Although there are many contenders for the top position among modern call centre solutions, skill-based call routing has to be one of the main ones. With skill-based call routing, the future of call routing is here.
Skill-based routing is a cloud telephony feature that analyses customer data when a call comes in and automatically routes the caller to the agent equipped with the best skills to address the issue.
The feature prevents the unnecessary transferring of calls between agents and improves customer satisfaction rates.
Imagine for a moment a typical day at the call centre of a bank or financial services company.
A customer needs to speak with the loan department and is only comfortable conversing in Hindi. However, an English-speaking call agent from the credit card department picks up the call.
It’ll take a while for both to understand each other and even longer for the call to be routed to the appropriate agent. The customer finally gets a resolution but only after several transfers and going round in circles.
This is definitely not the kind of customer service you want to be known for.
With skill-based routing, the scenario is quite different. After the customer calls, the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system determines the caller’s requirements based on voice or keypad inputs. Then it directs the call to the most suitable agent.
Skill-based routing is all about intelligent call redirection. It determines the skills a customer requires and matches them to an agent who possesses the said skills. Of course, agents can have multiple skills and be cross-trained in many areas. This information can be fed into the customer relations management (CRM) and IVR systems for effective routing.
While call centre analytics can help you predict the volume of calls to a certain extent, there will be times—say during the festive season—when the call centre is overwhelmed, and callers have to wait a bit before they are attended to.
In such a situation, the automated call distribution (ACD) system will route calls so that they are answered at the earliest. The priority of call centres is always to answer calls as fast as possible.
However, this may not always be the best strategy.
Skill-based routing versus more conventional routing methods
The most basic call routing system is queue-based routing. In this system, the caller will hear some version of this message: “All our executives are currently busy. Your call will be answered shortly. Thank you for your patience.”
Basically, your call is queued up behind customers who dialled the call centre before you. In queue-based routing, customer calls are queued up one after another. This could be based on language preferences or the service requested, and so on. But, essentially, calls get assigned only to one queue.
Skill-based routing, on the other hand, takes a more intuitive approach. It makes an assessment of the skills required to address a particular call and sends the call to an agent who has the right skill sets and is free to take the call. In skill-based routing, various parameters can be set up to route the customer to the best possible agent.
An ACD system uses the power of automation to enable quick service support to the caller, without taking the agent’s skills into account. In the case of an ACD, there is always a possibility that the agent will not be able to resolve the query, and the call will have to be transferred to a more suitable agent leading to more waiting time.
This is not what you as a business want. In fact, you should be looking to improve the first call resolution (FCR) rate.
An ACD system, first introduced way back in 1973, works well when large numbers of calls have to be handled and distributed in a call centre. ACD has its typical call distribution rules like caller ID, call traffic, etc.
The technology is really at the heart of a call centre’s operations. It works in tandem with a cloud telephony system and IVR to route calls appropriately.
In skill-based routing, which takes the customer’s requirements and the skills of available agents into account, there might be a bit of waiting, but the issue is likely to be resolved once the call goes live.
Skill-based routing, in essence, is a more evolved version of ACD.
The pros and cons of different call routing systems are well worth considering when shopping around for call routing systems for your call centre.
With skill-based routing, the customer doesn’t have to figure out who the best agent or department to talk to would be. The IVR system does that for the customer.
How skill-based routing benefits your call centre
The improvement in communication technology has only enhanced customer expectations. Over time, services and offerings have also matured and become more complex. This calls for more specialised call centre staff to handle customer issues and requests.
The size of call centres needs to go up as well, which is why cloud telephony is such a great solution, where team sizes can be scaled up or down as required at highly competitive rates.
In skill-based routing, the system takes several factors into account to decide who is best placed to service an incoming call. These include the caller’s identity and profile, their IVR inputs, and so on.
A good skill-based routing system will be able to route the call to the best agent possible. If you offer omnichannel support, this may not necessarily be restricted to call representatives. In fact, you’ll be tapping into a larger talent pool. This avoids multiple transfers and enhances the customer experience.
The measurable benefits of skill-based routing
At this point, you may be wondering: does skill-based routing really make such a big difference?
Here are a few ways in which it is hugely beneficial:
- Skill-based routing improves the first-call resolution rate, reduces the first response time and average handling time (AHT), and enhances agent productivity. It also frees up executive-level managers to focus on more critical tasks.
- With skill-based routing, call centre agents can more effectively support customers since they will only receive calls they are skilled in resolving. This is great for agent morale. They can also deepen their skills in the process.
- Since skill-based routing is customisable, it can be updated as requirements change to help streamline your workflows.
- Skill-based routing does not benefit the call centre alone. The customer gets a better experience too, increasing customer retention and enhancing loyalty.
The growing importance of omnichannel support
Nowadays, customers communicate with a company in a variety of ways. Gone are the days when the only way they would reach out was by picking up the phone and dialling a number.
They still do that, of course, but they also email, chat and connect through social media channels (where they can be very vocal and your damage control skills have to be on full and effective display).
With omnichannel routing, you can communicate with your customers constantly and consistently. You’ll be able to respond to their issues in a quicker and best possible manner. Customer needs can be met in an agile fashion, and interactions can be warmer and more personalised.
An excellent cloud-based system will have omnichannel capabilities, letting you address your customers’ needs on any device or channel in a proactive manner.
Some call centre solutions to keep in mind when choosing an IVR
Choosing the right kind of IVR system for skill-based routing is of the utmost importance.
It must have functionalities like queue notifications, queue opt-out option, CRM integration, automatic call-backs, option for SMS updates, IVR command optimisation which offers the most popular options to new callers, and context preservation.
A few things which would be nice to have are personalised messaging based on past interactions, voice activation, a variety of hold messages to prevent boredom, and reporting tools to get a quick sense of the customer experience, including the IVR experience.
Empowering agents with skill-based routing
Thanks to skill-based routing, support representatives are now experts in their niches, and not just agents who handle customer queries mechanically. In this redefined role, they can take pride in their work and in the enhanced sense of responsibility.
Not only is their role more interesting, but they also learn new things on the job and get to sharpen their skills. Skill-based routing, therefore, creates a balanced approach, where the quality of the experience of both customers and agents is in focus.
The division of labour created by skill-based routing is helpful for call centres too. No longer do all the agents have to be trained in a broad-based, minimal skills manner. With skill-based training and specialisation, a better staff is created, enhancing productivity, customer experience and, ultimately, business results.
Conclusion: The future of skill-based routing
As with all modern call centre solutions, skill-based routing is also evolving rapidly in an effort to become future-ready. Newer call-routing techniques like intelligent routing and contextual routing are emerging at the forefront of the innovation as a direct offshoot of skill-based routing.
In contextual routing, any information that the call centre may have at its disposal is used to route the calls in a relevant manner. The caller may have a simple query but a long record of negative feedback, for instance. In such a case, it will route the call to a more experienced agent.
Intelligent routing harnesses the power of AI to route callers and comes with a range of benefits. It provides real-time customer insights to support representatives, improving the quality of follow-up conversations.
If the caller is lax with payments, it could point to financial insolvency. Equipped with this information, a call centre agent can handle the call more sensitively.
The importance of CRM integrations cannot be emphasised enough.
Businesses can personalise customer experience further by integrating skill-based routing with their CRM. This way, not only are customers directed to the most suitable agents but representatives also have immediate access to customer profiles, including a history of previous interactions.
Such data is invaluable for the call centre agent. It enables them to offer better and more personalised services.
A robust CRM coupled with skill-based routing is a win-win situation. Going forward, skill-based routing is definitely going to be the most important way of routing calls.
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