Today it is possible to automate most of marketing operations with artificially intelligent systems. Machines are better than us at testing hundreds of designs, messages and channels to increase marketing effectiveness.
However, organizations are struggling to use artificial intelligence to automate customer care services because machines’ Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities still remain significantly less than humans’. For more info, you can check out our explanation on why language is such a difficult issue for machines. Though agents will not be completely automated soon, intelligent call routing systems can help connect customers to agents that are most suited to solve their problems.
We start with explaining intelligent call routing, but feel free to skip to 5 strategies if you already know a lot about call routing.
What is intelligent call routing?
A simple definition: Intelligent call routing systems identify the caller and the reason for the call to assign her to right agent. Though we mentioned phone call routing in the definition, intelligent routing can take place regardless of where the customer contacts the company. Routing is also important for email or chat queries.
Intelligent skill-based routing systems use agents’ track record, their trainings and skills to ensure that caller is routed to the most capable agent. However, skills are not the only input to modern intelligent call routing systems. They take into account caller priority, caller’s previous inquiries, caller’s value as a customer and other information about the caller as well.
This is not a simple, deterministic problem to solve. For example, the best responder for that specific call may be busy on a call that started 2 minutes ago. Depending on how much the caller waited, how wait time impacts her satisfaction and the skill level of the next best agent, intelligent call router decides either make the caller wait or assign her to the next best agent.
Why intelligent routing is critical now?
According to a McKinsey survey conducted with customer-care executives, leaders think that there will be increased talent requirement for call centers and automation will be an important element.
Image credit: McKinsey&Company
The costly investments in agent training and hiring highly educated agents will be wasted unless customers are able to connect to the right agent as fast as possible. Intelligent call routing is crucial to achieve this.
When you call a call center, the chance that you end up with right agent that is capable of solving the trouble you have is low. You waste time explaining the same problem over and over again after a couple of steering until the right agent picks the phone. Intelligent call routing reduces the time wasted on the phone to explain the problem for both agents and customers.
Intelligent call routing reduces call duration and wait time by matching agents with appropriate customer queries. These lead to reduced customer service agent costs and increased customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is further increased since intelligent call routing systems provide insights to customer service agents about the customer and her query. Furthermore, in large customer service centers, customer’s personal characteristics and previous contacts are considered in matches, further increasing customer satisfaction.
How Intelligent Call Routing works
Customers report 2 main problems when communicating with customer services:
- having trouble contacting right agent
- wasting too much time to clarify the problem
Organizations usually miss the actual intent of the caller. Call center units are mainly specialized on a specific process. This creates a disconnection between different business units and dissatisfaction to customer due to unsolved problems.
Intelligent routing uses three types of data to overcome these problems:
- Caller data: Dialed Number Identification Service (DNIS) is used to understand which unit the customer should speak to. The Automatic Number Identification (ANI) is a feature for automatically determining the origination telephone number. This is a good solution for organizations working in different times zones to assign caller to available contact centers or agents that are flagged as available for that particular day and time.
- Caller Input: Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems allow customers to input their intent either by pressing buttons (Dual-tone multi-frequency signaling DTMF) or voice. This data helps identify customer call intent. Caller input is the most critical information to ensure precision routing.
- Customer Historical Data: After caller is identified, intelligent routing systems use detailed information about customer including purchase history, account standing, service agreements and programs, support history and even personal information to ensure that customer intent is accurately understood. Additionally, customer sentiment data can offer clues as to which agent can be more effective in helping the customer. For example, a customer who is always angry in calls should probably be routed to an experienced agent.
Effective interpretation of this data is critical to the success of intelligent routing. For example, a customer with unresolved, complex technical issues that is calling for the second time that day should be directly connected to a capable, possibly L2 support. Artificially intelligent call routing systems can precisely interpret the data and can
- direct the customer to the agents with the required skill for the problem
- direct the customer to the closest retail store based on location if customer’s problem resolution will require her physical presence
- connect the caller to the same agents she contacted before, to ensure continuity in support
- inform agents about the callers’ background to enable them to provide best customer experience leading an increase in customer satisfaction.
- provide analytics of call data such as volumes, duration, waiting times, frequent queries, resolution times, repeat calls.
- notify other systems such as agent scheduling systems when experiencing more or less than expected load
You can find more detailed intelligent call routing guide on Armchair’s blog.
4 strategies to improve customer service with intelligent call routing
1- Ensure your data quality is high
As we explained, intelligent call routing is all about call data. If you have data quality issues, even the best solution provider can not put in place an effective intelligent call routing system. At least call duration, customer satisfaction, agent ID and agent skillset data need to be as clean as possible. For example, agents sharing IDs can wreak havoc to intelligent call routing systems.
2- Identify and overcome integration issues
Providers like Bitrix24 are giving away their intelligent call routing engines for free to retain and attract customers. This is an attractive offer as system integrations can be painful and time consuming. Once you decide to move forward with a supplier, analyze integration issues in detail and resolve them early on in the implementation.
3- Closely monitor KPIs to measure impact
There are always a number of ongoing process improvement and training activities in large customer contact centers. Attributing changes to different initiatives while also taking into account seasonality and other market factors is challenging and impractical. However, benefits should be obvious in the long run. If not, it may be necessary to audit the existing installation and understand how it can do better routing.
4- Do not lose focus on other initiatives
Though routing is important, it is still only an aspect of contact center management. Contact center management is complex and there’s a large number of possible initiatives. For example reducing calls by embracing self-service and reducing product issues is possibly a more important initiative than improving routing. And while routing improves performance, it also makes training deficiencies less apparent. Your goal to improve every agents performance still remains.
Genesys: Genesys is recognized as Gartner leader in customer service. Addition to routing the customers to the right agent, Genesys provides services such as automated self-service payments, outbound engagements with scheduled IVR calls, notifications to keep customers informed and retain the interaction.
Wise.io: Wise.io uses machine learning techniques to learn from your agents’ prioritization of customers. The predictive engine of Wise.io creates tickets for the right agents to help them provide more personalized service in shorter time.
Afiniti: Afiniti conducts survey with participants, formed from call center agents to get personal information from them. Afiniti’s analytics platform then uses the information to match the customers with the agents that are most likely to communicate better based on their personalities customer information.
If you are undecided between intelligent call routing solution providers,
Check out our blog’s dedicated section for more information on AI in customer service.