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Modern contact centres already use skill-based routing to connect customers to agents with the most relevant skills, enabling them to take advantage of specialised 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 centres.
Contact centre managers used to route customers randomly. But one complex case often had an outsized impact on the agent’s time, and the more time and resources involved, the worse the 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:
To understand the benefits of skill-based routing, it helps to understand what preceded it. Automatic call distribution (ACD) was introduced to contact centres 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 therefore likely to be, “This company doesn’t understand me.” This is the problem skill-based routing solves. Skill-based routing categorises 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 personalisation can be further improved if contact centres 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 centres can tailor their service to individual customers and provide the personalised experience they expect.
Skill-based routing also benefits agents, redefining their role in contact centres. 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 organisations 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 centres have discovered the benefits of a symmetry of attention: a balanced approach that 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 personalised service.
Contact centres also benefit from the division of labour enabled by skill-based routing. Instead of receiving minimal training in a broad range of issues, agents can specialise in specific areas and develop expertise. Skill-based routing also raises first call resolution (FCR) rates and reduces the number of transfers.
Contact centre managers can maximise 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 centres may also benefit from different routing strategies. Is a contact centre 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 specialised in less common requests? The answer lies in the data.
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 centre’s CRM for more information on a caller. Contextual routing works similarly, but at an earlier stage. Contextual routing includes any information a contact centre might determine to be relevant and incorporates that into 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 analyse 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.
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.
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