Call routing is the process through which incoming calls are directed to the relevant departments, agents, or individuals within an organization. Essentially, call routing is why when someone calls a company, they can access the department or person they need. This helps businesses streamline communications, ensure privacy, and ultimately increase repeat business and customer loyalty.
The importance of call routing is simple: it helps you remove intermediaries and reduce wait times.
When you have fewer hurdles sitting between your customers and your business departments, it’s a win-win situation—your team is more efficient, and your customers happier.
The best part about all this? Installing call routing on a modern phone system is incredibly easy.
Here’s what you need to know about call routing, how it works, and why it plays a pivotal role in decreasing wait times.
Call Routing in an Office
Call routing is relatively easy to understand from a technical standpoint. Broadly speaking, call routing uses an auto attendant and/or an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) to connect each caller with the right person for their specific purpose.
Auto attendants are pretty common—they act as virtual receptionists, allowing you to build a professional, automated introduction to your call center. The auto attendants guide the callers through the call routing process by:
- Offering a pre-recorded greeting
- Prompting selections (which can be made using the phone’s keypad)
- Routing the call according to the caller’s selection to the appropriate extension, department, or menu (which can be an IVR)
An interactive voice response is an advanced system that interacts with callers. Often, it prompts callers to use voice and/or keypad inputs to navigate menu options. IVRs are very customizable, as they can provide specific information, collect caller data, and perform designated actions, such as scheduling appointments, paying bills, and providing customers with order information. When needed, the IVR can also connect the caller to a live agent.
In essence, if you run a business that requires you to interact with customers on a regular basis, call routing will provide you with a long list of benefits:
- Streamlined communications
- Increased privacy
- Offering quick solutions for busy customers
- Reduced wait times
- Overall improved customer experience
- Improved efficiency for your team
- Better organization of incoming calls
- Customizable options to fit your business needs
- Cost-effective solution compared to hiring additional staff or using multiple phone lines.
Of all these benefits, reduced wait times are among the most important—because a lot of other advantages are connected to it. For instance, a decade ago, customers were willing to wait on the phone for up to 10 minutes. Today, research shows that two-thirds of consumers don’t want to wait more than two minutes on the phone—and 13% of them don’t want to wait at all.
Call routing can help you address the increasingly high expectations your customers have for your business’s customer service.
By providing customers with a quick menu, automated answers to their questions, and a fast-track to a live agent, you’re winning more people on your side. As such, your overall customer experience will be improved, and your team will be more effective at solving tickets.
Call Routing in a Call Center
Call center services are among the most likely use cases for call routing. In an office, call routing can be relatively straightforward because there are fewer people to handle the phone calls—and likely fewer customers making phone calls too.
However, in a call center, things can get a lot more complicated. First of all, call centers tend to have more team members, and that means more phone lines to deal with. Also, call centers handle a much higher number of incoming calls, so there’s the potential for things to become chaotic quickly. Eventually, this can lead to increased wait times, frustration for all involved parties, and lost calls—which, in turn, leads to lost customers.
Modern call centers have to be able to handle calls made via phone, WhatsApp, and other channels, which makes call routing even more challenging. The system has to filter through more variables, including the type of communication channel, time of day, and service language.
To ensure each call is assigned to the right person in a call center, call routing goes through three main stages:
At this stage, the system identifies as much information about the caller as it can. To do this, it will access the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool the company uses and match the incoming phone number to a caller ID, potentially a name, and the products and services the caller has purchased from your business (if applicable).
Very often, this information is either matched automatically (using phone numbers and called IDs) or determined with the help of an auto attendant or IVR. For instance, if you call your internet provider and an auto attendant explains a menu to you, the robot will redirect you further down the menu until you either get the information you need or are connected to a live agent.
An IVR, on the other hand, will ask you to speak into the phone and explain your problem, detect keywords you are saying, and connect you with the right pre-recorded message or with a live agent.
At the queueing stage, your call will be on hold until someone can answer.
Generally, this stage is what most customers perceive as the actual wait time. When the call routing system functions correctly and the call center is not severely understaffed, the wait time can be reduced dramatically.
To make the wait a bit more pleasant, you can play soothing music in the background, provide information about your customer’s wait time, or record a message about any special offers your business is running.
This is where the call routing system assigns an agent or solution to a caller.
There are multiple types of distribution, and some of the most important ones include fixed order, circular, skill based, and priority based.
Call Routing vs. Call Distribution
Call routing and call distribution are two separate terms. Most people use them interchangeably, but the notable difference between them is that call routing is the name of a technology, whereas call distribution is referred to as a step in the call routing process.
Here are the main types of call distribution:
A fixed order call distribution model distributes incoming calls to employees in a call center according to an established order. The list of employees that are receiving calls is fixed and will not change unless the system administrator makes changes.
This distribution model is simple and suitable for companies handling similar call types, such as customer service representatives responding to general inquiries.
For example, let’s say your call center only has four employees. A customer calls, and the first three agents are busy, so the call is automatically redirected to the fourth agent. Most often, the predetermined order of the agents is established according to internal criteria.
Circular call distribution is similar to fixed order distribution, but the assignments are picked differently. In this model, all the available agents are put on rotation and receive calls at specific intervals.
This type of distribution is best when all your agents have the same level of seniority and you want to make sure they all share similar workloads.
For example, if you have four agents, each of them gets calls as they come in. The first agent gets the first call, the second agent gets the second call, and so on. When done, each agent gets a new call.
Skill-based distribution assigns customer calls based on the skills required to address them. This is common in companies that offer different types of support. For instance, one caller might have a question about a product while another might need technical support.
In this arrangement, each agent has a specific skill set and only receives calls connected to their main area of expertise. For instance, if your auto attendant asks the customer to select their preferred language and they choose Italian, the call will be directed to the agents in your company who speak Italian and can solve your customer’s issue.
Priority-based distribution is based on segmenting incoming calls based on criteria related to brand loyalty, whether or not someone is already a customer, the type of issue they have, and so on.
This way, calls that are more urgent (e.g., coming from a VIP customer or a customer who needs immediate assistance) are assigned to agents first, even if they haven’t waited longer than other callers.
For example, an internet service provider could segment their customers based on whether they’re a commercial or residential customer. Because businesses pay more in subscriptions and need quick assistance, they will have priority over residential customers.