There are various call center routing strategies, some of more benefit than others, depending on company specifics. While the advantages of each strategy vary depending on a company’s needs, two fundamental goals remain the same across the board: call center efficiency and increased customer satisfaction.
Call Center Customer Satisfaction
Call center efficiency and customer satisfaction vary due to one overarching reason: fluctuating demands within the confines of limited resources. Each call center has a fixed number of agents, a limited set of specialized agents with specific skill sets, and a predetermined amount of time. Call centers typically function effectively while incoming call numbers range from low to steady. However, as incoming call volume increases, call center efficiency begins to suffer, the ultimate effect of which is a decrease in customer satisfaction.
Factors Creating Unhappy Customers
Experiences that typically leave customers frustrated include:
- Numerous attempts to resolve an issue
- Bouncing from agent to agent (be it from a dropped call or interagent transfer), requiring the caller to repeat himself multiple times
- Language barriers
- Problems that seem to have no solution
- Long resolution times due to complicated problems
- Clueless agents
- Long hold times
The Path to Happy Customers
Each call center should implement a strategic call routing strategy to best benefit the company. A strategic call routing system will equip the center to handle any increase in call volume, without compromising call center efficiency or customer satisfaction.
Keep in mind that no matter the field of a business, customers typically dial a call center for the same reasons: to inquire about a service, to ask questions about a product, to make a purchase, or for support. In any case, the goal of the responding agent is the same — to efficiently resolve the call.
A call center supervisor or manager can prioritize agents in the order he/she would like incoming calls to cascade.
A supervisor or manager can ensure the most skilled and specialized agents receive calls before less skilled agents. This could be a beneficial strategy for smaller call centers or for support/sales teams whose agents answer calls in addition to serving another role/function within the company. By cascading a small-scale call volume through a company’s most specialized agents, a manager can rest assured that call resolution will be very high.
Cascading calls through the most specialized agents first can indeed ensure a high call resolution but only if the incoming call volume is small-scale. This is not an appropriate call routing strategy for a large company, as this strategy would misallocate the most specialized agents’ time and resources. With an increase in call volume, the likelihood of calls being routed to agents with little knowledge would also increase. As soon as this happened, call resolution rates would drop.
Least Occupied Call Center Routing
With least occupied routing, incoming calls can automatically be routed to the agent who has taken the fewest calls up to that point in a given day.
Routing incoming calls to an agent who has taken the fewest calls in a given day is a confirmed way to enforce that all agents take a similar number of calls. This keeps the amount of work expected between agents fair.
While fair, least occupied routing does not make the most of an agent’s time, whether he is specialized or not. More than likely, unspecialized agents will receive calls regarding problems about which they know nothing. Meanwhile, specialized agents will receive calls with basic inquiries that could have been efficiently handled by a less specialized agent.
IVR Call Center Routing
Interactive voice response, or IVR, routing gives callers the freedom to choose from a predetermined list the department to which they would like to connect.
Ideally, this should make call center routing quick and easy as the caller does most of the work. It provides callers the freedom of action in where they would like their call to be directed. This should minimize the amount of transferring done once a caller and agent are connected.
Unfortunately, when given the freedom of action in choosing where to direct their calls, callers often choose incorrectly. Sometimes, they hit the wrong number. Other times, they simply don’t know which department would be responsible for their inquiry. Once connected, they need to be transferred again. It’s more effective to have a cross-trained agent take each call or to use CRM/help desk information to make an educated guess on why the customer is calling.
Location-Based Call Center Routing
Location-based routing (or geographic routing) identifies a caller’s location using his telephone number and routes his call to the most appropriate agent or department based on locality.
Location-based routing eliminates language barriers as a reason for poor call resolution or low customer satisfaction. Calls can be personalized as a caller is routed to an agent with shared local knowledge. Additionally, cloud-based phone systems, VOIPs, make it easy to route calls while considering both ends of a connection, i.e. where the call is coming from and where the most appropriate agent might be.
Although location-based routing improves communication quality and increases personalized service, it is expensive. One of the most common reasons call centers outsource to foreign countries is that it’s a fraction of the cost.
Data-Directed Call Center Routing
Data-directed routing (or smart routing) identifies a caller by his number, CRM/help desk profile, or account number then directs his call to an appropriate agent based on various criteria located in his profile. For example, data-directed routing would identify a VIP customer and route him to a specialized agent (although a type of data-directed routing, this can also be referred to as value-based routing). Data-directed routing would direct a new customer to a sales department. On the other hand, if a caller is an existing customer, he would be routed to the support department. A customer with missed payments would be sent to the collections department, and so on. If a highly organized system is not put into place, a returning caller could at least be routed to the agent with whom he spoke the previous time he called.
Data-directed routing is a very efficient way to get the most out of your departments, skilled agents, and CRM/help desk software. It limits transfer times, lowers the risk of routing a caller to an agent with insufficient knowledge to resolve problems, and eliminates the likelihood of a caller choosing an incorrect prompt on an IVR.
The main problem with data-directed routing is that it might backfire. It may seem efficient to send a returning customer to the support department. However, he may actually be calling to purchase additional software for his growing company. It may seem like a logical idea to direct a customer who hasn’t paid his bill to the collections department. Yet maybe he was charged for an item he never received and wants to touch base with the sales department before settling the bill in the end. Making assumptions about a customer’s purpose in calling is risky. It may lead to additional transfers, wait times, and call resolution times than what would have otherwise been necessary.
Skills-Based Call Center Routing
To utilize skills-based routing, agents’ skills are identified and scored. Therefore, each agent has a clearly defined list of strengths and weaknesses. Then, much like data-directed routing, callers with a specific type of inquiry or problem are connected with the agent who could best resolve their issues.
Skills-based call center routing makes the most efficient use of time for all agents and callers. It utilizes each agent’s strengths by assigning him to calls that will employ his skill set. Wait times generally decrease as an increased number of agents are not only taking, but also resolving, calls. Callers with difficult inquiries are matched with the most specialized agents, and callers with simple questions are matched with less specialized agents. Because skills-based routing is so efficient, it offers the highest potential call resolution rate and therefore, the highest levels of customer satisfaction.
Skills-based call center routing is an efficient way to run a large call center. However, with a smaller call center, it can actually have the opposite effect. It keeps unspecialized agents from learning new skills. Additionally, assigning skills and then weights to those skills is easier said than done. When agent skills are poorly implemented or poorly measured, customer service suffers.
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