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Article 6 min read

Intelligent call routing: How it works and best practices

Bid farewell to phone tag. Use intelligent routing to streamline issue resolution and connect customers with the most qualified agent to solve their problems.

Por Hannah Wren, Staff writer

Última actualización el March 1, 2024

What is intelligent call routing?

Intelligent call routing (ICR) is a refined telecommunications technology that efficiently directs incoming calls based on various factors, such as the caller’s needs and agent availability. ICR optimizes call handling and improves customer experiences by using data points and algorithms to connect callers with the most qualified agents.

Most customers are all too familiar with the frustration of calling traditional service lines. It’s a seemingly endless maze of robotic prompts, hold music, and uninformed agents that make customers repeat the same information. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Intelligent call routing bypasses the blind turns of the phone maze so interactions with agents are fast, effective, and painless. Find out how ICR can help you ditch the one-size-fits-all approach to communication and how you can turn your business into an icon of customer satisfaction.

More in this guide:

How intelligent call routing works

Intelligent call routing takes a three-pronged approach to efficiently manage incoming calls within call center software:

  1. Data gathering: The ICR system gathers caller data when a call comes in. This can include caller ID, location, time of day, the reason for calling, and past interactions with the company.
  2. Analysis and matching: The ICR system then analyzes this data against predefined routing rules and agent skill sets. These rules consider factors like the caller’s needs and the agent’s expertise, workload, and even language proficiency. The system then determines the appropriate agent to handle the call.
  3. Routing and connection: Finally, the ICR system routes the call to the chosen agent directly or through a call queue if the agent is unavailable.

ICR can be integrated with other call center technologies, such as interactive voice response (IVR) software and automatic call distribution (ACD), to further improve efficiency.

Benefits of intelligent call routing

Businesses that adopt intelligent routing to field inbound calls can experience three primary performance benefits.

Three icons represent the benefits of intelligent call routing, which include improved first call resolution, increased agent efficiency, and reduced first reply times.

Improves first contact resolution

Intelligent call routing revolutionizes first contact resolution by ditching the one-size-fits-all approach. The solution gathers data about callers and their needs, then uses smart algorithms to match them with the right agent on the first try. This eliminates tedious transfers, ensures expertise from the get-go, and expedites issue resolution, leaving you with happier customers and fewer callbacks.

For example, Wyze Labs received upwards of 300 phone calls per day, and its traditional call system was impeding support operations, resulting in missed calls and unhappy customers. After switching to an intelligent routing system with Zendesk—one that leverages the help of AI in the call center—the smart home technology provider’s first call resolution improved by 98 percent.

Increases agent efficiency

ICR increases agent efficiency by ensuring agents receive calls that align with their skills and expertise instead of navigating a whirlwind of diverse issues. ICR analyzes agents’ skills and the call’s complexity before expertly matching the right problem-solver to each query. This targeted approach improves agent productivity as they can apply their specialized knowledge to relevant issues.

Reduces first reply times

ICR slashes first reply times by transforming the queue from a frustrating bottleneck into a well-oiled machine. By using data-driven insights, intelligent call routing prioritizes calls based on urgency, complexity, and even customer sentiment, allowing high-value customers and urgent issues to bypass long wait times. Intelligent prioritization ensures the right calls reach agents faster, minimizing hold times and reducing overall queue length.

Switching to intelligent routing allowed Netwealth, for instance, to track response times within its call center and identify pain points in its routing strategy. This visibility allowed the wealth management company to adjust and reduce their first reply time to 40-60 seconds.

Ditch the phone maze with Zendesk

Intelligent routing from Zendesk transcends phone lines to seamlessly combine calls, emails, chats, and social media interactions into one smooth customer journey. Discover how Zendesk can improve your CX today with omnichannel routing.

Intelligent contact routing best practices

If you stick to your old ways after switching to intelligent contact routing, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive all the benefits of its advanced functionality. Incorporate these best practices into your operations to unlock ICR’s full potential.

An illustration of a woman with paper planes flying behind her accompanies a list of intelligent contact routing best practices.

Integrate systems and harness data

Data is the core component that allows ICR to work its magic. Integrating ICR with your other systems lets you see a full picture of your customers, agents, and broader operations. Agents can enter conversations better prepared to handle inquiries, and the system can share real-time data to make call center workforce management easier.

Tip: Integrating ICR call volume and wait time data with your analytics solution can help you forecast staffing needs.

Segment your customer base

Use customer segmentation to identify and prioritize high-value customers within the ICR system. If your company doesn’t have designated VIPs, you can evaluate factors like purchase history and frequency of transactions to identify which customer relationships take precedence.

Tip: While speed of service is an important factor, you should also consider the quality of support. Dedicating experienced agents to handle VIP customers’ issues will help you achieve service level agreements and provide great customer experiences.

Evaluate your agents’ strengths

The “intelligence” of your ICR system will be limited if you treat every agent as an interchangeable part of the machine. Instead, look at them as individuals and assess their hard and soft call center skills to identify which calls they’re best suited to handle. Analyze call handling time, resolution rates, and customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores to identify agents’ strengths and weaknesses.

Tip: Foster a culture of continuous learning to fill gaps in agent skills and develop a dynamic team that can take on any issue. Helping agents achieve their career goals will improve your ICR process while reducing employee turnover.

Establish call handling processes

You can contribute to the efficiency of your IVR system by creating comprehensive call handling processes. First, define clear escalation procedures to handle complex or high-priority issues, including points of contact that will handle specific requests. Visualizing this structure in a phone tree can help you identify support gaps or pain points where additional employee support is required.

Additionally, direct your employees on how to manage their time to maximize availability. If agents update customer profiles in real time, for example, they’ll be ready to take the next call immediately. Or if they need time between calls to handle administrative tasks, agents should update their status in the system so ICR can route calls to free agents.

Tip: Updating customer data in real time is the most efficient way to maintain agent availability, but it shouldn’t hinder the agent’s effectiveness. Make sure your agents prioritize being mentally present for the task at hand to deliver the best service.

Measure KPIs

Measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) associated with intelligent call routing systems is essential for tracking progress and improving customer service operations. Key call center metrics to monitor include:

By regularly evaluating these customer experience KPIs, you can identify opportunities to fine-tune routing algorithms, optimize agent skill matching, and enhance overall system performance. This iterative approach ensures that ICR systems evolve with changing business needs and customer expectations, ultimately leading to improved operational efficiency and a more positive customer experience (CX).

Tip: Collecting post-call customer satisfaction scores can provide a complete picture of how your call routing strategies contribute to the overall customer experience.

Frequently asked questions

Find the right intelligent routing provider

An intelligent routing system is more than just a map that customers use to navigate a phone maze. It’s more akin to a chainsaw that cuts through walls so they can get from point A to point B effortlessly. But for that to work, your software provider must deliver the right tools for success.

Features like data analysis, rule customization, and seamless integration are just a few factors you should consider. Partnering with Zendesk unlocks a bounty of resources that optimize operations and support continued growth. With the help of AI, self-service features, and cutting-edge workforce management tools, you can turn your call center into the envy of your competitors.

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