Of All the IVR Routing Methods, 4 Help Callers and Agents

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported, which means we earn commissions from links on Crazy Egg. Commissions do not affect our editorial evaluations or opinions.

The right IVR (Interactive Voice Response) routing strategy provides agents with a balanced workload and a higher chance of resolving issues on the first call. 

It can also save time, money, and resources while making your customers happier.

Many IVR routing methods exist, but these four ensure callers have a seamless experience and get the help they need—while also giving your agents a manageable call load.

4 IVR Routing Methods That Help Callers and Agents

Skills-Based Routing

Not all call center agents have the same knowledge and strengths. While some handle technical inquiries with ease, others are better at general customer service. 

Skills-based routing is a strategy that focuses on directing calls to the most qualified agent so that inquiries can be handled by an agent who has the skill set to resolve the customer’s issue without needing to transfer the call.

You’ve likely experienced skills-based routing yourself when calling a customer service line. Once the line is answered, the IVR system prompts you to make a selection for your call. From here, the system directs your call to an agent specialized in handling calls related to your specific needs.

Here’s an example of a skills-based routing call flow:

  • The caller selects “billing” using a keypad selection or voice command.
  • The IVR system evaluates the caller’s selection and identifies agents who are trained in handling billing issues and queries.
  • The system then routes the call to an available agent who has experience helping callers with billing matters.

On the back end, a sophisticated algorithm utilizes a predefined set of skills linked with agent profiles. If a skill a caller requires matches an agent, an automatic call distribution system routes the call to that agent.

The best part? The entire process happens in seconds. 

If a qualified agent can’t take a call, the IVR system can be programmed to perform a secondary action. This could be placing the caller on hold, routing to the next-best qualified agent, or giving the caller a callback option.

This method benefits callers by directly connecting them with an agent qualified to resolve their issues swiftly. It minimizes the need for transferring calls and ensures a higher satisfaction level by addressing their concerns in a timely manner.

Skills-based routing champions agents’ strengths:

Skills-based routing gives agents a chance to display their strengths on calls. Generally, this means they’ll enjoy their job more, as they’ll feel confident handling calls knowing that they’re the best person for each query that comes to them.

It also allows them to work more quickly, as they have the expertise at hand and are less likely to need to reroute a call.

Skills-based routing also allows agents to:

  • Train more deeply in their specific skill set, giving them a chance to become experts in their department
  • Improve over time with the consistency of focused calls
  • Experience better job satisfaction and a desire for advancement or increased responsibilities

In short, skills-based routing fosters a more productive and satisfying environment for callers and agents by aligning calls with agents based on specific skills.

Direct Routing

Another popular and effective call routing strategy is known as direct routing. This method allows customers to self-select the department or agent they want to be connected with through an IVR menu.

This routing method may sound similar to skills-based routing, but the two are actually very different. 

With skills-based routing, connection to a relevant agent or department is done automatically. 

With direct routing, the caller selects who they want to talk to, and the system routes the call.

A direct routing call looks something like this:

  • A customer calls a company and consequently dials into the IVR system.
  • They have multiple options (e.g., “Press 1 for account status, Press 2 for billing support”).
  • The caller then selects the option that corresponds to their need.
  • The IVR and ACD systems quickly route the customer’s call to the selected department or specialist.
  • The selected agent receives the call, with prior indication of the call’s purpose.

Like most IVR routing methods, you can implement direct routing by pre-configuring your IVR menu. Make sure that each menu selection is clearly linked with its corresponding endpoints. For example, if option 1 in your menu is accounts, set the system to send those calls to an account specialist.

After you’ve mapped out the IVR structure, you can enlist your IT team to configure each option or invest in a VoIP program like Nextiva that can take the technical work off your hands.

Next, you should ensure your agents are up to speed with their assigned IVR inputs. They can familiarize themselves with the specific types of queries or issues associated with their assigned options and review scripts that best address them.

Training could additionally include basic IVR system management, such as updating CRMs that feed into the IVR backend to ensure customer information is captured correctly.

Benefits of direct routing:

Direct routing is nice for agents because they know exactly which calls will be routed their way and can best anticipate their callers’ needs. This can reduce the cognitive load and stress of handling unexpected issues.

