Priority Customer Service Starts with Skills-Based Routing

Intelligent call distribution begins with skills-based routing. Contact centers combining skills-based call routing with priority routing rules achieve higher customer satisfaction scores, more productive agents, and lower operational costs. Learn how effective CX leaders use skills-based routing to crush customer service objectives. 

priority skills based routing

Prioritize Customer Experience with Skill-Based Routing

In the modern contact center, customer experience (CX) leaders know that VIP customer service starts with skill-based call routing. This is especially true post-2020, as we've discussed the global trend of companies accelerating their move to unified, cloud-based communications. With the global shift to virtual communications, several customer service trends have emerged and captured the attention of modern CX leaders. The NorthRidge Group, a well-respected research group, released an excellent examination of CX trends in 2020. The report uncovers dozens of relevant CX trends, including notable data points like:

  1. Preference for online shopping and use of digital channels when contacting a business increased in over half of respondents.
  2. Although customers increased their use of digital channels to communicate, first contact resolution rates declined; less than half of support calls are resolved on the first try.  
  3. Phone remains customers’ preferred channel for speedy resolutions, but they frequently have a negative experiences here; 67% have difficulty reaching a live person, and 73% experience a long wait times. 
  4. Customers that do not reach an agent quickly or resolve their issue within an hour will try multiple support, driving up operational costs and total effort per customer.  
  5. 73% of customers consider switching to a competitor after just one bad experience with a business. 

What's our key takeaway here? Most business leaders underestimate the cost of poor customer service and overestimate the patience of their customers. Also, speed matters in the customer service center! When a customer calls, they want a quick resolution to their problem. In return, they will reward you with loyalty and higher lifetime values. When this expectation is not met just once, a majority of them will consider cancellation. Most business leaders underestimate the cost of poor customer service and overestimate the patience of their customers. 

Skills-based call routing attacks these customer service challenges by distributing calls (or contacts in omnichannel) to the agent best qualified to solve that customer's specific issue.

What is Skills-Based Routing?

Skills-based routing is a contact center routing strategy where calls are assigned based on the skills required to best solve the customer's issue. This is different than traditional call center distribution models, which historically used simple queue-based routing rules to assign calls. Skill reduces wait times and increases resolutions the first time by segmenting customers with common questions to agents who can best handle the task. Leveraging skill assignments is often the final step to an "intelligent" call routing system. 

What is Intelligent Call Routing?

Intelligent call routing systems leverage both skill-based and priority call routing rules, along with traditional queue-based routing and tools like IVR. In other words, assigning skill attributes to contact center agents is a prerequisite of an "intelligent" call routing system.

Effective contact center solutions may use priority, skills-based, and queue-based routing rules harmoniously. Common queue-based routing rules include:

  • Leased-Used. The caller is assigned the agent who has displays the least time assisting customers.
  • Sequential. All available agents take turns answering calls. Calls are only distributed to the first agent once everyone in the rotation has taken a turn.
  • Round-Robin. All available agents take turns answering calls. If the next agent in line is busy, the call is routed to the next available agent in line. 

How Does Skills-Based Routing Work?

Implementing skill-based routing rules breaks down into four steps: 

  1. Create Data-Driven Skills. Business tool integrations can help your team expand their skillsets across omnichannel communications and create these skills based on historic customer interactions. The skills acquired in your database may include the customer’s size, industry, use-case, and more of a particular account. 
  2. Strategize Configurations. If you route calls to all your best agents, you may cause call queue congestion and unintentionally infuriate callers. Make sure call rules avoid overwhelming these agents by distributing call volume to others who can assist. Try creating a call flow chart for teams, agents, and queues that best reflects their skills before implementation. 
  3. Assign Skills to Agents. Your team is made up of several agents with varying skills and skill levels. Set up proficiency levels for team members who are most appropriate for those calls - that way they route accurately and don’t tie down your top performers. These levels may read: very good, good, sufficient, insufficient, and none.  
  4. Monitor Closely, Adjust Accordingly. After skills-based routing has been set up, remember to monitor the quality of your interactions with call management tools and analytics reporting. Contact center tools from AVOXI can track agent performance and productivity - helping turn pain points into better opportunities for improved experiences, every time. 

Customer Service Benefits of Skills-Based Call Routing

Today we’re breaking down 5 reasons modern customer service teams prioritize skill-based routing rules in their call flow. The benefits provided by skill assignments and priority routing rules in contact center routing models include:  

  1. More first call resolutions
  2. Elevated agent performance 
  3. Premium support for VIP customers
  4. Reduced operational costs 
  5. Happier interactions across the contact center

Of course, that sounds great, but how do contact centers actually achieve these benefits with skills-based routing? 

1. More First Call Resolutions

First call resolution (FCR) rates correlate strongly with customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores. Improving proxy-measures like FCR directly impacts CSAT scores positively. Often FCR rates drop because of potential skill mismatches between the agent and the call requirements. Higher FCR rates also correlate with reduced operating costs, higher customer retention, and higher agent satisfaction levels.

2. Elevated Agent Performance

Skill assignments elevate agent performance from multiple angles. First, agent productivity improves as they spend less time on call transfers, gather customer information, and post-call activity. In addition, skill assignments provide a roadmap to career progression for your agents. Providing opportunities to advance their roles results in happy employees and higher agent retention rates. 

3. Priority Routing for VIP Customers

Do your biggest customers call the same global support line like everyone else? With most customers stating they would consider leaving a company after a single bad support experience, modern best practices suggest setting up a VIP support line. Contact centers can accomplish this in minutes by setting up a priority routing rule or provisioning a dedicated support line for VIP accounts. 

