What is
call routing?

Author: Rose de Fremery

When customers need help, they want rapid and personalized service. In fact, according to Salesforce, 83% of customers expect to engage with someone immediately when contacting a company and 66% of them expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations. A call routing strategy can help businesses meet these expectations, increase customer satisfaction and boost brand loyalty.

What is call routing?

Call routing is a technology solution that organizes incoming calls and routes them to specific contact center agents or teams based on predetermined rules and criteria. Call routing is sometimes also described as an automatic call distribution system (ACD). Although the term "call routing" was originally associated with voice calls, this type of technology is now also used to intelligently handle customer queries arriving through chat, email and web collaboration channels.

How does call routing work?

Although routing may play out differently depending on how the contact center is structured, it is usually organized into three successive stages: the qualifying stage, the call queuing stage and the call distribution stage.

In the qualifying stage, the business sends an incoming customer call to an interactive voice response (IVR) system, asking them a series of questions to identify the purpose of their call. After that, the call routing system will send the call on to the ACD that places it in a queue.

Each queue will be structured according to specific rules the business has already set. These rules may be based on the customer's issue, the agents' skills, the current hold time or other key factors. The newest customer call will be assigned a priority level based on these rules, and the customer will join the queue in the appropriate position.

Finally, in the call distribution stage, the routing system begins routing calls to agents on the team. Here, too, it will rely on call routing strategies to properly assign customer calls according to criteria such as the customer's issue, the agents' skills or the agent who has spent the least amount of time speaking with customers.

What are the benefits of call routing?

Call routing can reduce hold times and accelerate problem resolution, saving customers and agents precious time. It also automatically connects those customers with the personnel who are best qualified to address their concerns. These contact center process improvements can enhance customer satisfaction, making it more likely that customers will come away from their support interactions feeling positive about the company and their relationship with it.

Businesses benefit from call routing strategies that can distribute calls to the best-suited agents based on their areas of expertise and skill sets. This can increase agent productivity and boost employee satisfaction. Routing features can also be configured to distribute calls evenly across the entire contact center team, reducing the likelihood of burnout, which can lead to financial and reputational costs to an organization.

What are call routing strategies?

Call routing strategies are predefined rules for assigning incoming calls to the agents on a team. There are several strategies, from traditional arrangements like fixed order routing to modern approaches like intelligent routing. Businesses may choose one strategy over the others depending on key factors such as how many agents they have, the specific skill sets of those agents and the volume of incoming calls.

Fixed order routing

As calls come in, they are assigned to the first agent on a list. If that agent is not available, then the system proceeds down the list until it connects the customer with an available agent.

Rotary routing

Calls are rotated between agents to make sure the workload is evenly split among them. Each agent must take a call before the system hands out a call to the other agent.

Percentage routing

Calls are divided between different contact center teams on a percentage basis—for example, one team receives 60% of the calls and the other team is assigned 40% of them.

Talk-time routing

The agent who has logged the least amount of time talking with customers always receives the next inbound call.

Time-based routing

Customer calls are only assigned to agents during specific business hours or at a particular time during the workday.

Skills-based routing

The routing system assigns incoming calls to agents who have the specific skills needed to assist the customers.

Intelligent routing

The call is routed through a universal queue that directs each contact to the agent who is best able to serve each customer's need.

How do you build a call routing system?

Any routing solution should be designed with a strong understanding of customer needs and challenges. Customer research can help you better understand your company's core customer demographic—who they are, what they want and what their preferences are. As part of this research, explore which communication channels your customers find most convenient for engaging with your business.

Along the way, you may encounter some surprises that cause you to reevaluate your previous assumptions of how your customers communicate, what they want and what they expect from your company. You can use these new insights to create a routing approach that meets their expectations going forward. These discoveries can also be valuable for creating a personalized customer experience.

As your updated customer profile takes shape, evaluate which of the above routing strategies you will use to field incoming customer calls. As you do, assess your current volume of calls, factor in periods when that volume may significantly fluctuate, and analyze the composition of your contact center team to make sure it is designed to efficiently resolve the calls it receives.

What technology do I need for call routing?

To deploy call routing strategies within your organization, you will need a routing system that seamlessly operates within your existing contact center technology stack and enables an exceptional customer experience. For example, if you already have multiple contact centers in place, you will likely need a routing solution that integrates with them all. Your customers want to engage with you on multiple channels including chat, email, web collaboration and voice—so look for a routing system that includes them. They will be looking for personalized interactions across all of these channels, so consider a solution that supports personalization. If your business has multiple locations or a remote workforce, you may want to take advantage of a hosted intelligent routing system that supports agents who are working from home.

Maximize the benefits of call routing

When customers reach out to you, they want quick, personalized service. Lengthy wait times and misdirected calls create frustration that diminishes customer satisfaction, making it likelier that customers move on to the competition. The right call routing strategy can not only help you avoid these outcomes but can steadily improve customer satisfaction, inspiring brand loyalty over the long term. An advanced call routing solution can support this strategy, allowing your business to meet and even exceed today's high expectations for a satisfying customer experience.

Discover how Verizon's Hosted Intelligent Call Routing can enable exceptional business outcomes.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.