What Is a Backend Integration?

Two men walking next to a diagram of a backend integration

Find out what backend integrations are and how they work with our virtual agent platform and how you can get started with a custom backend integration in 3 easy steps

Backend integrations make automated customer support more efficient by empowering customers to get exactly what they need, when they need it. In other words, they’re the Ultimate self-service tool. Here's how they work and why they'll improve both your support's efficiency and your customer experiences.

What are backend integrations?

Simply put, a backend integration is one program sharing data with another.

Have you ever created a return label when you sent back a pair of shoes you ordered online? Booked reservations at a restaurant through an app? Canceled those reservations when your date fell through? Then you’ve relied on support automation and backend integrations to make your life easier.

How do backend integrations work?

In the above example, the restaurant uses a backend integration on their website that links to their reservation system, enabling it to instantly pull the data from your reservation based on your last name and cancel it.

And the companies enabling you to self-serve this way? Imagine how much longer it would have taken to call the restaurant on the phone, have someone go through reservations manually, then enter your information into a system. Now imagine how much time it would’ve cost them to do this for every customer trying to book a table that night. Instead, they reduced handle times while giving you the chance to get what you needed, when you needed it. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Over the past decade, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have emerged as the most efficient way to build backend integrations. Think of APIs as an equivalent to Siri on your phone: Someone you can call on to look up information for you. In fact, developers frequently talk about “calling” an API to reveal a predefined set of data from a program. When you’re chatting or emailing with an online shop’s bot, and they send you tracking information for your package? That’s the result of their virtual agent calling their shipping provider’s API to pass back that provider’s information about your package.

If NLP is what distinguishes intelligent virtual agents from rules-based chatbots by understanding and responding accurately and naturally to your customers, then backend integrations take your automated support to the next level by letting your IVA act based on that understanding.

The most seamless way to pair a virtual agent with backend integrations is using a headless automation solution: Unlike all-in-one chatbots that come with their own widget, the frontend (what users see and interact with) and backend of the system (the server side where data is stored) are decoupled in a headless virtual agent platform. This makes integrating with other systems much easier, and much less risky.

Backend integrations work across industries, and with any type of backend software: Whether you’re working with an OMS (order management systems), ERP (enterprise resource planning), POS (point of sale software) or all three plus 12 other applications – an intelligent virtual agent (IVA) can collect data from all of them and share it with customers in human-centric conversation flows. The same goes for email and messaging automation. AI-powered virtual agents can recognize and classify customer queries, then reply with messages based on info gathered via an API.

Want to know more about APIs, headless automation, and integrations? Check out our Intro to Customer Service Technology, part of the Ultimate Customer Support Academy

“NLP makes the AI talk, backend integrations make the AI act.”
- Mai Belbesy, Product Manager at Ultimate

The benefits of a backend integration for your CX

  • Backend integrations enhance customer satisfaction because they enable your customers to fully self-serve. They’re immediately helped and get exactly what they’re looking for, in real time, without any unnecessary back and forth
  • Handle times will drop because agents aren’t filling out data manually, which also means they won’t be making any mistakes while doing so under pressure. It also makes it easier and faster to hire and train agents, as they don’t have to learn their way around every single one of your backend systems
  • Ultimately, this will improve both your CX and any efficiency metrics (like resolution times) because you are creating a perfect yin and yang vibe in your team, with automated efficiency (your bot’s job) and human empathy (your human agents’ job) working together to maximize value all around

How do backend integrations work with our Ultimate virtual agent platform?

Ultimate’s headless automation solution works with any backoffice software, and we pride ourselves on having built many successful custom integrations for our customers, including with leading brands like Shopify, SAP, and Stripe.

“Every company has their own backend software. Some may use only one or two. Others, like Telia, a telecommunications company we work with, might use 50. Our framework lets us integrate into any BE system seamlessly.”
– Mai Belbesy, Product Manager at Ultimate

For example, Canadian Fintech company XE.com offers support for logged in users. Using backend integrations, their bot can greet people by name, find out their transfer status, and cancel transfers for them. Other popular backend integrations we’ve created for our customers have helped them authenticate and verify users or extend the time window for returning orders.

For more examples of how our custom integrations create more joyful and efficient support for our customers using API technology, read stationery provider Papier’s Ultimate success story.

Getting started with backend integrations: 3 easy steps

At Ultimate, we recommend a crawl-walk-run approach: Start immediately with quick and reliable automation tools like Ticket Automation, then customize strategically based on your customers’ unique needs. This way, you’ll elevate your customer experience while maintaining maximum efficiency.

1. Import support data from your CRM to maximize automation ROI

Use an AI-powered tool to securely import your past support data from your CRM into your automation platform. Our Automation Explorer determines your most frequently asked questions, showing you how many hours of agent time you would save if you prioritized them for automation. 

2. Get started straight away with ticket or chat automation

Once you know your customers’ most frequent questions, you can easily start automating them via email or chat, usually in less than 3 weeks. Then, train your AI to maximum accuracy, ensuring even higher automation rates to drive down handle and resolution rates.

3. Seamlessly level up your support with custom backend integrations

Now’s the time to let your automated support shine: With all the information you’ve gathered from analyzing your support requests and supporting your customers in real time, you can now start integrating with one or several of your backend systems. At Ultimate, we build these integrations for you and develop the logic to call those systems' APIs and process the responses. Our process usually involves:

  • determining use cases and desired CX outcomes,
  • collecting test data and API parameters,
  • incorporating the integration into your virtual agent by building dialogues to display the responses in messages to the visitor, even using rich media to show images in a dynamic carousel, for example.

While your mileage may vary depending on company size and the amount of systems you work with, with APIs, we frequently see customers going live with backend integrations in around 2 weeks.

Get started with backend integrations

...in only a few weeks