Automatic Call Distributor: Call Routing Rules Matter Most

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An automatic call distributor (ACD) is a telephony device that routes incoming calls to available call center agents based on predetermined call-routing rules. ACD is especially useful for service centers that have high call volumes and a diverse range of issues to address, mainly because the system can route the right types of calls to the right types of agents without much effort or wasted time. 

Several call center metrics (such as first response time) rely on interactive voice response (IVR) systems to take in caller information and then redirect calls to the appropriate departments as quickly as possible.

However, intelligent call routing doesn’t happen by itself. IVRs can certainly provide self-service options and reduce customer service costs overall, but knowing how to set up a system that can direct a caller to the proper queue is the key to eliminating long wait times and high call abandonment rates. 

In many or most cases, ACD is that system—and the predetermined criteria you need to make it work can be as simple as the time of the day. 

3 Call Routing Rules That Double an Automatic Call Distributor’s Production

Getting inbound callers to the most qualified agents to handle their inquiries allows you to preempt and circumvent a lot of hassles. In addition to boosting customer satisfaction, effective call routing rules can significantly impact your call center’s revenue—and therefore, your bottom line. 

Intelligent call routing should anticipate predictable challenges and organize your route tree for optimum impact. For example, if your call center tends to field a ton of technical support calls around 2 pm, it’s best to avoid routing non-technical calls to your most technical agents at 1:55 pm so that they can be available when those other calls start rolling in. 

Regardless of your business or industry, here are the three ways to set up intelligent routing to ensure every caller gets connected to the right agent every time.

1. Distribute calls with a negative customer sentiment to management or a team leader

As a call center IVR operator, you’ll inevitably have to deal with negative customer sentiment. But regardless of whatever caused the ball to be dropped—or whoever was responsible for the faux pas—you should view the call as an opportunity to turn a proverbial lemon into lemonade. 

In fact, since acquiring a new customer can be five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one, it behooves you to do what you can to sort things out for your frustrated callers. 

This is where you need to leverage the experience and expertise of your management staff to soothe and win over (or win back) a disgruntled customer. These callers are likely to feel heard if they are connected with an authority figure, so it’s a good practice to send them to your call center managers right away.

In general, routing callers with negative sentiment to managers from the beginning will help your call center’s key performance indicators (KPIs) such as AHT (average handle time), CES (customer effect scores), NPS (net promoter score), and CSAT (customer satisfaction). You can expect this effect because managers are typically better positioned to resolve customer issues quicker and more effectively than less experienced agents—especially when the calls start with a negative sentiment.

However, before you direct your routing system to start blasting all of your most challenging, negative sentiment-infused calls straight to upper management, it’s important to consider what you’ll need to pull this off. 

Your managers have to be masters of their call center operations, armed with the authority and know-how to achieve this. They should have ample product knowledge, tact, and extensive call center experience. Ideally, these are managers who have risen through the ranks, built up institutional knowledge, and developed an intuitive understanding of customer challenges.

Lastly, remember that you’re likely to have more available agents than managers, so making a lot of transfers to management could lead to longer hold times—which means you need to prepare accordingly.

2. Route Calls Based on Specific Keywords

Some callers might find it challenging to articulate the issues they’re facing. However, once they start explaining their situation, they will likely drift toward salient themes and keywords that identify their problems more clearly.

These keywords are vital resources to improve your call center’s effectiveness—as long as you utilize them to guide your ACD call routing. To get started, a good practice is simply to listen in on a few calls per week and try to identify words that callers say repeatedly. If there are any patterns that come up, you may be onto something significant enough to incorporate into your routing process.

For example, you can assign a specific keyword or group of keywords to a particular agent or group of agents who match certain specializations associated with that keyword. In fact, you can even tell certain agents that they will be responsible for a particular keyword as a way of motivating them to learn more about that area of expertise. This responsibility, in turn, breeds even more specialization. 

In practice, when your system routes calls to agents based on keywords effectively, it ensures your customers will get expert assistance the first time they call about an issue, boosting your call center’s FCR (first call resolution) rates.

Finally, keep in mind that there’s a variety of specialized auto-dialer software that can assist you in routing calls intelligently. 

3. Group General Inquiries Under One Umbrella

Many callers are simply looking for answers to general inquiries. If you pay attention while studying customer calls, you should be able to discern which calls are common, rare, simple, and complex. You can do this through analytics (like with classification algorithms) or just anecdotally by manual observation. 

It’s obviously important to resolve customer calls on general inquiries satisfactorily, but there’s no doubt that these simple calls can also jam up your call queues. Furthermore, it’s even possible for these general inquiries to take valuable resources away from callers who need more in-depth assistance if not properly optimized.

Therefore, it’s a good practice to group similar general inquiries into one single category to streamline the process. For instance, you can lump all kinds of calls based on questions about your company’s address, hours of operation, and product prices together. This way, you can preserve the availability of your most technical agents so that they won’t get bogged down by answering general inquiries.

Of course, if you’re really savvy, you can set up your IVR with self-service options so that your customers can find answers to these questions on their own without ever having to speak with one of your agents. 

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