Operations

Call Routing: What Is It & How Does It Work?

call-routing:-what-is-it-&-how-does-it-work?

When a customer calls in, gets routed directly to a skilled representative, and receives help immediately—it’s a great day. Call routing eliminates your customers’ pain points of waiting on hold for long periods and being transferred multiple times. Customers can take care of their business quickly and get on with the rest of their day.

Call routing is also a valuable feature for sales and support teams. High call volume is a good problem to have, but it can easily overwhelm your teams. The last thing that you want is for your team members to feel undue pressure. Teams may be inclined to rush through phone calls and not serve customers well. There’s also the risk that high stress will affect their motivation and attitude. Those are the types of issues that make for a bad workday.

The following overview gives you insight into what call routing is, how it works, how it benefits your business, and how it helps the customer experience.

What Is Call Routing?

The communications industry had come a long way from the days when switchboard operators received incoming calls and manually transferred them to the receiving party. As the communications industry evolved, small businesses commonly hired a receptionist to answer incoming calls and manually direct calls to someone who could help them. It’s a process that works fairly well for companies that employ skilled receptionists, but it’s not the most efficient workflow by today’s standards.

Call routing systems, also called automatic call distributors or ACD, are aptly named because they work to distribute calls automatically.

Call routing is a feature of a phone system that’s based on a set of customized rules. In essence, it’s a feature that automatically places incoming calls into a queue and routes them to a specific sales or support representative or a group of people based on the rules and criteria that you’ve pre-set. Call distribution happens seamlessly and within seconds.

The phone is still the most preferred mode of communication for consumers. Call routing is a valuable feature that streamlines phone communication, increases efficiency, and helps improve the customer experience.

Understanding the Different Types of Call Routing Options

Calls entering a call center need to be redirected. Call routing leverages attribute-based routing, a type of technology that matches callers with the processes or people that can best help them.

Small businesses can set rules according to pre-set attributes such as:

  • The time zone
  • Time of day
  • Customer demographics
  • A particular language preference
  • A sales or support agent’s skillset
  • Caller ID
  • Caller history
  • Inputs for customers into an IVR system
  • Other relevant criteria relating to your CRM

A full-featured modern phone system will include various types of call routing features to help fine-tune the processes for your inbound calls a bit more. The right features ensure your customer’s are served efficiently. Most importantly, the most appropriate person will always answer to help them.

Check out the following types of call routing features along with their descriptions:

  1. ACD routing – Cascades calls in a pre-set order and takes them out of the queue once they’ve been answered. You can set the criteria for fit, availability, etc.
  2. Ring groups – Groups teams by location, skills, or other criteria and routes calls to the appropriate teams.
  3. Time-based routing – Allows you to set hours for teams or individuals so calls only get routed to employees live agents. You have the option to manually toggle employees’ availability on or off or allow them to do it.
  4. Skills-based routing – Sets up rules for routing calls to representatives according to their skills (technical, sales, support, etc.).
  5. Call extensions – Routes calls to a direct extension number.

How Does Call Routing Work?

Intelligent call routing is technology that utilizes various types of key data in deciding where to route calls for the best possible outcome.. The best outcome pertains to your sales and support reps, your company, and your callers’ experience.

Call routing technology begins with caller input. That can happen in one of two ways.

  1. The caller uses an interactive voice response system (IVR) to give instructions or a keypad to enter information (account number, extension number, department, etc.).  
  2. The phone system extracts data from your CRM or other business tools to determine the caller’s intent and routes calls to the most appropriate person.

Call routing technology identifies the caller’s phone number. It uses historical data or other customer demographics to match them with the pre-set criteria and rules for routing calls to team members or messages that the system deems relevant to the call. For example, suppose a customer has called more than once about a tech issue. In that case, the routing feature may route the call to a high skill level technician who is the most appropriate person for complex problem-solving. By setting rules, you can better route customers to your sales or support reps.

