In the perfect customer experience (CX) world, the agent who answers your customer’s interaction is the most appropriate person to help them: they have the right skills, knowledge, and understanding of the customer to solve their issues and fully answer their queries during the first point of contact.
This is unfortunately rarely the case. Most contact centres or customer service solutions use a system called automatic call distribution (ACD), which, in its basic form, aims to get the customer who has been waiting on hold the longest, to any available agent. While this is a simple way to make sure your customers don’t wait on hold for too long, it also doesn’t ensure that once someone connects with them, they will get their issues fixed quickly, accurately, and without having to go through different agents.
Subsequentially, when a customer’s query takes longer, or multiple agents, to resolve because the first one wasn’t the most appropriate person to help, your contact centre queues grow longer – and let’s be honest, there’s nothing worse than waiting on hold.
Research shows that over 60% of customers value the ability to resolve issues quickly as the top aspect of good customer experience, while 52% would pay more for a speedy and efficient customer experience.
The solution to this conundrum is called intelligent call routing – a feature that will ensure your customers are always matched to the best agent.
The definition of intelligent routing
Put simply, intelligent routing is a technology that identifies the customer and their reason for contacting your business, and based on some predefined criteria, it directs the interaction to the most appropriate agent for that customer. While this is most often utilised for voice calls, intelligent routing can be deployed on most channels, including email and chat.
In order to have an efficient system, intelligent routing requires the contact centre to collect the right customer data, as well as agent data. As an example, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) (the menu we all hear when we call a contact centre) is the first step to gathering this data. When a customer inputs their intent by choosing one of the numbered options, the system recognises the nature of the issue and the skills required to solve it. While that’s a useful first step, customer historical data is critical to truly reap the benefits of intelligent routing – CRM integration is, therefore, key to making the most of intelligent routing.
Types of intelligent routing
Skills-based routing is the most popular form of intelligent routing. With skills-based routing, interactions are assigned to agents based on how well their skills and expertise match the customer’s query and history.
While this might not always be possible to achieve depending on agent availability, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of an agent’s skills to provide a good customer experience. Research shows that 62% of customers find that an agent’s knowledge and resourcefulness played a key role in positive customer service experiences.
Last agent routing
Last agent routing is another form of intelligent routing which ensures your customers interact with the same agent they did on previous occasions. This is particularly beneficial on channels such as email or chat, where continuity of conversation can help solve a problem more quickly.
Moreover, this creates a better relationship between the customer and the agent, giving the customer the impression that they’re getting a more personal and familiar experience.
Priority-based routing allows you to direct your VIP or urgent support customers to a different queue so that your agents can get to them faster. The agents handling the call could be the same as the ones for your normal queues, or specific agents trained to answer VIP or urgent queries.
The benefits of intelligent routing
Better first contact resolution
The first and most obvious benefit of implementing an intelligent call routing solution is its effect on first contact resolution. Assigning your customer interactions to the most relevant agent, (whether based on their skills, the customer’s previous interactions, or the importance of the call) helps your business solve issues more quickly and more accurately.
First contact resolution is the one aspect your contact centre should always strive to achieve in order to improve efficiency, keep your customers happy, and boost agent targets and morale.
Customers don’t want to spend their precious time chatting with your agents: they want to solve their issues quickly and on the first interaction. When the system doesn’t route calls ‘intelligently’, customers often see their calls transferred to various different agents before their problem is resolved, all while having to repeat themselves to each different one.
Intelligent routing helps your contact centre give your customers a quick, convenient, personalised, and overall better experience – increasing your customer satisfaction and reducing your customer churn.
Intelligent routing increases your contact centre productivity by allowing your agents to be assigned to the customer they can help the most. Intelligent routing reduces call duration and on hold time, while also saving agents the time and effort it takes to transfer calls and pass customers around. Not to mention, intelligent routing also reduces costs by requiring fewer calls and agent resources to solve issues.
Finally, for intelligent routing to be successful, it’s important to ensure the calls are correctly distributed between agents in order to avoid overworked employees and longer waiting times for your customers. Your business must put a strong customer experience strategy in place in order to truly reap the benefits of this system.