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Skill-based routing: an evolving strategy that optimizes your agents’ strengths

Skill-based routing: an evolving strategy that optimizes your agents’ strengths
Steven Harris
Steven Harris Director, Strategic Clients at Odigo

Modern contact centers already use skill-based routing to connect customers to agents with the most relevant skills, enabling them to take advantage of specialized teams capable of effectively handling requests with greater accuracy. Read on to learn how skill-based routing is developing, and how the latest changes benefit customers, agents and contact centers.

March 18, 2021

Contact center managers used to route customers randomly. But one complex case often had an outsized impact on agents’ time, and the more time and resources involved, the worse that customer’s experience. The right routing strategy transforms difficult calls into opportunities to showcase leading customer service. Skill-based routing (SBR) brings each agent’s skills to the forefront, to the benefit of everyone involved:

  • Customers have their issues resolved faster, with more focused and personalized service,
  • Agents become experts, gaining more skills and enjoying more fulfilling work,
  • Contact centers enhance efficiency and improve the quality of their service.

Skill-based routing personalizes customer experience

To understand the benefits of skill-based routing, it helps to understand what preceded it. Automatic call distribution (ACD) was introduced to contact centers in 1973. A simple and effective tool, ACD determines which agent has the shortest queue and routes incoming calls accordingly. The major limitation of ACD is that it doesn’t differentiate one call from another, including cases which require special attention. When facing a difficult issue, a customer’s first impression is thus likely to be, “this company doesn’t understand me.” This is the problem skill-based routing solves. Skill-based routing categorizes incoming requests, compares them against a list of agents and then matches customers directly with the agents or self-service options best able to assist them. Customers enjoy more effective service, without unnecessary transfers and waits.

This personalization can be further improved if contact centers pair skill-based routing with customer relationship management (CRM) integration. In this way, customers are first routed to the most suitable agent, and then that agent is able to pull up specific information on the customer, such as previous purchases, outstanding debt or open cases. This is one more way that contact centers can tailor their service to individual customers, and provide the personalized experience they expect.

Skill-based routing has turned agents into experts

Skill-based routing also benefits agents, redefining their role in contact centers. Agents can begin their careers handing simple issues and then move into positions of greater responsibility as they gain expertise. Increased skills are rewarded, ongoing learning is encouraged and work is more interesting. Particularly in large organizations with significant call volumes, agents become valuable assets by mastering specific subject matters. 

When agents are given the tools they need to represent a brand’s values they become brand ambassadors, and every conversation becomes an opportunity to provide value to customers. Many contact centers have discovered the benefits of a symmetry of attention: a balanced approach which focuses on the experience of both customers and agents. Skill-based routing is a perfect example. As agents feel more valued, they provide customers with better, more personalized service. 

Skill-based routing benefits your contact center 

Contact centers also benefit from the division of labor enabled by skill-based routing. Instead of receiving minimal training in a broad range of issues, agents can specialize in specific areas and develop expertise. Skill-based routing also raises first call resolution (FCR) rates and reduces the number of transfers. 

Contact center managers can maximize their benefits by linking skill-based routing with workforce management tools. Data such as type of call and peak volume help ensure optimal staffing. Individual contact centers may also benefit from different routing strategies. Is a contact center better suited with ten roughly equal teams, each trained in a different area of expertise? Or is a blended strategy better, with the majority of agents trained in general subjects, and only a few agents specialized in less common requests? The answer lies in the data.

Skill-based routing is evolving

Skill-based routing has led the way to newer solutions, notably contextual routing and intelligent routing. Previously it was explained how an agent could access a contact center’s CRM for more information on a caller. Contextual routing works similarly, but at an earlier stage. Contextual routing includes any information a contact center might determine to be relevant, and includes that in its routing strategy. For example, if a caller has a simple question but a long history of complaints, contextual routing might determine that this caller would be better served by an experienced agent. 

When it comes to the truly cutting-edge forms of routing such as intelligent routing, the benefits are game-changing. Intelligent routing uses AI to gather, collocate and analyze large amounts of data automatically. This enhances the subsequent conversations, as agents are provided with real-time insights about customers and their reasons for calling. Taking the example above, AI might reveal to an agent that this caller frequently misses payments, and is statistically likely to be facing financial problems. This is crucial information for the agent to steer the call effectively, and for the customer to feel understood.

Skill-based routing strengthens relationships

The relationship between customers and agents begins before the first word passes between them. The longer a customer has spent being transferred from agent to agent or waiting on hold, the harder it will be to have a meaningful conversation. Skill-based routing starts the conversation in the right vein by bringing customers to the agents best qualified to help them. That’s the first step towards building a long-lasting relationship. Is your contact center making the most of skill-based routing? To learn more about routing strategies and other tailor-made cloud solutions, contact Odigo, a Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) leader.

Steven Harris
Director, Strategic Clients at Odigo

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