It's very easy to get confused by all the different routing techniques and approaches currently available. Which one is likely to be most appropriate for your organisation's current state of development?
We’ve identified 10 different routing types – each of which has an important role to play depending on the complexity and maturity of your own customer contact operation.
- Direct Routing (Hunt Groups)
Typically those organisations that are just establishing themselves have a more basic approach to customer service – they just want to connect customer calls with the right department within their business. Here direct routing is the standard model – if you want Sales you call the Sales number, and if it’s busy you wait. For Service you call an entirely different number. The call is always connected to one person and if they are busy it goes on to the next person on the list.
- Least Idle/Least Occupancy Routing
Using an Automatic Call Distributor (ACD), configurations can change from more basic ‘hunt groups’ to slightly more sophisticated routing strategies such as least idle routing where calls are placed with the agent who’s been waiting for a call the longest. With Least Occupied Routing the next call gets sent to whoever’s been least utilised throughout the day. This gets around the back of the queue game where agents who do not want to take calls hit the ready state and then hit the idle state (thus making them no longer available).
- Skills-based Routing
Selecting a skills-based routing environment helps make sure that your resources are utilised efficiently so that you do not have long wait times for service calls. You can help improve the customer experience by matching the highest skilled agent to the caller. As a result, multi-skilled agents need to be assigned different skills as well as a skill level for each skill assigned.
- Dynamic and Service Level Routing
However, selecting by skills alone won’t necessarily guarantee a happy customer. Does the agent really have all the skills needed? Is the agent really empowered to answer the customer’s query, or will they have to pass the call on to a supervisor for completion? In addition to skills based routing, we’re also now looking at expected and predicted wait times to provide a better customer experience within service level thresholds. Here dynamic based routing can help to make the right choices. In conjunction with Dynamic Routing, if expected wait times for a specific skill are in danger of being breached, ‘back up’ or ‘reserve’ agents can be pulled into the queue to preserve the service level. This type of routing is known as service level routing.
- Intelligent Call Routing
Routing becomes much easier when you actually know who is on the line and their reason for calling. By using a simple speech-enabled IVR process at the front-end of the call, organisations can make the process much easier for customers by simply asking them who they are and the reason for their call. From this stage an Intelligent Routing process can direct calls to the best enterprise resource – agent or self-service – according to pre-defined rules. For more complex customer inquiries it’s important that agents have detailed knowledge, experience and empowerment to make decisions. Enterprise applications integration and screen pop capabilities can also support agents with the right customer and enterprise information at the time of the call, improving both service levels and agent productivity.
- Business Rules Routing
Once your ACD and routing engines are in place, organisations can start configuring their call routing strategy to support specific business objectives. Examples here could include routing higher value customers through to specialist Premier agents, connecting customers who mention they’re closing an account to a dedicated Retentions team, or simply providing callers with an option to be connected to the agent they spoke with last time they called.
- Data-directed Routing
Taking intelligent call routing a stage further, organisations can now build in the intelligence to help make data-directed routing choices about customer calls based on their current status. For example, a credit card customer might call with an inquiry but if their account is overdue, this will get flagged up during the initial ID and the contact will be routed first to the payment collections function. Integrating the initial IVR ID process with current customer data can provide a powerful solution for businesses. Identifying customers early in the call opens up lots of opportunities – community call centres, and more personal relationship routing of calls to agents or service specialists that have dealt with a customer before.
- Value-based Routing
This combination of the customer ID with more detailed CRM-style information opens up new opportunities for value-based routing. These routing decisions go beyond cost and quality to introduce a value or revenue-based element into the equation. It might be a mobile phone customer calling in three months before their contract comes up for renewal to check on its details. A value-based routing decision would be one that recognises that the customer has a higher propensity to switch at this point, and routes the call directly to a retention team to ensure that the caller stays with their existing provider. Or it could be a credit card company upselling a customer into a consolidated loan based on their current outstanding balance.
- Outbound Routing
Another important development is that routing decisions don’t always have to be on inbound interactions. While we still acknowledge the importance of traditional metrics such as average call length or average handling time, many organisations are turning to newer measurements such as Net Promoter Scores that track how many customers actually recommend the service they receive. Its innovative services – such as outbound routing – that would enable a mortgage provider to text a customer immediately their loan application has been approved, and is far more likely to lead a customer to make recommendations.
- Multimedia and Multimodal Routing
As individual consumers we’re all now interacting with our suppliers across multiple channels. We may get a great voice service, but that doesn’t always work when we contact an organisation by e-mail or by SMS. The key routing challenge many businesses now face is how to not just support multimedia routing across multiple customer contact channels, but also how to route those transactions consistently whether it’s voice, e-mail, IVR, speech, Web or SMS. This becomes even more acute when multimedia extends to embrace multi-modal routing, where a customer might be calling or e-mailing from a specific type of device or location.
At this level the emphasis has clearly switched from cost-effectiveness, to a process that integrates a customer’s ID with their CRM history to enable real-time decision-making that can translate into significant revenue gains. Technology is obviously a key enabler for this, but it is also essential that organisations get their people and processes in place to make this next generation of multimedia, multi-modal customer interactions really work for both their customers and their own organisation.