And maybe even more importantly, this routing method directly serves customers. Callers are familiar with options, making it easy for them to select the department or agent they need. It effectively handles common call issues without being overly complicated or lengthy.

Least-Used Routing

Least-used routing is a lesser-known call routing method that distributes calls to your agents fairly and consistently. Unlike the above two IVR methods, which are query-based, the least-used routing method sends new calls to the agent who has been idle the longest.

For example, if an agent ended their last call at 10:00 and another agent ended their last call at 10:30, the one with a longer idle period would receive the next call.

This approach contrasts with methods like round-robin routing, which systematically distributes calls in a fixed order, regardless of individual agent workload.

Here’s what a least-used routing call flow looks like:

  • Callers reach the IVR system and choose the service they need from the menu.
  • The communications system analyzes the status of available agents.
  • The customer is routed to the agent who has waited the longest since their last call.
  • An agent is notified about the caller’s specific need based on the IVR selection.
  • The agent handles the call, and the length of their call determines their next place in the routing order.

Each agent’s idle time is tracked with contact center software or directly through IVR technology. Setup for least-used routing involves configuring the software to recognize and prioritize agents based on their last active time, which can often be done within the software itself.

An agent may need to have a broader understanding of company operations and customer issues when using this routing approach. They may need to handle a variety of tasks, ranging from account management, billing, shipping, and cancellations.

While this is a bigger ask for agents, they won’t be bombarded by endless calls and, therefore, should have more bandwidth to interact with customers.

Benefits of least-used routing:

Least-used routing may be the best bet for smaller organizations. If your team is multi-talented and can handle multiple types of calls, you won’t need to put agents in silos. It may actually be better for them to have a comprehensive understanding of different call types and be exposed to different customer issues, as it gives them a chance to become more well-rounded agents; this can help them with future opportunities, whether it’s at your call center or elsewhere.

On the customer’s end, this means their needs are more likely to be addressed quickly. They won’t need to wait for an agent who specializes in their specific issue to become available.

Plus, agents should have a good handle on customer history and can identify any relevant trends or recurring concerns with IVR software that ties into your CRM.

Finally, agents benefit the most from this method, as it has the potential to reduce burnout by spacing calls more evenly.

Data-Directed Routing

Have you gathered insights and data about your callers that you’d like to use to your advantage? Then data-directed routing may be the method for you. This information-driven method analyzes a caller’s historical data and preferences to connect them with the most appropriate agent or department, ensuring a more personalized interaction.

For example, when a customer has a loyalty status with your brand and calls, the IVR system identifies the number, reviews the caller’s status history, and prompts your agent to read a script such as, “We thank you for your continued loyalty as a Diamond member and want to ensure your satisfaction with your current service. What can we assist you with today?”

This saves the agent time, makes the caller feel less anonymous, and creates a personal and considerate brand image for your organization.

A typical data-directed call flow looks like this:

  • The caller is identified through the IVR system either by entering a customer ID or through caller ID recognition.
  • The system accesses the customer’s profile and history to determine their needs and previous interactions.
  • The IVR routes the call to an agent or department best suited to address those specific needs based on expertise or prior contact.
  • As the call is connected, the agent receives information about the caller’s history and current requirements.
  • The agent engages the caller by taking the initiative with personalized attention and solutions presented by the IVR system.

Configuring data-directed routing requires a link between your customer relationship software or another database that holds your customers’ profiles and activity. IT professionals and software options usually use APIs to ensure that this setup is secure and does not publicly share sensitive personal information.

Benefits of data-directed routing

The primary benefit of this method is error reduction. Real-time access to customer data ensures that calls aren’t rerouted and that customers don’t have to explain their issue several times or worry about getting sent to the wrong agent.

Agents also benefit from this routing method because they’ll have instant access to the caller’s history and can personalize the call to fit the customer’s needs. This means the callers will likely have a better experience, too, as they’ll feel like they’re getting personalized attention.

Data-directed routing also benefits marketing since agents can identify customer trends and touchpoints, providing valuable data for future marketing and sales initiatives.

Make your website better. Instantly.

Over 300,000 websites use Crazy Egg to improve what's working, fix what isn't and test new ideas.

Free 30-day Trial