4. Lower Operational Costs

Reducing call handling time and customer hold time means less minutes on your telecom bills. More importantly, reducing turnover equates to huge savings on labor as top performers stay longer and requirements for recruiting and new employee trainings is minimized. 

5. Happier Interactions Across the Contact Center

Happier customers may not always mean happier agents, but it sure does help! In addition to faster call resolutions and lower operational costs, research consistently shows that contact centers running skills-based routing strategies achieve better satisfaction metrics from both customers and agents. 

Examples of Skill-Based Routing Rules

Agents may be assigned several skills to appropriately route incoming calls based on specific criteria. While these don’t represent all of the skills you could add to your call center operations, below are some of the most commonly used by a variety of industries. Many of these skills can be broken down into sub-skills. For example, a skill like social media may be accompanied by sub-skills like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. Common examples of skill-based routing rules are:

  • Language. The language(s) agents are fluent in.
    • Example: English, German, Mandarin, French, Arabic, Multilingual
  • Department. The agent’s designated department.
    • Example: IT, Accounting, Product, Sales, Support, etc.
  • Product/Service Expertise. The amount of experience relevant to the product or service.
    • Example. Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Superior
  • Customer Size. The market size that’s pre-determined by the ideal customer profile.
    • Example: Startup, Small, Medium, Enterprise
  • Customer Industry. The business sector in which a business identifies.
    • Example: Travel and Hospitality, Healthcare, Retail, Education, Professional Services, etc.
  • Social Media. The social platforms in which business is conducted.
    • Example. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.
  • Geography. Location of the contact center and/or the caller.
    • Example. United States, Philippines, South Africa, etc.
  • Priority Account. Agents that speak with priority customers and accounts.
    • Example: Calls from a list of VIP customer numbers are rerouted to agents labeled "VIP".

Some providers may limit how many skills you can assign an agent. Be sure to discuss with your telecommunications provider what that limit is and how it may impact operations.

Practical Examples of Skill-Based Call Routing

A variety of industries can easily integrate skills-based routing into their call center operations. While the back-end configuration is the same, many businesses can utilize this call flow to elevate their customer experience. It’s an integral part of your operations -- one that can easily grow your industry KPIs and lead to more revenue. 

Below we’ve highlighted some examples of how SBR can be used in various sectors. 

Travel & Hospitality

Brands in the airline, hotel/lodging, and tourism industry lean on skills-based routing to direct their guests to the appropriate agent who can handle their queries confidently and with great care. See below for a use-case example of how you may incorporate this call flow into your reservations. 

Scenario: Sale on social media

Your travel and hospitality call center provides inbound support in four countries: Italy, Germany, Poland, and France. In your phone system configuration, you’ve assigned your team of agents the following skills:

  • Agent 1: German, Instagram, Sales
  • Agent 2: Polish, Log-in Issues, 7 Years Experience
  • Agent 3: German, French, Twitter, Multilingual, Sales
  • Agent 4: Italian, VIP, and Customer Size

An incoming call from Austria, regarding an Amalfi Coast flash deal on social media, is routed to Agents 1 & 3 since they both speak German and have roles in the company’s social media. If agent 1 takes the call and a similar call comes in, the following call will then be routed to Agent 3.  

Healthcare

Groups and practices in the healthcare and pharmaceutical can use skills-based routing to connect their patients with the care and answers they need. In the scenario below, we’ve outlined a high-level view of how you might be able to incorporate this call flow to enhance your patient experience. 

Scenario: Patient follow-up

Your call center provides inbound healthcare support in the US and Mexico. In your phone system configuration, you’ve assigned your team of agents the following skills:

  • Agent 1: Spanish, English, Appointment Scheduling & Cancellation 
  • Agent 2: Spanish, English, Mexico City, Nurse Triage
  • Agent 3: Spanish, Mexico City, Prescription Refills
  • Agent 4: Spanish, Atlanta, Nurse Triage

An incoming call is received from a Mexico phone number regarding a patient follow-up on a recent surgery. The call will be directed towards Agents 2 & 4 since both speak Spanish and are team members in the nurse triage group. If Agent 4 picks up and a similar call follows, Agent 2 would be the next available agent. 

Retail

Brands in the retail and luxury goods industry can easily route their customers to the agent with the most subject knowledge and language skills quickly. While every brand will have a unique setup, here’s an example of how businesses in this sector might use skills-based routing to enhance their customer experience. 

Scenario: VIP account on recent delivery

Your retail call center provides inbound support in France and China. In your phone system configuration, you’ve assigned your team of agents the following skills:

  • Agent 1: English, French, Paris, Product Care
  • Agent 2: Italian, French, Paris, Sales
  • Agent 3: Mandarin, Paris, Ready-to-Wear, VIP
  • Agent 4: Mandarin, Hong Kong, Delivery & Returns, VIP

An incoming call is received from a China phone number about a recent order of handbags and small leather goods to a series of luxury department stores in Huabei, China. The call is routed to Agent 4 since this agent can speak fluid Mandarin and has experience in shipping/delivery questions for their top accounts.

Learn More About Intelligent Call Routing

Setting up intelligent routing, like skills-based routing, for your call center is simple. With just a few clicks, businesses can assign, organize, and easily manage their agents based on customized skills. Optimize your call center workforce and increase productivity while delivering the best-in-class VIP service to your callers.