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Skills-based Routing: Are You Using It Effectively?

Available with most virtual call center software solutions, skills-based routing is a feature that allows you to make the most of a specialized workforce.  Based on the settings that you create, skills-based routing evaluates the data associated with an incoming call (derived from customer inputs, the number dialed, etc.) to determine which department or employee is best suited to handle the caller’s needs.

Skills-based routing is a powerful tool that can increase agent productivity, shorten caller wait times, and increase customer satisfaction.  But in order to use it effectively, it’s important to understand two critical concepts:

  1. How skills-based routing differs from traditional routing techniques.
  2. What your call center needs to do in order to make the most of skills-based routing.

Skills-Based Routing vs. Automated Call Distribution

Before the development of skills-based routing, call centers had to rely on the limited routing options that were available with Automated Call Distribution (ACD).  While traditional ACD routing can be used to direct calls to certain agents or departments, it has to be manually configured.  Agents who are answering calls using this system can only be assigned to a single queue, such as sales, accounting, or technical support.

What’s wrong with this picture, you ask?

Let’s say that you have an agent in the sales department who is fluent in both English and Spanish.  We’ll call him Joe.

A customer who only speaks Spanish contacts your call center because he needs help with his latest invoice.  Unfortunately, no one in accounting speaks Spanish.  Because of the limitations of ACD routing, your bilingual sales agent cannot be in both the accounting and sales queues.  Thus, he cannot help your customer.

If your call center was using skills-based routing, Joe could be in multiple queues at once.  A well-designed skills-based routing system would be able to identify that the caller needed to speak with an agent who was fluent in Spanish, and would then direct the call to Joe.

How to Use Skills-Based Routing Effectively

As you can see from the example above, skills-based routing is a big step up from basic ACD routing.  But, you have to lay the groundwork for this feature if you want to make the most of it.

In order to maximize the benefits of skills-based routing, you’ll need to:

Determine which skills are most important to your call center

In any call center, there are a wide variety of niches, each of which requires a different skill set.  Some of these skills can be taught in-house, while others, such as language skills, might be a question better left to recruiting.

Once you determine which skills are most important to your business, you can begin to develop a comprehensive training program for all of your agents, regardless of their skill or department.  By having a wide range of cross-trained employees, you’ll ensure that each of them can effectively troubleshoot any customer’s problem.

Set up successful call routing rules

It’s also extremely important to make sure your skills-based routing call rules are set up correctly.  An incorrect system can leave both customers and employees confused and dissatisfied.  Work directly with your provider to ensure that your calls are routing to the correct employee depending on the prompts your customers are selecting.

Frequently analyze your call logs and reports

For most call centers, the greatest motivation for using skills-based routing is the potential for increased efficiency.  In order to track this efficiency, it’s essential that you frequently study and analyze your call logs and reports.  This will allow you to see whether your current skills-based routing setup is effective, or if you need to devote additional resources to building a better foundation for this system.

After implementing a well-designed skills-based routing system, you should see a decrease in customer hold time, shorter call times, and a decrease in call transfers.  This is because you’ll have a system managing and distributing calls amongst employees who are fully equipped to help customers with a wide variety of needs.

As you can see, there are a number of ways that you can begin maximizing this feature’s performance.  Skills-based routing works best when it’s programmed correctly and matched up to specific employees so make sure you follow these suggestions to help increase productivity and customer satisfaction levels.