What Is Skills-Based Routing, and How Does It Work?

Pair incoming calls with the appropriately skilled agent

What is Skills-based Routing

Published: November 29, 2022

Rebekah Carter

In the contact center landscape, the concept of “routing” is not new. Whenever a customer reaches out to a business, the contact center’s ACD system determines where to “route” the call.

Often, conversations are distributed to different team members based on what a customer says to a voicebot that fronts the IVR. Other times, the customer will follow commands on a phone pad or enter an extension.

Traditionally, a customer then reaches the contact center agent that has waited for the longest time without taking a contact.

Skills-based routing takes a different approach. The technology aims to reduce transfers and focuses on connecting customers to the agent best-suited to address their needs.

Let’s explore the basics of skills-based routing.

What is Skills-Based Routing? An Introduction

Skills-based routing sends customers to a specific agent based on various factors.

In doing so, the contact center system assigns customers to agents with the most relevant talents and background knowledge to handle their issues.

Consider a customer phoning a SaaS company regarding a technical fault. A skills-based routing system would send them to an employee with troubleshooting know-how.

While this is sometimes slower than queue-based routing – where the customer reaches the next available agent – it increases the chances of first-time resolution.

According to 2022 ContactBabel research, this – from a customer’s perspective – is the most critical facet of the contact center experience.

How Does Skills-Based Routing Work?

Skills-based routing involves using technology to analyze customer needs and agent skills to match each client with the right agent.

The process begins with a “qualifying phase”. This starts when the customer enters the IVR, which will help to identify the customer’s need.

Traditionally, IVRs present customers with nested menus, including options like: “press 1 for inquiries” or “press 2 for billing”.

Yet, intelligent virtual assistants are beginning to overtake IVRs, as per McKinsey & Company. These tools can use natural language understanding to gauge customer needs and route them accordingly.

An automatic call distributor (ACD) helps to route the customer.

The ACD takes customer responses from the qualifying stage and places the call in a queue, waiting for the agent with the best-matched skillset.

What Are the Benefits of Skills-Based Routing?

Skills-based routing is a little more complex than traditional, queue-based routing. Indeed, companies must set up routing rules within their contact center software, assign skills to different team members, and determine how the IVR/voicebot will match customers to agents.

However, the extra set-up time is often worth the effort, particularly now that CCaaS solutions make it easier to create routing rules and workflows.

With skills-based routing, companies can leverage benefits such as:

  • Improved Customer Satisfaction: Skills-based routing can enhance customer satisfaction by ensuring customers are assisted by agents with the right skills and experience to address their requests. This means customers spend less time repeating themselves while hold-time and transfer rates drop.
  • Better First Call Resolution Rates: First call resolution (FCR) determines how effectively agents handle customer conversations. Skills-based routing often results in FCR gains and increased customer satisfaction. Moreover, repeat call rates decrease, lowering overall contact center demand.
  • Employee Engagement: Skills-based routing ensures the right team members deal with requests relevant to their skills. This boosts customer experience and can improve employee engagement as agents feel more confident answering customer queries.

In some cases, skills-based routing also helps companies save money. After all, when employees deal with calls most relevant to their skills and knowledge, their productivity rises.

As such, teams handle more calls in a shorter time, reducing the amount of money companies spend on overtime, extra employees, and outsourced support.

Implementing Skills-Based Routing

Leading CCaaS solutions come with built-in IVR systems and AI tools that help qualify customer intent and record agent skills.

In some cases, these routing solutions integrate with other tools like CRM systems to enable more complex routing strategies.

For instance, the CRM may note that the customer’s first language is Spanish. With this data, the routing system can pass that customer onto a Spanish-speaking agent for an improved experience.

Moreover, these tools collect data and insights about the call routing process, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.

The more metrics a company tracks in the contact center, the easier it often is to optimize the routing strategy.

Get to grips with which metrics to monitor in the contact center by reading our article: 40 Contact Center KPIs to Start Tracking Now



Business IntelligenceCustomer Engagement CenterWorkforce Optimization

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