Defining Call Routing Rules

Your business needs and workflows will determine your routing rules. It’s a matter of thinking through the best way to route your customers so they get the right help on the first call. Fortunately, you have lots of options to define your routing rules.

Here are some examples of things you can do with call routing for efficient phone management:

  1. Set up a welcome greeting that gives your business hours and gives callers the option of leaving a message for a specific employee, either by name or extension.
  2. Create rules for certain business calls to go directly to voicemail.
  3. Set rules for a hold queue where callers can be placed on hold while waiting and lets them know their place in the queue. You may also opt to allow callers to exit the queue and leave a voicemail or receive a callback when an agent is free.
  4. Rules can be set so customers will remain in the queue after the call center closes.
  5. Set rules to ring in the same order, on a rotating basis, based on the agent’s skills, or based on the longest hold time.
  6. Set rules to allow customers to transfer the call to another team member if the one they’re looking for is unavailable.
  7. Send customers to an automated voice response system.
  8. Send customers a message (without voicemail) or to another department if no one is available.
  9. Set rules for how long the phone should ring before the system determines there’s no available agent to answer the call.

Differences Between Call Routing Services & Call Routing Software

There are lots of terms to learn and understand in the world of voice and contact center software. Call routing services and software sound similar, but each has a different meaning.

Call routing services are part of a business phone system. Routing services are typically available in SaaS programs. More specifically, a cloud-based phone system provides routing and a robust offering of voice calling features (much more than a traditional office phone system) along with a subscription-based software service.

By contrast, call routing software is what cloud-based phone service providers use to enable VoIP (voice over internet protocol) calls. This means calls are transferred over the internet.

The Benefits of Routing for Your Customer Experience

Proper routing is a huge asset that supports your goals for providing a good customer experience. A few ways to deliver on your promise of a good customer experience are serving customers quickly, meeting their needs, and solving problems on the first call

With that in mind, let’s look at the benefits of call routing for improved customer satisfaction:

  • Shortens your customers’ wait times by routing calls to agents that can assist them immediately.
  • Helps your sales and support agents focus on problems they can solve quickly.
  • Optimizes your workflows which leads to improved productivity and efficiency.
  • Allows you to serve customers in their preferred language.
  • Matches calls with sales and support reps with the right skills to assist customers.
  • Improves your sales and support agents’ morale because they won’t get calls from customers they’re not trained to help.
  • Prevents missed calls because customers can get answers promptly.
  • Allows you to personalize calls which tells customers you understand their needs.

The Importance of Routing & Your Customer Experience

How you choose to set up your workflows makes a significant difference in how customers perceive your service. Customers are online at all hours of the day and night. Your business has to provide some form of communication any time they call to provide the best customer support. This holds true even when all representatives are busy or your business hours are over.

Whether sales or support representatives are immediately available or not, the right routing features and workflows ensure that your customers know who is helping them and when they can expect to get answers.

Ultimately, call routing will assist your efforts to retain customers which will keep the relationship strong so they’ll be receptive when you offer them additional products and services. With Aircall, you get multiple options for voice calling features along with a wide variety of additional voice calling features. What’s more, you get dashboard analytics giving you vast insight into call volumes, duration of calls, resolution times, and other metrics in real-time. Proper routing is just one of the many capabilities you can take advantage of when you use contact center software to provide the best possible customer service, which profoundly impacts the customer experience.

Special thanks to our friends at Aircall for their insights on this topic.

About the author

Steve Hutt

Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA, starting in the early days of online commerce when he achieved Power Seller status through his eBay store. This propelled him to become a co-founder of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. With a successful exit from his startup, he embarked on his next journey into agency work in e-commerce and digital strategy.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify Plus, where he helps identify, navigate, and accelerate growth in the complex world of commerce.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast and Shopify Founder Stories, a top-rated twice-weekly podcast where he interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, to help Shopify brands improve efficiencies, grow revenue, profit, and lifetime customer loyalty.

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