configure Cisco CallManager Music on Hold functionality for this feature to work.

  • Uses a consultative transfer to allow for retrieval and requeuing of nonanswered calls to agents.

About the Cisco CRA Engine

The Cisco CRA Engine enables you to run multiple applications to handle Java Telephony Application Programming Interface (JTAPI) calls or HTTP requests.

While you can deploy the Cisco CRA Engine and Cisco CallManager on the same server, deploying them on separate servers allows you to handle greater call volume.

The CRA Engine uses JTAPI to request and receive services from the Computer Telephony Interface (CTI) manager that controls Cisco CallManager clusters. The Cisco CRA Engine is implemented as a Windows service that supports multiple applications.

You can use a web browser to administer the CRA Engine and your CRA applications from any computer on the network. You can use the CRA Administration web interface to start and stop the CRA Engine, configure system parameters, monitor CRA Engine activity, and view real-time and historical reports that include total system activity and application statistics.

Depending on the Cisco CRA products that you are using, the CRA server may employ as many as 14 subsystems for communicating with other services:

  • Applications—Manages the applications in the CRA Engine and other features such as session management.
  • Cisco Media—Configures Cisco Media Termination (CMT) dialog control groups, which can be used to handle simple Dual Tone Multifrequency (DTMF) based dialog interactions with customers.
  • Core Reporting—Provides information for IP IVR real-time reports.
  • Database—Handles the connections between the CRA server and the enterprise database.
  • eMail—Adds components to the CRA Engine that allows it to send e-mail messages.
  • Enterprise Server—Communicates data for screen pops to the Cisco Agent Desktop.
  • HTTP—Adds components to the CRA Engine that allow it to respond to HTTP requests.
  • ICM (Intelligent Contact Management)—Manages the connection between the CRA server and Cisco Intelligent Contact Management (Cisco ICM).
  • JTAPI (Java Telephony Application Programming Interface)—Manages the connection between Cisco CallManager CTI Manager and the CRA Engine.
  • Nuance Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)—Allows a script to respond to voice input in addition to DTMF.
  • Nuance Text-To-Speech (TTS)—Composes voice prompts that are generated in real time from text, such as speaking the words in the text of an e-mail message.
  • RMCM (Resource Manager-Contact Manager)—Allows Cisco IP ICD to monitor agent phones, control agent states, route and queue calls, and manage the historical reporting feature.
  • Voice Browser—Manages Voice Browser functionality.
  • VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)—Enables remote recording and monitoring.

About the Repository

The Repository designates a part of the Cisco IP Telephony Directory. The respository stores the scripts and configuration profiles for Cisco CRA that you create as part of the initial setup process.

The configuration profile holds CRA Engine configuration information that is specific to a single CRA server.

The Repository profile maintains the scripts and applications that you create and configure. The Repository keeps one backup version of each script for recovery purposes.

Multiple CRA servers can share the Repository profile and thus allow scripts and configured applications to be maintained in a central location and updated at the same time for all servers.

Sample CRA Editor Scripts

Cisco CRA 3.1 includes the following two kinds of sample scripts:

  • Application scripts—Built with CRA Editor steps and configured as applications by using the CRA Administration web interface.
  • VRU scripts—Scripts for use with Cisco IP QM that you use CRA steps to access.

  • Note   Cisco CRA 3.1 supports only the following official Cisco scripts: aa.aef, hotel.aef, and hotelout.aef (the other bundled scripts represent only examples). Cisco CRA 3.1 supports these scripts only when you purchase the Extended Services package. Any modification to these scripts will void support.

Table 1-1 describes the sample application scripts that are included with Cisco CRA 3.1.

Table 1-1   Cisco CRA 3.1 Sample Application Scripts

Script Description


Basic auto-attendant script that allows callers to connect to a destination by entering the extension number or by entering the first few characters of an associated user name; or, if ASR is enabled, the caller may simply speak the extension or the user name.

For a description of aa.aef, refer to the "Developing an IVR Script" chapter in Cisco Customer Response Applications Developer Guide.


Used for the extension mobility feature of Extended Services; allows users to log in from a remote location.

Refer to Cisco CallManager Extended Services Administrator Guide for more information.


Used for the extension mobility feature of Extended Services; allows users to log out from a remote location.

Refer to Cisco CallManager Extended Services Administrator Guide for more information.


Basic ICD script that establishes a simple call queue and routes callers to a group of agents as they become available.

(Only Cisco IP ICD products include this file.)

For a description of icd.aef, refer to the "Using the Basic ICD Script" chapter in Cisco Customer Response Applications Developer Guide.


Script that uses ASR functionality to allow a caller to access information from VoiceXML-enabled web sites.

For a description of voicebrowser.aef, refer to the "Developing VoiceXML Applications" chapter in Cisco Customer Response Applications Developer Guide.


Script that allows users to place outbound calls according to instructions that are stored in VoiceXML files.

For a description of voicebrowser.aef, refer to the "Developing VoiceXML Applications" chapter in Cisco Customer Response Applications Developer Guide.


Script that enables Cisco CallManager users to call in by telephone, authenticate themselves, and record new announcements to replace their spoken names.

For a description of SNU.aef, refer to the "Designing a Basic Script" chapter in Cisco Customer Response Applications Developer Guide.

Table 1-2 describes the Cisco IP QM sample VRU scripts that are included with Cisco CRA 3.1.

Table 1-2   Cisco CRA 3.1 Sample IP QM VRU Scripts

Script Description


VRU script that greets a caller and plays music on hold while the caller waits for an available agent


VRU script that greets a caller, provides feedback about the estimated wait before the caller will be connected, and plays music on hold while the caller waits for an available agent


VRU script that acquires a caller account number


VRU script that uses ICM call variables to customize the Extended Get Digit String step to collect information from the caller and to return it to the ICM script


VRU script that uses ICM call variables to fully customize the Extended Play Prompt step to play back a message to the caller


CRA script that is similar to the CVInput.aef VRU script, except that it uses ICM extended call variables to pass the information that customizes the step


CRA script that is similar to the CVOutput.aef VRU script, except that it uses ICM extended call variables to pass the information that customizes the step

About Serviceability

Cisco Customer Response Applications (CRA) Serviceability enables remote network management support for the Cisco CRA system. Serviceability enables this support through CiscoWorks and through any third-party network management system (NMS) that uses standard protocols. These protocols include Syslog, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), XML, and HTTP. Serviceability allows you to monitor and discover the status of the installed components of your Cisco CRA system, its subsystems, and its services from any NMS. You can use the information that you obtain through serviceability to troubleshoot system problems.

For more information, refer to Cisco Customer Response Applications Serviceability Guide.